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Dewey And LeBoeuf And The Woes Of The Legal Industry

We look at the business of law in trouble and the crumbling of the venerable New York firm Dewey & LeBoeuf.

Venus De Milo sculpture in front of the Calyon building in Manhattan, home of the Dewey & Laboeuf LLP headquarters. (Courtesy Michelle Verdugo)

Venus De Milo sculpture in front of the Calyon building in Manhattan, home of the Dewey & Laboeuf LLP headquarters. (Courtesy Michelle Verdugo)

For years, we’ve watched giants of American industry fall down and wondered where it would end.  Well, the law is an industry too.  Law firms.  The legal profession.  The business of law.

And this week one of the biggest law firms in the country – the world – Dewey & LeBoeuf, out of New York, is flying apart in spectacular fashion.  Millionaire partners fleeing.  Meltdown.  And a whole industry, from law schools to lone lawyers, wondering what comes now.

This hour, On Point:  the business of law, in trouble.  Plus, we check in on the U.S.-China deal over blind, “barefoot lawyer” Chen Guangcheng.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Jennifer Smith, legal affairs reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

Michael Trotter, partner at the law firm Taylor English Duma, he’s practiced corporate law for five decades. Author of “Profit and the Practice of Law: What’s Happened to the Legal Profession.”

Bill Henderson, professor of Law and Val Nolan Faculty Fellow at Indiana University.  Director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law.

C-Segment: Chen Guangcheng Update

Jerome Alan Cohen, professor of law at New York University School of Law.

From Tom’s Reading List

DealBook “The crisis confronting the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf has stunned the legal profession. About 70 of Dewey’s 300 partners have left since January after their salaries were slashed because of the firm’s weak financial performance. Dewey’s woes hardly surprise Michael H. Trotter, a partner at Taylor English Duma in Atlanta who, in addition to a five-decade career as a corporate lawyer, has written two books about the economics and management of law firms.”

Businessweek “Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, as it faces a possible bankruptcy after losing more than 80 lawyers, is near an agreement with banks about extending its line of credit, a person familiar with the talks said.”

The Wall Street Journal “The former chairman of New York law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP was stripped of his remaining leadership roles Sunday, as law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP called off discussions on a possible deal with the struggling firm. While official talks are over, Greenberg leaders are continuing informal efforts to cherry-pick certain Dewey lawyers and practice groups, a person familiar with the situation said Sunday.”

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  • what happened to our courts?

    I just finished a largely pro se petition and final judgement for a pretty basic case in Superior Court, NYC.  It was a nightmare, of course.  But the court certainly didn’t help: it seemed like every clerk that might be able to locate a form, give direction for the next step or simply not ridicule me for proceeding had either retired and not been replaced or was laid off.  The court is in a shambles from the personnel to the actual facilities.  Very unsettling.  This issue goes beyond high-priced law to the foundation of the courts.

    • Mike in PA

      WHTOC – I’m sure you’ve been told many times to hire an attorney.  Handling any matter above the small claims court level on your own can be overly time consuming and frustrate your case.  If your case is basic, you should absolutely be able to find a competent and competively priced attorney who can help you.  I run across many people who have done more damage to their case, and have made it more costly, by representing themselves.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Lawyers write the ‘Laws of the Land’, in LAWYERESE, so that it takes a ‘Lawyer’ to interpret it.  The ‘Lawyer’ you PAY for, is usually a paralegal, or law clerk, employed by a Lawyer. 
         The ‘Laws of the Land’ SHOULD be written in language that the PEOPLE of the land can understand!  How can you obey what you cannot understand?
         I’ll bet that there are laws on the books that ANYONE can be convicted of.  YET, clergy that RAPE Children run rampant for DECADES, and are STILL free!
         Another ‘alleged’ corrupt and criminal law firm, or bank, is a ‘SURPRISE’?

      • Patrik

        Its dangerous for the ruling class to have a educated populous. 

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    Is this an indicator of the health of our legal system or economic system or both? What are the implications to us as Jane and Joe Citizen?

    Without this law firm’s issues, we’ve had indicators for years of severe corruption: we’ve had law makers (Congress) legally taking bribes to write laws for their corporate clients directly or indirectly via companies like these working with ALEC. We’ve got Congress investigating Roger Clemens for lying to them… wait, they lie to us for a living and they want to prosecute another liar for lying to them? This is rich.

