Friday, September 7, 2012

Paying your dues

One indication of the extent to which the legal elites are either oblivious to the economic circumstances of a large percentage of lawyers, or, more invidiously, are exploiting those circumstances to reduce potential competition, is how much it continues to cost to become and remain a member of a state bar, and how difficult it is to get any kind of waiver for these costs.

Here's a letter I got recently from a New York lawyer.  (When reading this, keep in mind that New York's top court decided recently to impose a mandatory pro bono requirement on people seeking admission to the New York bar).

Prof. Campos,

Today, I had an amusing experience with our state bar.  I work in New York City on a variety of weird jobs that I find as a new solo wandering blindly, representing lots of misdemeanor defendants.  This week, I got a job drafting entertainment contracts and demand letters for an adult film director as a sort of makeshift "in-house" counsel (don't ask).  The regular assignments from this new business relationship, even though outside of my regular field of practice, will allow me to stop being enrolled in Medicaid for the first time since I started law school.

So, as someone who lives with in-laws and still qualifies for Medicaid, I called the New York State Bar Association to apply for tuition assistance.  After filling out a detailed form and answering many questions during a phone call that made me feel humiliated, the state bar only gave me $50 off of the $300-$500 it will cost for me to complete this year's CLE requirements. I will have to spend the same amount of money next year, as I will not qualify for the online video stuff at the cheap rates until after two years.

So, the bar forces us to pay $750 a year just to stay in good standing and charges another $300-$500 a year for classes taught by lawyers picking money for speaking fees and the products they sell (computer programs, legal forms, strategy books, blah blah).  The state bar pretends to offer help to new lawyers in six-figure debt, but this is just a scam as well.

This issue may seem somewhat small or inconsequential when compared to the rest of the law school scam, but I find it representative of the larger problem of an out-of-touch generation adding more financial burden to those who cannot bear it.  Interestingly, my husband thinks that this is all by design to keep competition, especially from solo practitioners, to a minimum by pricing them out. 

Bottom line: in New York State, I qualify for Medicaid, but I do not qualify for even one free CLE seminar. 
I wonder what Chief Judge (and career government bureaucrat) Jonathan Lippman, author of the mandatory pro bono requirement, would think about the last line of that letter?   According to Lippman, J., "if you want the privilege and honor of practicing law in New York, you're going to have to demonstrate that you're committed to our values."  And what again are those exactly, your Honor?

Jobs update:   Nationally, the legal sector lost 1,400 jobs between July and August.
 

145 comments:

  1. You should write and ask him.

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  2. Yea, and the trip to Albany. Three days in the middle of winter staying at an overpriced Holiday Inn so I can have a <3 minute interview and then listen to some guy bloviate about how this is the best time in the world to be a young lawyer. Protip, no one takes attendance at the swearing in; save yourself a day and go home.

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  3. If the people have no bread, then let them eat cake. If the lawyers have no paying work, then let them work pro bono publico.

    - M. Antoinette, Esq.

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  4. Having a law license is the gift that keeps on giving.

    You'll need, at minimum, $5,000 per year just to run a shoestring from-the-home solo office. Dues, CLEs, suits, dry cleaning, phone line, copier/scanner, postage, computer. And that's pre-malpractice insurance, health insurance, etc. If you want to do any kind of litigation, you'll also have to front document and deposition costs. Figure another $20k per year minimum.

    The numbers do not add up because there is no way to break in.

    Law school is such a rotten scam! In the name of access and openness, we've ruined the profession and impoverished tomorrow's attorneys. Remember that hell's doors are open to all comers too, but you shouldn't queue up to get in.

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  5. I am a non-practicing lawyer, working 3 jobs to barely make ends meet. Massachusetts charged me over $200 a year to stay "inactive"--there are no other options, no retirement, etc. When I couldn't pay, I was told that I would be publicly shamed by being listed as "administratively suspended." Although I don't practice, this is the first thing that comes up when someone googles my name, which happens frequently in my line of work. Massachusetts refuses to give me any opt-out.
    It's disgusting.

