Law blog roundup

0120jurydutyimageWelcome to Monday, the first day of the 2013-2014 school year in many Maryland jurisdictions. Here are some news items to get the week started.

– Sequester hammers federal courts.

– So what’s the penalty for jaywalking in Iran?

– Federal judge strikes down Chicago’s vacant-building registry.

– Who really needs a third year of law school?

Lawyers fight homelessness

adequate housingThe American Bar Association is taking a major step to fight homelessness.

The group’s House of Delegates passed a resolution last week that “urges governments to promote the human right to adequate housing for all through increased funding, development and implementation of affordable housing strategies and to prevent infringement of that right.”

The resolution was spearheaded by the ABA Commission on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

The intent is for the resolution to be a tool for lawyers to work with governments to find solutions to homelessness and lack of adequate housing in the country.

The resolution was passed during the ABA’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

ABA memberships for all

While there seems to be a lot of negative news about law schools these days, here are some good tidings.

The interim dean at the St. Louis University School of Law, whose dean left amid controversy over accusations the university was using the law school as its cash cow, is buying each student at the law school a membership to the American Bar Association.

Tom Keefe will pay $14,212 for the 836 students at the law school. Memberships for the ABA at the group rate cost $17 per student. Four other law schools across the country buy every student a membership, which allows them to participate in ABA sections and seek grants form the organization.

Keefe is recovering from a bit of a rocky start earlier this summer. After being named interim dean in August, he told our sister paper Missouri Lawyers Weekly that he would not be controlled by the university or be the university president’s “butt boy.”

Rewriting the rules on online marketing, lead generation — and competence

When it comes to creating a potential attorney-client relationship, “Discussion” is out; “Consultation” is in.

That change, designed to put online communications on par with actual conversations, was adopted Monday by the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates as a result of the work of the Commission on Ethics 20/20.

The vote in favor of Resolution 105B amends several of the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct to provide more guidance on online marketing and lead-generation. As Debra Cassens Weiss writes for the ABA Journal, 105B addresses such questions as:

When do online discussions give rise to duties to prospective clients? May a lawyer generate leads through Groupon? What type of online communications are impermissible solicitations?

The changes include replacing “discussion” with “consultation” in Model Rule 1.18, which deals with duties to prospective clients. Lawyers with their own smartphone apps may want to pay close attention here: “According to new commentary,” Cassens Weiss writes, “duties may arise if a lawyer invites the prospective client to submit information about possible representation without sufficient warnings or cautionary statements.”

Resolution 105B also amends Model Rule 7.3 to deal with online client solicitations. And it adds a new comment to Model Rule 7.2 to address marketing methods like Total Attorneys, Martindale-Hubbell’s and even, yes, Groupon. The new comment says it’s OK to pay for “lead generation” services, provided the generator doesn’t vouch for the lawyer’s credentials or abilities, or create the impression that it has chosen the lawyer by analyzing the potential client’s legal problems, or pretend that the recommendation is being made gratis.

Finally, if you’re the kind of lawyer who thinks none of this applies to you because your social network is more about your crowd than The Cloud, well, think again. The House of Delegates also approved Resolution 105A on Monday. Under a new comment, 105A adds to Model Rule 1.1, the duty to provide competent representation now requires not only that you keep up with changes in the law, but also with the risks and benefits associated with new technology.

Those were just two of the resolutions adopted at the ABA’s Annual Meeting in Chicago, which wraps up on Tuesday. For more information on the delegates’ votes and other reports from the meeting, click here.

Bargaining for an education

More news on law schools is out this week.

The Wall Street Journal reports that law schools are increasingly offering prospective students incentives to enroll. Some schools are letting students submit applications past deadlines. Others are offering more scholarship money than ever to potential students.

Scholarship money offered by law schools has tripled in the past ten years, jumping from $816 million in the 2008-2009 school year to $1 billion in the last school year alone. The Journal reports that some law schools are even negotiating with prospective students on scholarship amounts.

Law schools this year have been concerned in general about the shrinking pool of applicants. The number of people taking the LSAT has fallen from 171,500 in 2010 to 155,000 last year to 130,000 this cycle, the smallest group since 2001.

A smaller test taker pool ultimately means fewer high-scoring (and rankings-boosting) participants for law schools to choose from. Maryland schools have already been affected, with he University of Baltimore School of Law reporting applicant numbers down 17 percent earlier this year.

Judge dismisses employment numbers lawsuit

It’s not looking good for law school students suing their alma maters for misrepresenting post-graduation employment numbers.