    Guys like these have been players in the tax and financial scam game from the beginning, have they not?

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    At 200 – 500 dollars per hour, lawyers are unaffordable for the average citizen. The legal system is owned by the wealthy.

    • Gregg

      Loser pays would be cool.

      • Holly

        Loser pays would chill the poor person who has a good case but can’t afford the risk that a jury would disagree.

  • Hidan

    Why is the collapse important to mainstream America?  And who are the banks bailing it out? could they be the same banks that the U.S. public bailed out?

    Seems like a backdoor bail-out and folks coming on the justify such.

  • SteveV

    For decades there was enough money circulating in our society that we did not
    concern ourselves with the difference between wants and needs. Now that the
    “good times” are ending this is what our arguments are all about. If congress,
    and the public, had debated this (do I want or need this?) we might not be in
    this situation today. Unfortunately, to many of our livelihoods are tied to the
    “wants” of society.

    • Hidan

      Congress it to busy trying to find out if Roger Clemens lied about taking roids.

      Can’t have people lying to congress now can we?

  • Hidan

    just checked out the business week piece, seen that they got a credit line from bailed out banks than used some of that money to defend against the New York Prosecutor.

    :An accord between Dewey and lenders, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) (JPM) and Citigroup Inc., wasn’t yet signed, the person said.

    Dewey has drawn about $75 million of a $100 million credit line from banks, the person said. The firm said April 29 in an internal memorandum that New York prosecutors were probing possible wrongdoing at the firm. The memo said that Steven Davis, formerly sole chairman, was ousted from a five-person chairman’s office and the executive committee.

    Davis hired criminal defense attorney Barry Bohrer, a partner at Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer, as he faces allegations of misconduct.

    So again why should we care about a (alleged)corrupt law firm?

    • jefe68

      I’m crying crocodile tears for these gonifs.

  • NrthOfTheBorder

    If overpaid lawyers and bankers are taking a hit these days so much the better for the rest of us.  

    These low risk essentially parasitic professions draw talent and resources that’d be better channeled into innovation and entrepreneurship.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      MOST of their ‘creativity’ is ONLY how to cheat, steal, and lie! 
         NOT going to go far in the world of REAL innovation and enterpreneurship!

      • Drew (GA)

        “the world of REAL innovation and entrepreneurship”

        Sure would be nice if we could all live in that world.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          Since Sept. 2001, no one has shown interest in making a MUCH SAFER, FASTER, NOT EXPENSIVE  way to remove rubble of buildings etc.. off victims! 
             I TRIED giving it away to a Congressman’s, and a U.S. Senator’s office!
             EXTREMELY DEPRESSING, as I am a Volunteer Fire Fighter, and Volunteer Rescue Squad member! 
             SAFETY for my sister and brother Emergency Services, and VICTIMS, and NOone is interested in making it and deploying it!

          • Drew (GA)

            Sorry to hear that, it’s shameful that there’s only a desire to help others when there’s a paycheck waiting at the other end. Also, I’m not certain what you’re idea is but: It’s likely that it isn’t viewed as profitable or that it will cut into the profits of a currently existing method/technology. Don’t give up, if it will save lives it’s worth fighting for.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Thanks, Drew.  It HAS amazed me about the lack of interest, considering all the disasters Rubble Rouster could have been used on.
                R-R would remove rubble at least ten times faster than individual or bucket-brigade handling.  R-R would be FAR SAFER for the rescuers, AND the trapped VICTIMS.
                R-R could be manufactured for a few hundred, or less. 
                R-R could be deployed in a short time.
                As my ‘hobbies’ are saving lives and property, I CANNOT give up on R-R.  I do put it back, unless an opportunity opens.

  • Rob (in NY)

    Tom,   My question is why does the failure of Dewey & LeBoeuf have to mean something larger for the entire legal profession?   My understanding is that the Dewey firm had a longstanding practice of luring hired priced partners through large guaranteed salaries and/or signing bonuses and this Firm increasingly relied on its credit line to fund these guaranteed salaries in recent years.   This implies the Firm was either mismanaged during recent years and/or misled its lendors and the banks who funded the credit  line did poor due diligence and/or did not properly track the Firm’s operating performance.     I do not agree that the failure of one large firm should some how taint an entire profession, particulary when it appears the key reasons for this business failure are internal factors related to the management to this particular firm.   