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    1. The Board of Bar Overseers is the licensing entity for practicing attorneys for Massachusetts and its process for "retirement" costs nothing. I know this because I took this option years ago when I quit lawyering'. Not clear what your situation is, but here are the facts: http://massbbo.org/answerz.htm#statuses

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  6. State Bar Associations are a joke. The dues keep escalating with no benefit other than an online searchable directory. When I first started practicing the dues were $45 a year and now they are $450 a year. The State Bar sure did build a beautiful new office building for itself though. CLE is a joke too. The classes are all taught by BigLaw with arcane issues being discussed that wouldn't help 99.9% of the attorneys that actually practice law for a living.

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  7. Consultant: Law Firm Revenues & Profits Dropping, Layoffs Ahead

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5b8AclrZuE&feature=player_embedded

    It looks like the good times are here to stay.

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  8. As a lawyer who does a respectable amount of pro bono work, I believe that mandatory voluntarism is an oxymoron. Lawyers and other people should do volunteer work if they want to, and only to the extent that their personal and family commitments permit. I suspect that plenty of lawyers do donate whatever time they can because they find community service to be a professional imperative. Some lawyers, however, just can't.

    Aside from that, our nation has created a civil justice system that is so expensive that many or most Americans cannot afford to walk into court with a lawyer. With rates of pro se self-representation skyrocketing, the organized bar's primary response is to permit unbundled legal services, an arrangement that would never satisfy a well-heeled client who could pay for the real thing.

    I suspect that there is a connection between the needlessly expensive civil justice system and the perceived need to keep lawyers busy and billing. That is, the complexities and procedural blind alleys are designed, at least partly, for the benefit of lawyers.

    If this country pruned the number of lawyers it churns out each year, I wonder whether justice would become accessible to more people -- and thus whether there would be less need for pro bono services in the first place.

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  9. The whole CLE thing is a scam. Who here agree with me?

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    1. I agree, with a corollary. There was a problem with lawyers (particularly busy solos with general practices) graduating from law school, passing the bar, and then never keeping apprised of any changes in law for the next 50 years.

      If done right, CLEs are pretty good ways to keep up to date on developments in your field or a related field. The problem is that the quality varies widely, that they are too expensive, that the presenters usually are not good.

      Tips for getting good CLEs: Go to an all-day CLE on recent developments in a substantive practice area. These tend to be better, more educational, and more professional.

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    2. But most of them are poor and overpriced. I don;t buy the argument that CLE's keep old and lazy lawyers up to date. Most of them are out to lunch during the CLEs.

      It's just a way for the elites to say they are ensuring the public gets a highly regulated product while lining their pockets.

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    3. "and then never keeping apprised of any changes in law for the next 50 years"

      Isn't that what the internet is for?

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    4. I vote scam.

      Again, as I try to often mention, I am new to this game. I've been a "lawyer" for all of a year.

      But, believe me when I tell you the bar association has done absolutely nothing for me. Nothing. They are worthless. I'm holding out for an open bar at the holiday party to try to claw back some of my dues, liver be damned.

      The CLE's I have attended thus far have all been a joke. People show up, sit down, read the newspaper, type away on their tablets of cell phones, talk with each other, and pretty much just keep a chair warm. The presenter/lecturer has generally half-assed the whole thing as well. It's embarrassing.

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    5. Shoot. Edit: "or cell phones." Sorry.

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    6. I take CLE via westlegaled since my state doesn't require any in-person CLE and the fed govt (my employer) pays for the westlegaled subscription. The course selection is broad enough so that I can always find something relevant and watch it at a convenient time.

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  10. When I first started practicing law in Pennsylvania, I also had to pay the occupation tax. That is a tax based specifically on the name of my profession.

    That was finally done away with a few years ago, but it amounted a to feudal tax which was higher because I was an attorney.

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  11. Professional Engineers also have CLEs (known in New York as PDHs). These often take three forms:

    A speaker comes to an organizational meeting (ASME, SAME, ASCE etc.), and gives a speech about how their project incorporates some of the newest and kewlest stuff. The cost of these are typically just enough to cover a cheap lunch ($10-15).

