In Big Ten move, Terps look at the law

There’s a legal side to the University of Maryland’s recent decision to move to the Big Ten Conference.

The Washington Post had a commercial litigation lawyer look at the case filed by the ACC seeking exit fees from the Terps after it announced its big move a few weeks ago. The attorney said the university could have a relatively good case in seeking a lesser withdrawal fee.

The University of Maryland earlier this month announced it would leave the ACC to join the Big Ten, a decision that has sparked controversy and discussion across the state and the sports world. Some argue the state’s flagship university betrayed tradition while others contend the move is fiscally smart for the financially-strapped school.

The ACC promptly filed a lawsuit Monday seeking more than $52 million in exit fees.

The crux of the case lies in whether the court thinks the amount the ACC is asking for is punitive.

The ACC is seeking three times the conference’s annual operating budget, an amount a majority of university presidents agreed on in September. (Maryland was one of the schools that opposed the measure. Maryland, the attorney said, needs to prove that this amount far exceeds the harm it is causing by heading to the Big Ten:

“Even if you made it three times Maryland’s contribution [to the ACC's coffers]. I think that’s still a hard case, but at least that’s an easier case to defend,” Charles E. Dorkey, a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in New York told the Post. “But three times the budget of everybody? That’s a lot of money. The [ACC's] defense will be, ‘The bylaw says it’s liquidated damages.’ You can use liquidated damages as a way of compensating the party whose rights were breached for their loss. You cannot use it for punishing the rights who breached. Maryland will argue that any reference to the budget makes it a penalty and does not reflect the actual damages of the ACC.”

How the court case against the Terrapins proceeds remains to be seen. Dorkey said these kinds of cases are often settled, but can last anywhere from “five minutes” to months on end.

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

It was the best times and the worst of times in the law blog round-up this Monday. Though, it was mostly just the worst of times if you are a current or incoming law school student – or if you are Jerry Sandusky.

– The U.S. Attorney from Maryland has been tapped to investigate the national security leaks the country has been abuzz about since last week. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. named Rod J. Rosenstein and his counterpart in Washington, D.C.,Ronald C. Machen Jr., to head the investigation committee.

– Things aren’t looking good for a Boston criminal defense attorney found guilty on seven counts of money laundering.

– Attorneys made opening statements this morning in the trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of sexually abusing 10 boys.

– At least ten law schools around the country are cutting enrollment numbers this fall.

– And in case that was not discouraging enough, job numbers for the law school Class of 2012 are at an 18-year low.

– In brighter news, at least you weren’t these girls caught unawares (and unclothed) at University of Maryland, College Park this weekend.

Across the country, less law school love

The George Washington University Law School is the latest to drop its enrollment as fewer people applied to law school for the upcoming academic year.

GW Law plans to keep its enrollment below 450, compared to this year’s class of 474, the National Law Journal reports.

Law schools across the country are grappling with upcoming fall enrollment in the face of the declining number of people taking the LSAT and even fewer applying to law school.

The University of California Hastings College of the Law announced this year that it also plans to decrease enrollment. Albany Law School, Creighton University School of Law and Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center also reduced class sizes during the 2011-2012 school year.

GW Law saw its number of applicants fall 15 percent, Law Dean Paul Schiff Berman told the Journal. It will lose some tuition revenue but plans to recoup it in increased fundraising and introducing new programs for students outside the law school, Berman said.

Baltimore schools are experiencing the similar problems. The University of Baltimore School of Law told The Daily Record  in March that its applicant numbers were down 17 percent this admissions cycle, but University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law officials were less concerned.

Bernstein makes his pitch

I can see the classified ad now:

Change the world one criminal defendant at a time! Young lawyers wanted for fast-paced, high-energy job making the city safe. Hours are long, pay is not as much as in private practice – but we’re trying to get more funding. Plus you’ll get valuable trial experience!

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein didn’t quite say that Monday night at the University of Maryland School of Law. But he told the two dozen or so students that now -  as in right after graduation from law school – might be the best time to become an assistant state’s attorney.

“As you get older and more wrapped up in your professional career, it’s harder to do public service,” he said.

The pay, incidentally, is $54,000 a year for an entry-level prosecutor. But Bernstein added his office is hiring a full-time training director and that he views one of his personal responsibilities is to train young lawyers to become good trial lawyers.