    • Hidan

       gotta go, But like to say hows it going? seems you haven’t been on for awhile and miss some of your insightful comments(even know I often disagree with them).

      My question to you is how much do you thinkg of the 75-100 million loan to the firm is being used to give these high price partners golden parachutes before the government steps in?

      Also if the taint is a internal wouldn’t such taint spread throughout the profession if those same people are being picked up and hired by others in the same profession?

      cheers

  • J__o__h__n

    LeBoeuf couldn’t bring in the clients like former partners Cheatem and Howe could. 

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       Isn’t LeBoeuf off chasing a man named Chelmsford into Indian Territory?

      • Drew (GA)

        lol

  • Lin

    Make me understand why I should care. At this moment, I absolutely do not care what happens to this law firm. 

  • Drew (GA)

    “Liar, lawyer, mirror, show me.

    What’s the difference?

    kangaroo done hung the guilty with the innocent.”~TOOL-The Pot~~

  • ToyYoda

    let’s talk about the larger trend driven by technological changes.  

    A lot of law is pushing paper, and that is being taken over by computers or computer-customer pair.  Think of will making software that you can buy or use on line.
    Recent advances in AI allows computers to comb through thousands of documents looking for evidence for/against a case.  This was once work done by junior lawyers.

  • Anna Log

    So some snakes in the pit are eating other snakes in the pit. 
    Sounds like a good thing to me.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    An evidently mis-managed firm is facing bankruptcy?  With OVER-PAID attorneys, and officers? 
        THEY want SYMPATHY?  BAILOUT?  ATTENTION?  WHAT?

  • J__o__h__n

    Interesting that it was that Dewey.  Was there a newpaper headline that said, “DEWEY DEFEATS RECESSION”? 

  • JWJ

    It’s important to remember that EVERY shady, slimy Wall Street/subprime mortgage deal was blessed by an even shadier and slimier law firm. Hard to have much compassion…

  • Wackerdr

    Did I really hear Tom say, “The gorilla in the coal mine.”??? What metaphor is that?

    • Still Here

      How can you hear anything with the jackhammers?

  • Dkdaniel

    GORILLA IN THE COAL MINE?  Give me a break!  Mixed metaphors are a pet peeve of mine and Tom just managed to mix THREE of them, one of which is completely inappropriate to the situation.   Aaarrrgh!

    • Ray in VT

      What’s the third?  I got the 800lb gorilla and canary in the coal mine.

  • Vtcheflw

    Maybe if the justice system wasn’t so clear corrupt, law firms would be more respected.  Maybe a group of lawyers could get together and actually challenge, say, Monstanto; people might respect those folks.

  • Michiganjf

    It’s heartening to see a brain-drain and enthusiasm gap in corporate law, reversing a tend which took off full-speed in the 1980′s yuppie movement.

    Perhaps we’ll see young, talented lawyers rediscover the aspirations once rife in the profession… a genuine desire to do good and devote a certain portion of their career to the underserved in society, civil liberties, charity, etc…

  • Ellen Dibble

    Both the legal and medical professions, it seems to me, are called “professions” because of a sense of responsibility.  The idea is that poor or rich, you have access to a professional “standard” of quality.  If a large corporation has access to better legal representation than a small business, it favors those with more money.  Is this right?

    • Ray in VT

      The last caller just made me think of what are perhaps some of the similar issues in the medical profession, where there seems to be a rush to specialization because it pays more and there are not enough people going into general practice.

    • Drew (GA)

      That’s absolutely right, and the majority of the legal and medical “professions” have failed their purposes for quite some time. I think we’ve had Services as opposed to Professions for a while now. The moment profitability trumps professionalism (Due Process, Hippocratic Oath) you are nothing more than a service industry, a business. Just my opinion though

    • Brett

      Hi, Ellen! How are you?

      On point! And, anyone who is in the legal and medical professions is also considered to be “practicing” law or medicine. This connotes applying or exercising an idea or method in a customary or expected procedure, repeatedly, to acquire or maintain a particular proficiency in a skill, indicating that there may very well be differences in proficiency among various members of each discipline. I feel as though the use of the word “practice” is to cover the human fallibility component, and the use of the word “professional” is, hopefully, to cover what we would consider a minimum standard or quality.As Drew discusses below, both “professions” are businesses…and one gets what one pays for. However, the symbol of justice does have the figure blindfolded, I presume meaning blind to anything other than truths or whatever (ha!) while carrying scales, meaning a balancing out and “weighing” out of what is heard and seen. I’ve always taken this to mean the truth against what is known or can be known.