    A day-long (or longer) class where you learn about regulations and practices, often offered by quasi-governmental agencies. These vary, but $200 is expensive for a one-day class, and these give you 8+ PDHs, so no more per hour than above.

    The last common method are vendors who are out to sell you something (really to get you to spec your product to the contractor/installer). These are typically "lunch and learns" and are almost always free -- the cost borne by the marketing budget of the vendor.

    I'd suspect medicine is more or less in line with Engineering.

    Just another example of lawyers getting the shaft!

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    1. I should also add, that for Engineers, the requirement is 36 PDHs in three years (12/yr).

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    2. Not only do doctors have to take more CE's each year than lawyers, they now have to re-take their boards every 10 years.

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  12. 6:46 -- I agree that CLE can be a scam, but can also be useful and productive. At you say, much depends on the presenter.

    A bigger scam is the trend in some states to increase the number of CLE ethics hours that lawyers must log, from, say, two to four hours annually. Even with an added two hours or so each year, the ethically challenged lawyers whom I know continue overbilling their clients, abusing the system with procedural gaming, and filing suits that no decent lawyer should ever file.

    The added ethics hours seem to be window dressing for public comsumption, with no actual effect on lawyers' ethics, but with sometimes considerable effect on the pocketbooks of strugging young lawyers.

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  13. NY Attorney here. While I agree it's outrageous, aren't the bar dues only 400/2 years (e.g., 200/year)?

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    1. A number of additional fees, including high application fees for bar admission, registration fees, and section fees apply. The minimum bar payments and the cheaper online CLE options are benefits that us fine NY lawyers can look forward to if we survive past the first two years.

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    2. My state charges considerably more for the first 3 years. It's about double. Not sure of the justification, except it's supposed to help pay for a mentorship program (which, while administered by the state bar, is basically run by spamming experienced practitioners for free help). I think it also pays for a required "bridge the chasm" program (the chasm being what LS failed to teach). Attendance at which is mandatory, and for which they also charge the noobs to attend!

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    3. I wanted to add to this last comment, as NY has a "Bridge the Gap" type of program that supposedly satisfies all first year CLE requirements, but it costs $300 and requires two or four full days off of work, depending on which program one attends. By the way, two full days off is hard even for a solo.

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    4. Oh, and I asked about whether the NY Bridge the Gap program provides tuition assistance, even partial assistance, and they do not.

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  14. This is just another way the clueless elites are sticking it to the younger generation. It seems like many hurdles (e.g. the pro bono requirement in NY) are set in front of the young, but not the old.

    In my home state, the state bar built a fancy new parking deck a few years ago and added an additional amount to bar dues for the first few years of one's membership.

    Then there is the "client compensation fund" set aside to pay clients who were ripped off by their crooked lawyers. I found this appalling because a) the cost was assessed only to new lawyers in the first few years they paid dues, and b) I don't believe in collective guilt and think it's wrong to punish someone for another person's transgression.

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  15. This is OT but I was surprised to read recently that at many schools, law students are REQUIRED to have health insurance which can cost several thousand dollars a year. Another example of wealth transfer from the young to the old--a 20 something year old, with rare exceptions, will have very few medical expenses. That money is paying for the medical expenses of older, less healthy members of the insurance pool. And they have no choice if they want to go to school.

    Can anyone provide more info on this scam? Sounds like a captive market for the insurance companies. Do the law schools get some kind of kickback for this?

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    1. I don't understand how this isn't a contract of adhesion. And it's pissing me off.

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    2. Don't know but are the olds in the law school (professors, administrators, etc.) on the same plan as the students? Do they get a discount for the group rate?

      I've paid in a little over $3500 per year for insurance and have yet to actually use my plan.

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    3. Actually the cost of the plans are pretty reasonable for what you get.

      That said, if you're young and healthy why did you buy the insurance? I just went without and saved a ton of money.

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    4. One can opt out by staying under their parents' plan.

