As 2016 draws to a close, The New York Times has mixed news for female attorneys and law school students.
On one hand, the newspaper reports, most of the students currently enrolled in American law school are women. Apparently this is the first time that’s happened.
Currently, 55,766 women nationwide are studying for a juris doctor degree, compared with 55,059 men, according to American Bar Association (ABA) data cited by the Times. First-year students are more than 51 percent women, or 19,032, and 48.6 percent men, or 18,058.
“There are more women than men based on data we have,” Barry Currier, managing director for accreditation and legal education at the A.B.A.’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar told the Times.
“It is a snapshot in time, and the numbers can be updated by the schools. But it is not likely to be large numbers.”
In the same article, a law professor warned against reading too much into the statistics. Specifically, Deborah J. Merritt said that additional information she compiled with a colleague shows that not all of the women that study law do so at the top-tier schools. The law school from which a student graduates had a direct impact on job placement and earnings, she added.
Additional ABA data seems to support that conclusion. As of this year, it shows, there were more than 1.3 million licensed attorneys in the United States. Of those, only 36 percent are women.
Clearly there’s still room for improvement. But at least we’re heading in the right direction.
Before I get to the point of this post, I must admit to something.
I come from a long line of lawyers — sort of. My grandfather was an attorney. One of his sons (my uncle) had a law degree, and my father — who studied international law at the Sorbonne — might have also gone into the “family business” if he hadn’t been forced to flee from his country (a former Communist regime) as a political refugee.
And now I’m a paralegal — although technically I am not working as one in the conventional sense.
But that actually brings me to my point. Finally.
The reason I’m not working as a paralegal in the conventional sense is because competition for entry-level jobs in the greater New York City area is stiff. And firms that are hiring new paralegals insist that candidates have at least one year of experience.
And that raises the age-old conundrum. How are you supposed to get any experience if no one will hire you because you don’t have any experience?
It is a dilemma that young professionals — and those of us who have switched fields — have always faced. But these days, this predicament is not unique to job-seekers in the legal profession. Aspiring trial lawyers who are gainfully employed often find themselves in a similar quandary.
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, a federal judge’s reaction to a young lawyer’s presence in his New York courtroom highlights the dearth of opportunities for would-be litigators.
Apparently, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis objected to the fact that a law firm sent a “junior lawyer” to participate in a routine scheduling conference. Strenuously. He reportedly claimed the decision to do so was “outrageous and irresponsible and insulting,” and demanded that Kirkland & Ellis LLP “send a partner” to the next hearing.
Granted, the actual presentation of arguments in the matter, described by The Wall Street Journal as “a pair of cases alleging Facebook facilitates communication among terrorists,” would best be made by an experienced attorney. But it is not unreasonable to think that a junior attorney could handle something as simple as a scheduling conference. I mean, that’s hardly a matter of life and death.
And according to The Wall Street Journal, many judges agree. Some are even demanding that new lawyers are sent to handle routine matters in their courts.
Current practices just aren’t cutting it, one judge told the Journal.
“If the veteran lawyers of tomorrow get no trial experience, there will be even fewer trials in the future,” said Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Gregg Costa.
Kathi Vidal, a California attorney also quoted in the article, agrees.
“People become trial lawyers because they want to be in court—not sit at desks,” she said.
A new rule currently pending review by the Connecticut General Assembly’s Joint Judiciary Committee calls for additional advocacy for neglected and abused animals.
Speaking up for those who can’t
As proposed, Connecticut House Bill 5344 would allow “a separate advocate” to be appointed “to represent the interests of the animal” or “the interests of justice” in certain cases.
The person selected from a list of qualified volunteers kept by the Commissioner of Agriculture would:
Monitor the case
Obtain information that would assist the judge or fact finder through consultations with relevant individuals
Review relevant records
Issue relevant recommendations
Passion and professionalism
The selection of an advocate selected in a case specified under the new rule could be made by the court itself or at the behest of a lawyer or party involved in the case. The advocates would either be attorneys “with knowledge of animal issues and the legal system” or law students from schools that “have students or anticipate having students with an interest in animal issues and the legal system.”
Participating students would be bound by specific guidelines pertaining to legal interns set forth in the Connecticut Practice Book. The “book” includes the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rules for the Superior Court and Code of Judicial Conduct for Connecticut lawyers.
Well, here’s another “no-brainer.”
As evidenced by numerous articles on the subject, animal law is a growing discipline requiring a specific skill set. Allowing a separate advocate with the necessary knowledge and/or passion for and interest in the work to do the “heavy lifting” in cases involving “the welfare or custody of an animal” benefits everyone involved. For one thing, it takes the burden off lawyers who aren’t as well-versed in this particular area. More importantly, it ensures that the person making the final decision has all of the information he or she needs in order to do so.
But most importantly of all, it ensures that there is a “voice” for those who can’t speak for themselves.
Just when New York City and the rest of the Tri-State Area finally got rid of Michael “Don’t You Dare Drink A Soda” Bloomberg, the “nanny state” came along and poured some proverbial salt in the wound. Or something like that.
Here’s what happened. Someone — or more likely some group — came up with the brilliant idea that chain restaurants in New York City should put a salt shaker icon next to any menu items that contain or exceed the recommended daily allowance of sodium. Then someone else — likely backed by a bunch of “do-gooders” — decided that this should be mandatory.
Of course someone else decided it wasn’t such a great idea, so of course lawyers got involved and the courts stepped in. Go figure.
Anyhow, from what I’ve read, the New York City “food police” were supposed to start fining restaurants that failed to comply with this last week. A last-minute court ruling put a temporary stop to that, however. You can read the details here.