      • Ellen Dibble

        Brett, I’m fine, and hope you are too.  The blind scales of justice, ha!, exactly.  Supposedly the laws of evidence, on account of which many “objection, Your Honor,” and on account of which many long and hard-to-hear sidebars arguing the relevant cases and precedents, the whole legal superstructure and infrastructure is a creation of our attempts to enable justice.  Of course if the legislature is in the pockets of the Corporate Persons and possibly even the Supreme Court is in the pockets of Corporate Persons, not to mention lower level judges and appeals courts (sometimes put forward by “interests,” if not elected outright), then maybe the laws that keep trials just aren’t what we would hope them to be.  One more thing for a democracy to worry about.

  • Keo sahawkeye

    I have no sympathies for these firms which have been raping their clients through outrageous fees for decades.  It seems that to date there have been no shortage of slack-jawed, clueless clients long on money and short on attention to what role their attorney should have as a counselor and what their chances actually are.  These lawyers epitomized some of the worst cases of arrogance, inflated ego, and outsized senses of self-worth.  I’ve had it with lawyers who tell their clients what their clients want to hear so long as they can keep milking the litigation cow.
     
    I – and many sole practitioners – can’t wait to see some of these stuffed shirts out there actually trying to manage a case instead of coddling an image and a timesheet.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rickevans033050 Rick Evans

    Wait until Watson(IBM) passes the bar. Law firms will go down like a swarm of mosquitoes and cockroaches in a cloud of bug spray.

  • Adks12020

    I agree with the last caller.  I’ve worked as a paralegal for 5.5 years and was planning on going to law school.  When I looked at the number of law school graduates vs. number of jobs available I decided to get a masters degree in business and law rather than a JD.  There just aren’t enough jobs and the cost of law school is too high.  I’m going to take my legal experience and masters degree and get a job in banking (compliance or asset/portfolio management) instead.  There are many jobs there with the new rules in Dodd Frank.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    More WHINING GREEDY rich?  Maybe down to their last few MILLIONS?

  • Ellen Dibble

    As a court transcriber, there are set page rates, the same for every attorney, except now copies can be paid at $1.00 a page for private work, that done for the indigent, the state pays 10 cents a page for copies, which becomes  irrelevant with digital copies preferred.
        An attorney had once told me, this client is (on the level or Rupert Murdoch, really rich), and I couldn’t charge more.  Last week, a pro se client offered to pay me at any rate, times three, times five, and I refused.  No surprise, that client’s check bounced, and I think these people set up accounts simply for the purpose of bouncing checks.
        At any rate, there are attorneys inspired by Harper Lee and To Kill a  Mockingbird, seeing that those with the least resources need the best legal representation.  Oh, I definitely agree.  

  • CampaignFinanceReform

    Re: Outsourcing and Unauthorized Practice of Law Rules in the US

    Legal services could be provided more cheaply if states would automatically recognize law licenses from other states.

    I am an attorney who moved to NY from another state but was not entitled to “reciprocity” because I had been working part time and not full time for some years before the application.
    At the same time, companies are outsourcing legal work to India and lawyers in India are advertising and getting US business for pennies on the dollar.

    Does this make sense???

    • Terry Tree Tree

      High-Paid Lawyers MADE it happen!  Surely THAT makes it make sense?

  • Bruce wheaton

    the prospective failure of the dewey firm seems to be the result of greed overtaking common sense.  offering large income guarantees in the face of increasing competition is simply dumb.  the strategy presupposes growth of the firm in an environment that suggests growth will be difficult. 

    careful analysis of a bad idea might not yield rich results. 

  • ILawyer

    What about online service providers like Legalzoom?  Will that remove the traditional role of the lawyer as well?

  • AJ

    Taking on too many law students increases the pressure on students too. I’m a 3L at a very good local law school (not the best but certainly not the worst). I have a job at a big firm waiting for me in November when I pass the bar, but I had to bust my butt to get there, and I look around and see many of my friends who I know are smart people, still looking for a job in late April a mere two weeks before graduating and I can only wonder…If you don’t get straight As at a school that isn’t top-tier, it will be really hard for you to find a job. Even in public interest.