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    5. If you'll note BamBam's post, he/she was REQUIRED to purchase the insurance to enroll in law school.

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    6. You can opt out of coverage if you have another plan.

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    7. You can also just you know, not do what they tell you to. I went without insurance during law school.

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    8. You have no clue... there are 49 other states, you knowSeptember 8, 2012 at 1:57 PM

      "You can opt out of coverage if you have another plan."

      No, you can't. Not in my state, anyway. I went to school FT and worked PT, and I and my family were always covered by my employer's insurance program.

      This did NOT get me out of paying for the mandatory health insurance through the school. And I tried, hard, to get out from under it because I was self-funding my law school expenses and had promised my family we would not take on any debt.

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  16. State bar fees are a joke. Currently, I'm inactive in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and active in DC. I waived into DC after a high score on MBE. DC charges me $250, but doesn't have any CLE requirements. I work for a government agency, and don't do any pro bono or work on any committees. Pa. chages me $70 a year to be inactive, Ohio is free.

    DC sends me a nice magazine every few months that is immediate consigned to the appropriate receptacle upon receipt. Working for a government agency, I get nothing outta this deal, and DC bar gets my money. I do get reimbursed for the bar fee, but only partially.

    I do participate in the DC Bar elections. I vote for the people who appear to be the last qualified candidates, just for shits and giggles.

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  17. From the linked article:

    "Under the new requirement, which goes into effect next year, bar applicants will have to show that they have completed 50 hours of uncompensated work. Lippman said the requirement will give aspiring attorneys valuable experience and significantly expand access to representation for the poor."

    Now, I had my little hopes that newbie lawyers could be put to work addressing the unmet need for legal services among poor people. But that would require a clinical model of legal education, as well as grants, debt forgiveness, and mentoring for the newbie lawyers who would take on low-income clients.

    The Chief Judge of New York's solution-- ordering utterly clueless (nonlicensed!) and resentful grads to do the work for no compensation--is going to create problems galore for the clients as well as for the grads.

    dybbuk

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  18. my state bar suspended my license last spring for nonpayment of dues. Kiss my ass, you lying sacks of feces at the state bar. I ain't paying a damn cent. Not one cent. You sacks of feces sit quietly by and work hand in hand with the law schools in the state that are defrauding and lying in order to get young kids to sign up for huge loans on the basis of bogus job stats. You ain't even getting one cent from me. Not one.

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    1. Do you not practice law for a living?

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    2. I think not...

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  19. Like for example in loaning, one have borrowed a loan and haven't been able to repay it. What will be the consequences for that? And how can they repay it if ever they do pass the due but is willing to pay it at a later part?

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  20. What is a little annoying about CLE is that you get invited from time to time to teach a CLE seminar (and you do usually get credit for doing it) - but the CLE vendor does not want to pay for your time - but still charges princely sums to people who attend. The most I have ever received for teaching a CLE-credit seminar is bad coffee.

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    1. Interestingly enough, the most I have ever received for attending a CLE seminar was... bad coffee.

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    2. Hospital food, then military food, then CLE food...September 8, 2012 at 1:59 PM

      Crux, you're going to the wrong CLEs. I often get crappy box lunches with sandwiches and stale chips, along with the obligatory spongy, card-boardish-tasting Red "Delicious" (it ain't) apple.

      :-)

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  21. What is also annoying about the CLE vendors is the spam you get because the bar has sold your e-mail address - offering you endless CLE credit seminars ....

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    1. My bar requires that our "normal work email address" be provided to them, then they post it publicly through the bar website.

      Anyone with any kind of computer skills can create a nice spam database from that.

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  22. Our local Bar Association (in CO) actually puts on a number of low priced (sometimes free) CLE’s. Each section is required to put on 8-10 CLE’s per year. The money raised from the CLE’s goes to support a number of programs, including support of Legal Aid, etc. If an attorney is unable to pay, we will allow them to attend for free. The Bar Association should serve its members and this is one small way we try help struggling attorneys.

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    1. That really is generous and in the better spirit of the profession - kudos!