“I know it’s not a lot of money, but the rewards are great,” he said.

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NU cries foul over Terps win

The Maryland Terrapins’ women’s lacrosse team won the national championship Memorial Day weekend, beating Northwestern University 13-11. The victory clinched the Terps’ record 10th title and broke the Wildcats’ five-year run as champions.

Now, I can’t say I’m a big fan of women’s lacrosse. But I am a proud Maryland alum, and I’ll always pull for the sports teams.

So I was surprised when I read earlier this week that Northwestern had sent a “letter of inquiry” to the NCAA alleging official shenanigans (literally) aided Maryland’s victory. Northwestern claims that a veteran referee, Pat Dillon, talked with the championship game officiating crew prior to the final. The problem, according to NU, is that Dillon’s longtime partner, Sandy Worth, is Maryland’s head athletic trainer.

According to the NCAA, Dillon mentioned her Maryland connections on a disclosure form, which means she cannot work any Terps games.

But Dillon, a Hall of Fame referee, was part of the crew that officiated Northwestern’s victory in the semifinals, an assignment NU had unsuccessfully asked the NCAA to remove her from.

My first reaction was two words: Sore. Losers. But then I imagined the shoe on the other paw, so to speak: if Dillion was in a relationship with someone connected to the Northwestern team, I imagine Maryland’s athletic department would be just as upset.

While I doubt a Hall of Fame referee would try to unduly influence her colleagues moments before the biggest game of the year, as NU alleges, it seems the general point about conflict of interest merits further investigation.

I guess that’s a question that will have to be addressed for next season – when the Terps will be defending their championship.

Duke victory gladdens senator

A beaming Sen. Lisa A. Gladden took her seat in the Senate chamber this morning. The source of the Baltimore Democrat’s delight became apparent about one hour into the session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, urged the lawmakers to take notice of “the vice chair” of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Gladden revealed that under her dark-blue suit jacket she was wearing a light-blue shirt emblazoned with the name of her undergraduate alma mater: Duke University.

Yes, that Duke University — the school which defeated Butler University 61-59 last night to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. And the school dubbed “The Evil Empire” in College Park and environs for its heated rivalry with the University of Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I don’t have anything to say today because I think everybody knows,” Gladden told her colleagues. “I don’t want to gloat. It was a great game and a great victory for the ACC.”

But Sen. James N. Robey, a University of Maryland alumnus, declined to let Gladden off so easy.

“Can you name one player on the Duke team?” Robey, a Howard County Democrat, asked in an effort to put Gladden on the spot.

Gladden was silent for about, er, one shining moment before responding, “Johnny Dawkins.”

Dawkins played for Duke but not last night. He was the team’s starting point guard in the mid-1980s — when Gladden was also a student at the Durham, N.C., school.

An ‘A’ for creativity

During my days in College Park, I accumulated a pile of free Terps T-shirts that I would wear to football and basketball games. Some may have been a little big, and roughly 5,000 other students would be wearing the exact same shirt, but hey, they were free.

I say this because we all probably did something similarly resourceful while in school to save a few bucks. Two recent stories about law school students have reinforced my point.

First is Julia Neyman, a student at Columbia Law School. Neyman has a blog, the cleverly-titled “Buns of Steal,” in which she chronicles her attempt to work out at health clubs in New York City for an entire year without paying once.

Neyman found gym memberships too expensive upon moving to New York to start law school but soon noticed gyms around the city gave out free passes and coupons. Enter her blog and her goal.

“Most people aren’t cheap enough to do this for a whole year,” she told The New York Daily News. “But I am.”

Next is University of Baltimore School of Law student Burke Miller, who posted an ad on Craigslist seeking tickets to Wednesday night’s Duke-Maryland basketball game in exchange for providing a certain number of billable hours to the seller upon passing the bar.

Miller told The Baltimore Sun one ticket seller contacted him but declined the offer.

“I’m still hopeful,” he said. “I’d sit down with [a seller] and make a contract and look at the standard billable rate for a young attorney. I’ve got full faith that I’d be a good attorney.”

I wish them both the best. (Incidentally, I’d be willing to part with some of my Terps T-shirts for a ticket to the game.)