  • Dame

    This type of sick dysfunctional law culture in not new.   Greed, narcissism and bizarre demands in law firms is par for the course.

    I’ve never read an article that expressed it better – 20 Law Prac. Mgmt. 46 (1994) Dysfunction in the Law Office (Do You Recognize Anyone Here); Nefertari, Nomalanga

    http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/lwpra20&div=41&id=&page=

     

    • Ray in VT

      The mother of one of my friends was a partner at some high-powered DC law firm, and she got out of the business because of some of the trends and practices that have been described today.  She said that it had become all about making a lot of cash and winning.  She wanted both of those things, of course, but it wasn’t the be all end all.

  • Witterquick

    Our lawyer calls at random (out of the blue), asks if there is anything he can do for us, and then sends us an invoice for a half hour of his time (for a 30 second unsolicited phone call).  I think his call to us corresponded with his boat payment.  Long story short, we had to fire him.

    There is a reason why there are so many lawyer jokes.

    • BHA in Vermont

       I trust you told him where he could stick his bill for “service”

    • Adks12020

      That’s not legal.  I hope you didn’t pay it.

    • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

       You should switch to Click and Clack’s law firm:
      Dewey Cheetem & Howe. :^)

  • BHA in Vermont

    Lawyers have been too self important for a long time. Charge many hundreds of dollars for basic stuff like a “married, 2 young kids, not much in assets” will. Probably put together by an office staff person who selected “option 2″ from a computer program then Print.

    The new city attorney for Burlington, VT thinks he should make $7,000 more than the position should pay based on city guidelines.

    Why? Because he went to Yale. SO WHAT? He graduated 13 years ago.
    And because he will be making a lot less money than he could if he stayed in private practice. Again SO WHAT? DON’T TAKE THE JOB!

  • Tony12

    It’s funto laugh at the “snakes”. But while you laugh, keep in mind that over half of the people getting hurt here are not lawyers: they are secretaries, paralegals, messengers, mail clerks, and other support staff. Even amongst the “snakes”, most are not the greedy rich that youi imagine. Hundreds of the associates owe 100K or more in student loans. The younger partners just watched their life savings go up in smoke — all the capital they had to invest inthe firm.

    The small group of men who deserve most of your vitriol will simply move on to another firm and will be just fine. So laugh it up, but I the end it’s not the real snakes who will get hurt here.

  • Eric M. Jones

    Tom my friend…WTF?

    This crap isn’t serving your audience.

    • JGC

      I don’t know…maybe this is just one window on the big shake-up in education, expectations and opportunity   after the information revolution. There was a column yesterday by Margaret Wente in the (Toronto) Globe and Mail “These kids are in for a shock” mainly about the student protests in Quebec, but parts of which give pause to anyone thinking about their future prospects in the new economy.  

  • BHA in Vermont

    What is the difference between a lawyer in the middle of the road and a skunk in the middle of the road?

    People try to avoid the skunk.

    Not all lawyers fit this description, but enough do to have someone make up this joke.

  • Chris in Pennsylvania

    The world needs more Atticus Finch’s.

  • Ilawyer

    It’s harder to move from State-to-State when there isn’t one single Bar exam or single legal code; when need dries up, you can’t just pick up and move to another state!

  • Witterquick

    One last joke;

    A man died and was taken to his place of eternal torment by the devil.As he passed raging fire pits and shrieking sinners, he saw a man he recognized as a lawyer snuggling up to a beautiful woman.’That’s unfair!’ he cried. ‘I have to roast for all eternity, and that lawyer gets to spend it with a beautiful woman.”Shut up,’ barked the devil, jabbing the man with his pitchfork.’Who are you to question that woman’s punishment?’

  • Robbie

    they threatened to beat that blind chinese activist’s wife to death if he didn’t leave the embassy. He also never told Mrs. Clinton he wants to “kiss” her. He said he wants to “meet” her. The simple truth from those who know him and are tweeting on his behalf is that he was essentially kicked out of the US Embassy and his fate is very dark.