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  23. Consultant predicts 5 BigLaws will fold, more lawyer layoffs comingSeptember 7, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/consultant_predicts_absolutely_more_layoffs_and_as_many_as_five_biglaw_diss/

    Guys seen this yet?

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    1. Thank god all these law school grads have such a Versatile Degree™ to help them through these rough economic times!

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  24. The underlying mentality seems to be, "they're already hemorrhaging tens of thousands of dollars in debt, so what's another few hundred here and there? How much more can we squeeze from them before we run the risk of suffocating the entire profession?"

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  25. Boo hoo. There's plenty of free CLE available.

    http://bit.ly/Q9lXGt

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    1. P.S. Sorry to interrupt the pity party.

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    2. Sorry to say this, but I sort of agree. CLE is really the least of my concerns.

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    3. No worries! You law professors will be throwing your own soon.

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  26. No AV CLEs allowed in NY for first two years after admission.

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  27. I have been practicing law for 18 years. Based on my experience, CLE requirements have a primary goal: generating revenue for the State Bar. Take for instance New Jersey, which imposed mandatory CLE 3 years ago. The way mandatory CLE was introduced in NJ was sneaky and nefarious. Basically, the State Bar formed a task force headed by Peter "I can't afford to put my kids through college on a State Supreme Court Justice's salary" Veniero. Veniero had no private practice experience having spent his entire career working for the government. Mr. Veniero comes out with the task force report that stated that mandatory CLE was needed to better serve the public. This is complete bullshit. If the motive behind mandatory CLE was to better educate myself so I can provide effective representation to my clients, then why can't I borrow the tapes from a colleague and sign a certification to obtain credit? No, I have to PURCHASE the tapes and then sign the certification. So you see, the real purpose of mandatory CLE is to shake you down further.

    And speaking of shakedowns, a few years ago, the State imposed a mandatory $75 tax for 3 years on attorneys. The tax was challenged in the NJ Supreme Court and surprise surprise, it was upheld. There was no basis for this tax other than to "subsidize" medical malpractice premiums for the insurance companies. Same for the Client Protection Fund which is designed to siphon money from your pockets to pay for the sins of your "brethren."

    Want to know how slimey this profession is? Take IOLTA for instance. IOLTA takes the interest of your clients' money and then distributes it to pro bono organizations. IOLTA is a wrongful taking but it has been upheld because in the legal world, an irrational result can be justified by the powers that be (i.e., dismissal of lawsuits against BLS and NYLS).

    75% of CLE courses are taught by hacks. The quality is usually subpar. I especially find it ironic when a CLE is taught by a State Judge who had no prior legal experience and is only a judge due to political connections.

    T.B.

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  28. I am active in WI and pay 467 per year just for doc review.

    It's a shame that we cannot force the doc review agencies to cover this cost for us.

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  29. I'm confused. Lowering barriers to practice law, wducatuonal, financial, whatever, only makes the over-supply problem worse.
    Let's pick a horse here and stick with it.

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    1. There should be a way to go inactive with no cost.

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  30. You know, y'all wouldn't be having these problems if you just drove a truck for a living. I hear they're hiring in North Dakota.

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    1. This was clever.

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    2. And the law schools would benefit from counting their truck driving grads as employed full time. Everyone wins.

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  31. Does the decrease in jobs include temporary jobs too? I just don't understand these numbers compared to the BLS data. Why do they make it so hard to understand by the people who need to know the data?

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    1. The BLS projections regarding how many jobs will become available for lawyers over the next decade are projections of future growth. The linked data regarding month to month employment figures in the legal services sector (which includes support personnel not just lawyers) are estimates of the current employment situation.

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    2. I wonder when Dewey was counted into these figures. With support staff that had to be more than 1400 people in the US.

      Thanks again for the clarification.

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    3. Most likely the Dewey numbers won't be counted directly. The BLS generates these numbers by examining payroll records from a random sample of establishments, with the sample shifting continuously over time. Unless Dewey happened to be in the sample when it went under (highly unlikely given the size of the sample compared to all businesses), you wouldn't see an immediate Dewey hit. Over time, failures like Dewey will affect the numbers because there's one less establishment.