Since employment for law school graduates started to slide with the downturn of the economy, a number of class-action suits have popped up around the country as students claim schools skewed graduates’ employment numbers to attract new students.

The latest setback for these kinds of cases came last week when a federal judge in Michigan dismissed a case brought against the Thomas M. Cooley Law School by 12 graduates. The judge rejected claims of fraud, saying the employment numbers were confusing and unclear but not fraudulent. The judge also said the school did not violate the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, since the act doesn’t protect the purchase of an education.

A similar case was dismissed in New York in March, but there are 12 other fraud class-action suits against law schools pending across the country.

The news comes in the wake of new employment numbers for law schools released last month. The statistics were divided by the type of employment for the first time this year. Nationwide, 83 percent found employment, but only 55 percent were permanent jobs that required bar admission. (At both Maryland law schools, around 47 percent found permanent jobs with bar admission required.)

No money, mo problems

Looks like more bad news this week for law school graduates.

Starting salaries for the class of 2011 are down across the board. Mean starting salaries for first-year associates fell 6.5 percent, according to numbers from the National Association for Law Placement.

The class of 2010 was paid a mean salary of $84,111, while the class of 2011′s mean salary was $78,653, according to the data. Mean salaries fell 15 percent compared to the class of 2009, which reported a mean salary of $93,454.

The median salary fell from $63,00 to $60,000 between 2010 and 2011,  according to the data.

Last month, we wrote about law school graduate employment numbers falling across the country, including for law school grads in Maryland. Fewer than half of the state’s law school graduates from the class of 2011 have full-time, permanent jobs, according to American Bar Association data released in June. Both Maryland law schools, the University of Baltimore School of Law and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, had numbers that fell below the national average of 55 percent.

Then there’s that Boston law firm that advertised a first-year associate position with $10,000 salary.

So, per this week’s news, not only are fewer recent law school grads finding jobs, those who have, are getting paid less. But, hey, at least it’s Friday?

Law blog roundup

That was some power outage over the weekend! But enough about the Orioles. Here are some news items to get your holiday week started.

– Divorce can be a risky business.

– The decision was not a total loss for GOP attorneys general.

– Jobs come and go, but law school lasts forever.

– Policy: Where common sense goes to die.

A prequisite for pro bono?

Lawyers across the country have been talking about New York’s new mandate requiring those seeking to join the bar to complete 50 hours of pro bono work.

New York will be the first state to institute such a requirement, which will take effect starting next year. New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced the requirement May 1.

Since then, lawyers have been discussing the pros and cons of the rule. Some say it won’t do anything to help needy clients and unnecessarily burden incoming lawyers. Others contend it will turn new lawyers on to pro bono service.

Bloomberg BNA asked lawyers around the country what they think.

Ben Trachtenberg, professor at the University of Missouri School of Law: “While I completely appreciate the motive behind Chief Judge Lippman’s plan, and there’s a tremendous access to justice problem, I don’t think this is a particularly effective or fair way to solve the problem.”

Michael Millemann, professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law: Chief Judge Lippman’s decision to require 50 hours of pro bono service for admission to the bar is a good step in the right direction.”

Robert N. Weiner, partner, Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C.: “The issue is whether there will be enough resources to ensure that the people doing the pro bono are getting supervised, and getting to represent the right clients, and actually serving their clients The existing infrastructure will need to be supplemented dramatically to have the capacity to accommodate all this pro bono service.”

Questions remain about the implementation and organization of the requirement (some lawyers even want to extend the rule to existing lawyers) and the New York State Bar Association has created a task force to address the issue. What impact New York’s move will have on other states also remains to be seen.

Do you think Maryland should make pro bono work a prerequisite for admission to the bar?

Lapses in the legal system

Being a 9-year-old can be tough. Sometimes you have to pick up the toys in your room. Sometimes you have to solve multiplication tables for homework. And sometimes you have to go in for jury duty.

Well, that’s the way it was for Cape Cod third-grader Jacob Clark, who got a summons for jury duty in the mail, even though you are only eligible for jury duty after turning 18.

His first reaction?

“I was like, ‘What’s a jury duty?’” Clark, who lives in Yarmouth, Mass., told the Cape Cod Times.

His second reaction, according to his grandmother, Deborah Clark?

“He said, ‘I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go!’” she said.

And who could blame him? So, Clark’s dad called over to the jury commission office to get to the bottom of it. Apparently the state had his birth date wrong. Someone had typed in 1982 instead of 2002.

Speaking of slips in recordkeeping . . .

A Nebraska lawyer practiced law without a license for 12 years before anyone noticed.

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