  • Robbie

    What is this guy talking about??? 
    Here is proof that the blind Chinese Lawyer was coerced into leaving the Embassy.
    https://twitter.com/#!/zengjinyan

  • Ellen Dibble

    Lawyers who are worth their weight in gold (i.e., don’t even think about trying remunerate that), to me, are those who know their clients and love their clients in that way where one’s legal/ethical muscle tightens like an arrow drawn back in a bow. They go to court and know exactly what hand they are playing with, all the laws, all the vulnerabilities and strengths of their client and their case.  They have enormous respect for the prosecutor and the prosecutor’s clients (victims mostly) and enormous respect for the judge and his or her responsibility for ruling and guiding the trial.  These super lawyers do not have to be told what the jury will “take” from what is presented.  They also respect the intelligence and common sense of the jury, or, if the jury goes awry, perhaps, of an appeals court.  They spend hours responding and reacting to surprises from the witness stand, which twist and turn the legal issues, and their nerves are trained to be steady.  They are extremely effective.  If the taxpayers are going to pay to lock someone up for many decades, we the taxpayers want to make sure it isn’t “just” for behaving the way all thousand people who live on the same street behave, as part of a way of life that is kind of on the edge.  Just for example.
        Such lawyers seem to love being real, being alive, being in tune with all sides, and enjoy being in tune with all sides.  They are extraordinarily sure of themselves.  Lesser lawyers may need to get their thrills from take-home pay that is way more than enough to live on, way more than enough to send your children and your grandchildren to graduate school.  But these lawyers know that their children and grandchildren will make it on their own, it seems to me.

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  • Dbcooper292

    Did you hear about the terrorist at the annual bar association meeting who took everyone hostage?  He wanted a million dollars and a private plane with pilot.  He told the police that until his demands were met he was going to release one lawyer unharmed every hour.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Got the plane and Million in five minutes?

  • Gregory Belenky

    “Gorilla in the coal mine” – brilliant! :-)

  • Gregory Belenky

    “Gorilla in the coal mine.” – Brilliant!!!

  • Victor Vito

    Technology will eventually turn most of us into “buggy whip makers”.

  • Sandy

    In a December 5, 2011, interview on the NPR program
    On Point, the author of CIVILIZATION: The
    West and the Rest, Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, described how the
    American “Rule of Law” has been replaced by, quote, the “Rule of Lawyers,” which
    he asserts if left unaddressed  will cause
    the ultimate downfall of our once great American society.    

    April 9, 2012, a retired judge told Globe reporter
    Adrian Walker that she opposed judicial investigations because, “judges are
    already held accountable.  They’re
    accountable on appeal.”

    However in case no. 00-cv-12421 that same judge sanctioned
    parties who had petitioned the court to address the  behavior of a Massachusetts state court judge
    who had knowingly lied to a jury and falsified official court records in an
    attorney fee case.  (As a result, the
    clients lost all of their property to attorneys who had lied to a jury, and
    then the trial tapes were conveniently “lost”, so the judge was allowed to create
    his own version of the testimony).  Judge
    Gertner was presented with irrefutable evidence that included, but was not
    limited to, a sworn affidavit from an officer of the court attesting to the
    judge’s misconduct.  Even though the
    parties had sought the relief in the federal courts under advice of several
    attorneys, she sanctioned them 3 times their meager annual income to teach them
    a lesson. 

    That judge now teaches law at Harvard, which is
    ironic in that this occurred in the very same case in which outraged Harvard
    Law School students blogged that what went on in that case and  the “indigestible tricks” engaged in by the
    court of appeals – served as good reason NOT to go into law. 

    (   You
    +1′d this publicly. Undoblogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/2008/11/19/tricky-jury-question/  )

    The wide-spread corruption overtaking the American legal community and its courts
    needs far more attention.  

  • Sandy

    (Retry for proper spacing)In a December 5, 2011, interview on the NPR program
    On Point, the author of CIVILIZATION: The
    West and the Rest, Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, described how the
    American “Rule of Law” has been replaced by, quote, the “Rule of Lawyers,”
    which he asserts if left unaddressed 
    will cause the ultimate downfall of our once great American
    society.   

    April 9, 2012, a retired judge told Globe reporter
    Adrian Walker that she opposed judicial investigations because, “judges are
    already held accountable.  They’re
    accountable on appeal.”