      Sadly, this decline probably is independent of Dewey--although it may be related in the sense that other firms see what happened to Dewey and think "hm, this might be a good time to tighten our belts a bit."

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    4. other firms see what happened to Dewey and think "hm, this might be a good time to tighten our belts a bit."

      Pretty accurate. There is a lot of scuttlebut as to who is the next to go the Dewey/Howrey route. However, a lot of firms are taking a very hard look at overhead - and salaries, including associates are overhead.

      Of course the real problem at Dewey is the role of the rainmaking lateral and their auctioning of their presence. A lot of big firms have done what Dewey did - bid enormous guaranteed paychecks to certain perceived rainmakers - guarantees that mean that they need to keep the ranks of other equity earners small. Many of these laterals do not generate the advertised revenues - which causes mayhem as pissed off existing midlevel and junior partners leave. At the end of the day a lot of mega-firms lack a deep bench and are far too dependent on 1-3 major clients - I know of one that has lost numerous clients to focus on a huge US corporation - but that corp has shifted its legal work before and may well do again.

      One issue that concerns me is that it really is not normal for law partners to be earning million plus paychecks, and I have long felt that the things that BigLaw does to generate these huge draws for a shrinking group of equity partners is not good for the legal profession - the abusive billing practices, the spinning of cases way beyond what makes sense (9 month sagas of negotiation of 27-page common interest/joint defence agreements, etc.)

      The critiques of the BLS data are fair and reasonable up to a point - I think the BLS may well be over-optimistic - BUT the BLS data is the best-estimate-available for legal job growth and for that reason we should take it seriously - and it is showing a 50% shortfall at least in legal job growth versus JDs per annum to 2020 - that is bad already.

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  32. So TLS has a thread today about someone asking for advice after a friend is suicidal from striking out at oCI. There are plenty of posts by people with good grades who have struck out. Chicago seems to still not be hiring many of the people applying to that market and DC remains brutal.

    At the same time there are threads where people are studying like maniacs to increase their LSAt score. And Duke has already started to accept early action students.

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    1. Yeah. Being suicidal because of striking out at OCI is a sign that something is emotionally wrong with someone.

      I struck out at OCI back in the day. Annoying, yes. Discouraging, of course. But causing suicidal ideation?

      Uh, no.

      Delete
    2. I assume you are only joking and mean nothing by your comment. But, I need to say this. Please don't kick the downtrodden.

      If someone reading this is suicidal - there is nothing wrong with you. Get help.

      Delete
    3. I deal with suicidal people on a daily basis. People who cut themselves. People who hallucinate. People who suffer from *homicidal* ideation (the flipside of suicidal ideation). I don't have any problem in calling the ER to pick them up if they are randomly threatening suicide while on the phone with me.

      My point is that if the person is in fact suicidal from failure to achieve a successful OCI, that means that there is probably some sort of underlying dysfunction that needs therapy/medication. Not getting an OCI position for a normal somewhat resilient person will not cause suicidal ideation IMHO.

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  33. I understand that in some states, a lawyer can get CLE credit for judging law school moot court competitions. (After all, the lawyer must read the bench briefs and prepare the case.) It's free and helps the law students too. Interested lawyers might check with a local law school.

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  34. my Bloomberg mag just came in the mail today. i didn't red it yet

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-09-06/student-loans-debt-for-life

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  35. Some theories of suicide are based on a person's conception of themselves being shattered by reality.

    It would be crushing for a 2L who always considered herself to be smart and successful to be told bluntly by reality that she had failed in one of the most important professional milestones of her life and that, because of this one hobble, the entire life she has been planning for years is now in serious jeopardy of never happening.

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    1. Adulthood - a series of disappointments and compromises.

      Disappointment is very difficult for individuals who have never faced adversity.

      Alcohol helps.

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    2. Order of magnitude greater than any normal adulthood disappointment. Think of Rene-Thierry Magnon de la Villehuchet, French billionaire who lost his fortune in the Madofff scandal.the shame and loss was enough for him to kill himself.