I suppose you could argue that all of this is no big deal. You could even argue that whole salt shaker icon idea makes sense. After all, it is just simple way to help people make an informed decision, right? I suppose you could also argue that there are lots of people with health issues who shouldn’t have too much salt. So it’s just for their own good.
It’s easy to believe what someone in authority says. So I’m sure if you listen to health gurus and nutritionists and doctors and the government you could list even more reasons to support the idea. Or you can actually think for yourselves and reach your own conclusions. Now there’s a new and revolutionary plan.
Personally I don’t need a label on a menu to tell me if something’s too salty. I mean, I’m not a dietitian or a nutritionist but I am pretty sure I could figure it out. So could you. Just put the food in your mouth and taste it. It’s really not that difficult.
If you think about it, it’s not that hard to employ a bit of common sense, either. And common sense dictates that it’s not a good idea to indulge in too much of anything. Of course excessive eating, drinking, smoking and so on will take a toll on your health. Of course your body will rebel if you have too much processed food, caffeine, salt, alcohol, nicotine, sugar… Of course if you combine all of this with a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise you’ll probably end up getting really sick. Do you really need anyone to tell you so?
Personally, I don’t. I am an adult. I have a brain. I know how to use it. I know that all actions have consequences. I know that some consequences can be unpleasant. I also know that if I make risky or irresponsible choices about my own health, there’s no one to blame but myself.
Ultimately if I am not drinking and driving or doing drugs, I am not putting anyone but myself at risk. But could I become a burden on my family — or even my fellow taxpayers — if I became chronically ill as a result of poor choices about my health? Sure. Is that sad? Yes. Is it right? No.
Does that mean that the government should be allowed to dictate everything I eat or drink? I should think not.
You must admit, my quest for blog fodder has yielded some pretty interesting results. Since I started doing these posts, I’ve written about everything ranging from pets (including my own) to New York City crime, an assessment of the Virginia courts and a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Last week I came across an interesting article in The Plainville Citizen about a controversial dog confiscation case. The lawsuit reportedly headed for U.S. District Court in Connecticut “pits” the “owners and trustee” of a pit bull named Luca — who stands accused of biting people in three separate incidents — against the Town of Plainville. For brevity’s sake, I won’t go into too much detail about the litigation but you can read about it here.
I only say that because — as intriguing as it is — the lawsuit itself isn’t really what caught my attention. Now the details about the attorney representing the plaintiffs — that grabbed my attention. The man’s name is Richard Bruce Rosenthal, and according to The Plainville Citizen’s report, he is a self-proclaimed “dog lawyer.” He is also the co-founder of The Lexus Project, which provides “legal defense for all breeds.”
While doing some additional research about the organization, it became evident that some people embrace its mission — and some condemn it. Although I have mixed feelings on the subject, I am unwilling to do either.
However I am curious about whether or not animal advocacy is a growing trend in the legal world. At this point, I know of a former lawyer who is now involved in the mediation of animal disputes. I also read about a character with a similar role in the novel, The Hand That Feeds Youby A.J. Rich.
How about you? Are you a lawyer or paralegal involved in animal advocacy? Do you know anyone who is? What do you think of the idea?
In my seemingly endless quest for knowledge, I’ve just started another continuing education class. This one is all about Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
I am sure you already know what that is. Or at least you’ve probably heard about it. If you haven’t, it isn’t all that hard to understand. It’s just a fancy bunch of techno-babble having to do with the ways that search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and so-forth find and rank new and existing websites.
Once you know how the search engines work, then you can learn how to use that to your advantage. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be learning all about keywords and key phrases and other such things. And when all is said and done, I’ll know the “secrets” to achieving top rankings on the most important search engines – without resorting to anything underhanded or sneaky. Or that’s the plan, anyway.
Now, you may be wondering why I’m doing all of this after I’ve already built and launched my website. The answer is simple. I’m not doing it for myself. I’m doing it for you. After all, a website that’s easy to find will help any attorney attract clients. A website that’s packed with exciting and engaging content will do the same.
Of course, I haven’t gotten to the best part yet. I saved that for last. The best part is that I’ll be doing all the heavy lifting. And you’ll have one less thing to worry about.
“… I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.”
Now it’s officially official. Or something like that.
I launched inbrieflegalwriting.com on December 7. So now In Brief Legal Writing Services is finally open for business. So it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.
This venture began based on the idea that most attorneys are way to busy with the daily demands of their jobs to keep up with the demands of the digital world. It’s perfectly understandable. Whether you are running your own practice, working as an associate in a small firm or a partner in a large one, your clients are your first priority. Meeting their needs is paramount.
Of course you’ve probably heard that updating your website and blogging on a regular basis is the most effective way to keep your current clients informed and engaged. You’ve probably heard that it’s a great way to attract new ones, too. Even so, putting this advice into practice is probably the furthest thing from your mind.
That’s where I can help. When you drop the ball, I can pick it up and run with it. You probably don’t have time to do one new post per week much less three. But I do. You might not have the time to put the news about your latest accomplishments on your website. But I can do that, too.
I can also lead by example. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. Starting next week, you’ll be able to find three new posts per week right here. Initially you’ll gain insight into my experiences as a burgeoning entrepreneur. As time goes on, I’ll provide effective writing techniques; share some of my favorite reading material; and share my opinions on timely legal issues, current events and more.
In the meantime, I’m always here to help. But I need yours, too. Please vote in the following poll to help me learn how I can best meet your needs.