    However in case no. 00-cv-12421 that same judge
    sanctioned parties who had petitioned the court to address the  behavior of a Massachusetts state court judge
    who had knowingly lied to a jury and falsified official court records in an
    attorney fee case.  (As a result, the
    clients lost all of their property to attorneys who had lied to a jury, and
    then the trial tapes were conveniently “lost”, so the judge was allowed to
    create his own version of the testimony). 
    Judge Gertner was presented with irrefutable evidence that included, but
    was not limited to, a sworn affidavit from an officer of the court attesting to
    the judge’s misconduct.  Even though the
    parties had sought the relief in the federal courts under advice of several
    attorneys, she sanctioned them 3 times their meager annual income to teach them
    a lesson. 

    That judge now teaches law at Harvard, which is
    ironic in that this occurred in the very same case in which outraged Harvard
    Law School students blogged that what went on in that case and  the “indigestible tricks” engaged in by the
    court of appeals – served as good reason NOT to go into law.  (  blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/2008/11/19tricky-jury-question/   )

    The wide-spread corruption overtaking the American legal community and its courts
    needs far more attention.  

     

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/6HB5O6GXI7IK46N5FL6QLHOKHE TheShamen

    Awwwww, did big bad miwwion-dowwah law firm disintegrate?  Here’s the view for the 99%:

    http://voices.yahoo.com/law-school-losing-proposition-11227070.html

  • Warren

    Might I suggest English Law where the loser pays.We can means test and afford assistance to indigents.Big Govt. ,in collusion with the Education Industrial Complex has bankrupted the student with  oppressive loans.Hungry,indebted ,aspiring legal beagles are prone to corruptions

    • jefe68

      Except that the US does not have an English common law legal system. And you’re only talking about law suits brought by individuals. The English and Welsh have barristers and solicitors and there are clear distinctions in what they do and don’t. In the US there is no distinction even though we also have titles that are in congress with the English.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrister

  • Jason___A

    Fewer attorneys, earning less money, could only be a good thing for the Nation. I have long thought that the excess of greedy JDs to be a curse for all of us, except them!

  • Dale

    Lawyer jokes are fun. Just like ethnic jokes were, just like fat jokes were, just like politicians are.  There is no case where taking the bad acts of a few and making generalizations is unhealthy for society.  There are a lot of Atticus Finches out there.  

    The Majority of attorneys do it not only for a living, but because we truly want to help others, and find their careers rewarding.

  • NABNYC

    I’ve been an attorney for decades, first-hand observer of what’s happened.  It’s all greed.  It has always been true that the attorney who does the work is paid 1/3 of what clients pay for their labor; 2/3 go to the firm.  Theoretically 1/3 is for overhead, but of course overhead does not cost anything close to that much.  So in other words, law firms (partners) take 2/3 of the money that is paid for the labor of the attorneys in their firms.  Think about it.  Even real estate agents, with little experience or knowledge, get to keep 1/2 of what they bring in the door.

    Nowadays I see law firms offering less than 1/3.  I saw a firm recently offering $15/hour for an attorney.  See others offering $25/hour, $45/hour, when the fact is they are billing clients $250/hour for that same attorney’s work.  The firm hires an attorney, pays the attorney $X for their labor, charges clients $X times 17 for the same labor.

    Legal secretaries are an endangered species.  Most firms now hire only people with a 2-hour paralegal certificate, then have the paralegal mostly do secretarial work.  They pay the secretaries $20/hour, but charge the clients $150/hour for the secretary’s time.  And secretaries are told that they must bill 7 hours/day or they won’t have a job.  Bills now routinely show charges at $150/hour for “document processing,” which in fact means making a copy of a document, putting it into an envelope and printing out a label.  It’s theft.

    The goal of partners is to do as little work as possible, and charge as much as they can get away with.

    Like real estate.  Houses went from $250,000 to $750,000 in less than 10 years.  What happened?  The bubble burst. 

    We have had a bubble in law and professions just like in so many other fields.  I know completely useless, stupid and impaired attorneys who routinely charge $400/hour, and have no idea what they’re doing.  But they get away with it.

    The people who stole the most can now comfortably retire.  Everybody else is in big trouble.  I see firms everywhere collapsing, lawyers scrambling to survive, trying to change careers.  Paralegal job openings now routinely say:  No attorneys need apply because they will not be considered.  Legal secretaries with a little experience in San Francisco are paid $80,000/year, while attorneys doing defense work are maxed out at $70,000/year. 

