Equal opportunity? Making a case for young lawyers

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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.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Go figure.

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.

Utter nonsense or common sense?

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“I have never met an animal I didn’t like. On the other hand, there are plenty of people I hate.” – Me.

Anyone who has read these posts should know a few things about me by now. First, I love animals. Second, I have definite opinions about the law and related issues. Third, I am not shy about sharing them.

I mean come on, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve expressed my displeasure with the United States Supreme Court and the New York City police commissioner (among others).

So it may come as a surprise that I’m blogging about something that I actually agree with. Specifically, I am applauding Alaskan lawmakers who are trying to break with legal tradition by viewing pets as something other than personal property.

According to a recent KTUU report, state legislators are pondering a proposed rule that allows for the “protection” of pets when their caretakers are getting divorced or are embroiled in domestic violence.  If enacted, the law would:

  • Change the existing regulations so owners of animals confiscated due to neglect or cruelty would have to pay their cost of care through “bond or other security.”
  • Revise current  domestic violence measures to let courts include animals, and their temporary care, when issuing protective orders.
  • Tweak the divorce and marriage dissolution statutes now on the books so animals’ “well-being” is taken into account in court decisions regarding ownership or joint ownership.

“Pets are often considered part of a family and the courts should be able to consider their well-being,” said Rep. Liz Vazquez, who co-sponsored the bill. “This legislation will make it more difficult for a pet to be used by an abuser to keep a victim from reporting that abuse.”

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Now from what I’ve read, some Alaskans — who are understandably more pragmatic about animals than those of us who live elsewhere — question the wisdom of this legislation. Apparently they believe other issues deserve a higher priority.

While I fully endorse the proposal, I also understand why some might question it. In particular, I understand why some might mock the idea that courts should be allowed to consider an animal’s “well-being.” Those most likely to do so are the types of people who question the extent of animal intelligence, scoff at the suggestion that the average dog or cat has any self-awareness and shudder at the application of human emotions to our pets.

Personally, I don’t know what goes on in the space between my cat’s ears. But here’s what I know for sure: Eli is smart, sensitive and loyal, among other things. To me he is much more than personal property. He is my best friend. And if anything, I “belong” to him.






Duty calls

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Don’t you just love getting mail from the government?

Your pulse quickens, your stomach knots and your mouth gets all dry. Your hands shake, you start to sweat and your head is pounding.

You study the return address, trying to figure out whether or not to open it. Maybe if you ignore it, it will just go away. Maybe you’ll “lose” it.

Then again, maybe not.

And in all fairness to much-maligned bureaucrats out there, sometimes those envelopes do contain good news. Sometimes it’s your tax refund.

Most of the time, it’s not.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

I got my property tax bill from the Town of Greenwich recently. And then the state sent me a note informing me it’s my turn to report for jury duty.

I already paid my taxes. As for jury duty, I’m supposed to go later this week. On one hand, I’m dreading it since I’m supposed to be at the courthouse early and it will probably take an hour to get there. On the other hand, it would be kind of cool to be chosen for a high-profile case.

I suppose it would be fairly easy for me to “get out of it” if I really want to. I have a paralegal certificate — so I know a bit about the law. I also spent the better part of 21 years covering cops and courts…

Then again, the experience could provide some very interesting blog fodder.

In any case, I will definitely let you know what happens… as soon as I can.