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    3. It's not just disappointment, and those who experience it may have faced a hell of a lot of adversity. Don't be so quick to dismiss the feelings of a whole group of people.

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    4. My guess is that someone who escaped the Kahmir Rouge wouldn't be destroyed by striking out at OCI. And I wasn't really talking to that person.

      I was k-jd, and took striking out at OCI pretty hard. Compared to Allepo, or even not having needed dental care, striking out at OCI is a a day at the beach. After a few years, when the world has shit on you for real a few times, you just sigh and keep dragging your corpse though the day. And the next day.

      Read David Foster Wallace's short graduation speech:

      This is Water

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    5. For me, it's not about striking out so much as about being stricken out. Saying "she had failed" may not place the responsibility where it belongs.

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  36. 9:55 AM No one here wants an over supply of lawyers. But factors which limit the number of lawyers should be in place BEFORE so many of them graduate--e.g. quit accrediting more and more law schools, esp. those that admit anyone with a pulse, allow SL debt to be dischargable in bankruptcy, put a cap on the yearly amount people can borrow for law school, and do some basic risk underwriting.

    The current scam shovels money from taxpayers to the law school personnel with no questions asked. Then once the victims of this scam have their JDs half of them cannot even get any practical use out of them, one reason being the escalating costs of practicing law. Rather than letting it get to that point, let's avoid the oversupply before so many folks get into school in the first place. If we do that, then the ones who graduate may actually have a shot at being successful attorneys.

    PS for some reason my computer won't let me reply to individual messages--only can leave comments at the end

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  37. "[I]f you want the privilege and honor of practicing law in New York, you're going to have to demonstrate that you're committed to our values." And what again are those exactly, your Honor?

    That's an easy one to answer, LawProf! If you want to practice law in New York (or anywhere else for that matter) make sure you come from a well-to-do family. The values that they are espousing: only well-to-do individuals really should have the 'priviledge' of practicing law in the United States. If you aren't from a well-to-do background, you just don't have the right economic background - oops, I mean 'values' to practice law. It's that simple.

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  38. My computer also won't let me publish comments after the comment I want to comment on. I can only publish comments at the end as well. What's up with that?

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  39. "if you want the privilege and honor of practicing law in New York, you're going to have to demonstrate that you're committed to our values."

    This authoritarian reveals a hell of a lot with one sentence. Working in your chosen line of work is not a right, it is a privilege we deign to bestow on you. We know better than you how your time and effort should be spent. You are not in charge of your own destiny--you exist for us, your masters, to use in order to mold society as we see fit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You do get that the legal profession is a medieval guild, right?

      When you're a guild, you get everything that comes with being a guild.

      Delete
  40. The State Bar rules are set up for people who actually have a seat at the table in terms of practicing in this profession. For those who do, these requirements are at worst a nuisance or may even disappear altogether.*

    The bottom line is that there are too many law school graduates who have no seat at the table - no prospect of a seat. As has been amply documented, law school class sizes MUST be reduced and lower-tier law schools MUST close in order to solve this problem. But given how many thousands of graduates have already been scammed, it seems like the minimally decent thing to relax the MCLE and bar dues rules for attorneys who will indefinitely remain non-practicing.

    (*To illustrate how this works for people who have a future in this profession: When I worked for BigLaw, our BarBri, bar application fees, and bar dues were paid; MCLE was provided in-house, it was easy to satisfy the hours requirement by just showing up to required trainings, and the firm would reimburse any additional outside trainings we wanted to attend. Now that I work for the government, I am wholly exempt from the MCLE requirement in my state and my bar dues are still paid by my employer. I tell this story to illustrate that ... the people who make the rules for the state bars are probably coming from backgrounds closer to mine than to the people whose stories are set forth in this blog, and said rulemakers (unlike me) are probably not reading this blog and taking stock of how catastrophic the situations of unemployed JDs are. So they're universally enforcing rules that honestly probably were not intended to be draconian when they were made and - here's the key point - are NOT draconian as applied to the lawyers that they know. To combat this, it's necessary for Campos et al to hammer the state bars over the head with the plight of graduates for whom the state bars' rules are deeply unfair. I think change on this issue is possible, but the bars have to be educated.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true. If not for this blog I was not aware that there are folks paying full price for CLE's. Every attorney I work with or consult with typically has such expenses covered by their employer. I find in corporate law many big law firms will come in house and teach for free such material. As far as the quality goes, I have had mixed results where I felt I knew more information than the CLE presenter on a topic, but for the most part I find such trainings useful, if for no reason other than networking.