    My advice to anyone thinking about law school:  don’t.  And for women:  don’t twice.  The gender discrimination against women is just as strong as it was 30 years ago.  Most firms have baby women attorneys then throw them out at 5 years.  Possibly 20% of the partners are women, but that’s still mostly concentrated in family law (divorce work) because you know how us gals love a juicy break-up story.

    I don’t know that there are any good options right now, but law school would be below garbage collection in my opinion.

  • Sandyshore21

    The correct link for the reason Harvard law students think that it might be a bad idea to go into law is:
    blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/2008/11/19/tricky-jury-question

    (Sorry.  Aside from listening to On Point, it’s been a bad day.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/cqstafford Charles Stafford

    We are fortunate to live in a time and place in which everyone, no matter what their station in life, has at least the opportunity to seek redress through the law.  If someone steals from you, injures you, ruins your business, breaks a contract, or any other number of grievances, you can take them to court and be heard.  And if you stand accused of a crime, or have been the victim of a crime, there is a separate, parallel system in place for you, too.  Throughout the majority of human history, and indeed in the world today, this simply wasn’t possible.  Justice was at the sole discretion of the king, or emperor, or warlord, or chief-if at all.  

    Lawyers are an integral part of this system.  They work in that area where the lives of everyday people intersect with the courts.  Are some greedy?  Yes.  Are some immoral?  Yes.  Are some just plain despicable?  Yes.  But that’s only when they’re working for the other guy. 

    As for law school, name me a profession today that doesn’t have an incredibly high cost to entry and dismal job prospects.  Medical doctors, surgeons, advanced engineers, advanced chemists-all of  these fields are in turmoil.  The old guard won’t/can’t retire and move out of the way, advances in technology create constant pressures to evolve, and new ways of providing the same services-or at least significant pieces of them-from all around the world threaten career prospects (CAT scans being read in India, engineering work being done online in Israel or Dubai, molecular research being outsourced to Korea).  At the very least, a lawyer can represent the underserved at $100 an hour instead of corporation for $500 an hour and still make a decent living.  

    Lawyers are like fire; they’re great, but only when they’re working FOR you.  

    • Terry Tree Tree

      A bad, or corrupt lawyer, working ‘for you’, has been a VERY bad thing, for some people!
         I have experienced some bad lawyers, and some EXCELLENT ones.  Price was NOT the deciding factor!

  • Terry Tree Tree

    CRY for the $ Millionaire lawyers, of a mis-managed firm, that will have to survive on a few paltry $MILLIONS?
       Gee, the sympathy factor must peg!

  • Tatansasi

    the reason the average middle to working class American should be concerned and legit worried about the fall of BIGLAW is that law (BIGLAW in particular) was one of the last gateways for the children of the poor and working classes to move up in class and provide that social mobility that America is famous for.  As BIGLAW dries up, so to does just one more opportunity of that truck driver, or that lunch lady to see their children become middle class or even upper middle class families.  Just another door closes for American working classes who take a long view of life in this country.

  • Michaeldifani

    In the last few years there have been more law schools recruiting here at UC San Diego than SD area businesses looking for employees with BS/BA degrees…some schools are from as far east as the U. of Maine. Calif. sure doesn’t need more lawyers…as the show reported, there are jobs as in-house attorneys, etc. 

  • WYTK

    Will Meyerhofer’s blog – he’s a former biglaw associate turned psychotherapist – is the most insightful on the state of all things legal:  www.thepeoplestherapist.com  He’s also written a book about it, titled “Way Worse Than Being a Dentist”  
    Read that book, and you’ll understand what young lawyers are going through.  

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/6SYS5C6J6S5EIFLO7XMESXNIOQ KerryO

    Getting upset at lawyers for charging to much for their services is like getting mad at Lexus for charging too much for their car. As long as the lawyer is honest about the services provided and the billing (I know that’s a big assumption, but I certainly qualify), then it’s a completely voluntary transaction. So get off the high horse about fees. BIGLAW is going down because they are lawyers – aka crappy marketers, crappy business-people and crappy people managers. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/PQOCSU3NJ5J6SSQBEM5YBFCPZY Jason__A

      And GREEDY Crooks.

  • Pingback: Member Michael Trotter and Author of New Book, “Declining Prospects,” Interviewed by Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s “On Point,” along with two others | Taylor English Duma LLP

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