Law blog roundup

kagan_090501_mainHappy Monday and welcome to the unofficial official start of fall. Today’s the day when many of your favorite syndicated talk shows return from summer hiatus and new shows begin. (Don’t tell me what happens on “Bethenny”; I DVR’d it!)

Here are some law links to peruse while you wait for the return of Arsenio tonight:

– Everyone knows Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from litigation over Obamacare while solicitor general. But here’s why she did it.

– Did you hear about the law school student who is suing his school for making him retake a class he failed? (HT: Above the Law)

– Ms. JD explains how law school is like planning a wedding.

Here’s video of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaking Friday night at the National Constitution Center.

Summer associate hiring down last year amid sluggish legal market

Alas, it looks like 2012 was not the best year for law firm summer associate hirings.

The median and average numbers of summer associate offers to 2Ls dipped a little bit according to NALP (formerly the National Association for Law Placement). Also down: the percentage of interviews resulting in the offer of a summer associate position.

“We have seen some faltering in recruiting volumes this past fall, and that reflects the continuing faltering in the larger legal economy,” NALP executive director Jim Leipold told The National Law Journal. “If you read the client advisories coming from some of the private banks that are involved in law firm financing, it’s clear that 2013 is not likely to be dramatically better.”

Leipold predicted that law firms will remain cautious about hiring summer associates in 2013.

Last year was also the fourth consecutive year law firms pulled back on filling entry-level positions. The lowest point for summer associate hiring remains 2009, when just 36 percent of 2L interviews led to offers. But those numbers have been inching back up and reached 46 percent in 2011. And last fall, 44 percent of callback interviews led to employment offers.

The hiring outlook also remained grim for 3Ls. A mere 19 percent of law firm offices said they considered 3Ls last fall, and only 280 callback interviews given to 3Ls led to just 82 job offers. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of 2012 summer associates got jobs from the firms for which they’d worked. That did, however, represent a 1 percent drop from 2011.

So Maryland law students: how is your summer associate job hunt going? And lawyers: Are your firms offering more summer associate positions this year? Comment below or hit me up (beth.moszkowicz@thedailyrecord.com) or on twitter (@TDRBeth).

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

We thought we would keep things light and give you all some fun reading as you ease into the first work day of 2013.

The National Law Journal has an article on Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Inc.’s new general counsel. The Delaware-based brewery company decided to bring an attorney in-house in August.

The company, known for its informal workplace, dubbed the new GC “off-centered general counsel” for her official title. Some employees were worried that bringing in an attorney would deflate the company’s laid-back atmosphere. But, with its relaxed approach to the the company’s new addition, the staff (as well as the beer) is anything but flat, they say.

So here’s our question for you:

What do you do in your legal department to keep things light? While every workplace is not as casual as the brewery, what sorts of things do you do to stay laid back in the serious world of law and business?

Leave a comment below or email me.

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The pluses and minuses of partnership

I had the pleasure of meeting many distinguished members of Maryland’s legal community last night at The Daily Record’s 2012 Leadership in Law event. This included a number of partners from firms such as Venable and Zuckerman  Spaeder.

So when I read a column this morning in the National Law Journal on the possible pitfalls of becoming a partner it seemed especially timely.

“Obtaining partnership can be a significant achievement and offer a lawyer substantial rewards, but it may also involve substantial risk,”  writes Michael Downey, a partner at Armstrong Teasdale in St. Louis. “Due care should be exercised to ensure a proffered partnership position is indeed a prize, not a trap.”

Downey says that becoming an equity partner involves assuming several types of increased risk. He says a new partner may be expected to “contribute capital, to pay money into the firm or leave money in the firm for it to use — or lose.” Second, a new partner may “assume greater responsibility for the firm’s debts and liabilities.”

Third, Downey says a new partner may “relinquish predictability in compensation.” He says that partners often receive a “comparatively smaller monthly payment or draw, and may not learn or receive their full annual compensation until profits and losses are determined at the end of the firm’s fiscal year.”

To minimize these risks, Downey said attorneys  contemplating becoming a partner should be mindful of the risks, review the firm’s governance documents, conduct due diligence about the firm, get third-party information about and evaluations of the firm and think about perhaps joining as a non-equity position or as of counsel.

Maryland attorneys: what do you think? What have your experiences been?

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board is under fire this week.

General counsel Lafe Solomon participated in talks on the board about Wal-Mart’s social media policy and its legality. The catch? Solomon also held stock in Wal-Mart at the time.

Though Solomon owned only about $18,000 in Wal-Mart stock, the agency’s inspector general is investigating the matter at the urging of Republican members of Congress.

“As a general counsel and career attorney, Mr. Solomon should know federal statute well enough to know when to recuse himself from a possible conflict of interest between his own finances and his work,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wrote in a news release.

Though Solomon sold the stock at the end of February, he participated in meetings on the Wal-Mart issue in January. Solomon’s defense argues that he received no financial benefit from these dealings.

So, here’s our question for you:

What action should the NLRB take against Solomon? How would your company deal with a situation in which a general counsel had a financial conflict of interest?

Leave a comment below or email me.

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In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

It’s all about gossip this week on the In-House Interrogatory blog.

An in-house columnist at Above the Law wrote a column about office gossip and how to deal with it as a general counsel. She said she experiences much less rumor-spreading and behind-the-back whispering in-house than she did while working at a law firm. The writer says in-house lawyers should concentrate on their conflict-resolution skills in office gossip situations.

So, here’s our question for you:

As a general counsel how do you deal with office gossip? Do you at all? Do you think you deal with it more as an in-house counsel or while working at a law firm?

Leave a comment below or email me.

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In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The National Labor Relations Board is looking at the intricacies of back pay and taxes in the next couple months.

The board is asking whether an employer is responsible for paying taxes on back pay owed to employees in a case where the company was found to have violated fair labor practices when it fired employees.

The board asked for briefs in light of a decision it issued Tuesday dealing with a Chicago charter bus company. An administrative law judge found the company, Latino Express, violated fair labor practices. The judge ruled the company illegally fired two employees during a union organizing campaign.

While the board agreed with the judge, it is still considering two questions pertaining to the case and those interested can submit briefs on the matter to the board before October 1. Briefs can be uploaded here. The case number is 13-CA-046528.

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In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The deputy general counsel at Verizon Wireless is taking the reverse commute and moving to a job at a law firm after spending 24 years in-house. John Thorne started at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel PLLC in Washington, D.C., this week.

Thorne was involved in a lot of high-profile antitrust cases while he was with Verizon and said he chose to take the job at the law firm because wanted “to do new things.”

So, here’s our question for you:

What are the top reasons an in-house attorney would move out-of-house when many do the opposite — move in-house after many years at a law firm?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

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.)

Lawyer puts a cork in legal career

A Washington, D.C, lawyer has chosen vino over verdicts.

The Washington Post reports Elizabeth Banker, part-owner of law firm ZwillGen PLLC in the District, has decided to quit the law and go into the wine business. Banker is opening a wine bar on Wisconsin Avenue in mid-August.

Banker has put about $600,000 into Slate Wine Bar, $450,000 of which was her own. Much of the rest of the money came from other lawyers.

The restaurant will serve some food but will concentrate on wine, a menu Banker prepared for by traveling to wineries around the world for two years.