      Delete
  41. In Pennsylvania, nurses did not have "continued education" until a few years ago. Now, they all must take 15 hours per year. All of a sudden, it's mandatory...because money can be made from it.

    ReplyDelete
  42. What a great and noble "profession," huh?!?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can hardly talk to people anymore, in person, about the legal "profession" without using a quotations gesture.

      Delete
  43. Did anyone else find the part on the glories of student loans in President Obama's acceptance speech vile and dishonest? And before anyone starts ranting I was an Obama voter in 2008.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also voted for Obama in 2008. And yes I found that part of his speech to be disturbing.

      Delete
    2. Agreed, but changing my vote this time around. Not that it will matter since I'm in CA..

      Delete
  44. From the ABA Journal (available at: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/consultant_predicts_absolutely_more_layoffs_and_as_many_as_five_biglaw_diss/?utm_source=maestro&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly_email)

    Zimmerman says large law firms are pinched by companies exerting “dramatic fee pressure” and by a slowdown in corporate deals. Law firms need to respond by looking at layoffs, he advised. “In a word, they need to get lean,” Zimmerman said. “They need to reduce chronic underperformers, they need to reduce fixed overhead both in terms of attorney and staff overhead, they need to reduce excess real estate. Firms that get lean can come through this and have a lot of opportunity on the other side.”

    ReplyDelete
  45. One point no one has made is that continuing education requirements actually seem to have started as a tax scam - since the CLE was tax deductible, why not have it in a nice resort, or on a cruise ship in the Carribean - and why not throw in a free ticked for the wife/girlfriend/mistress - and why not have lax sign in requirements so that after signing in everyone goes to the golf course, SO or .....

    When I was a junior associate I never got to go on these sorts of CLEs - but the partners did ... and deducted the whole cost of the vacat-course. And that was the whole point ....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, my point was that they used to advertise these lavish CLE's 20 years ago, on cruise ships, in Hawaii or the BVI - and they were expensive because they were a tax deductible perk for senior lawyers - and the CLE companies made a fortune marketing them... and we are left with the expensive courses today

      Delete
    2. I *love* going to these things, although I generally only go to the East Coast. It's been a few years since I went to San Fran or Scottsdale.

      Boca Raton was my favorite CLE.

      It's a vacation! Lots of fun for the family.

      In fact, getting two CLE resort trips is part of my current of cousnel/associate deal or whatever it is you get with TV law firms.

      Delete
    3. Well, the ones for AIPLA, PLI (Patents), and NOSSCR are pretty well done and well sponsored by the firms. AIPLA has the most party-like atmosphere, but it's held in DC. The one I went to had a Mardi Gras theme with a jazz band.

      They generally have them at the overbuilt golf course / conference center / pseudo resorts that were created during the housing bubble.

      They aren't on cruise ships, but the various conference centers always are next to golf courses.

      In North Carolina, I go to the Granover conference center, which is nice. Racketball courts, spa, golf course.

      Delete
    4. I've been to AIPLA - but that was business too.

      There are conferences that give you CLE and there is an element of marketing (AIPLA is full of in-house IP and GCs) and lateral seeking partners.

      But these jamborees are probably not much use to a recent law graduate who cannot afford their bar dues let alone AIPLA and PLI. To be honest I find these things a little tedious - all the badge sniffing - the checking of your credentials (are you a bigger/smaller fish than me?) and though some of the panels are good, most cover what every good practitioner in attendance should already know in fairly shallow detail.

      The problem though for the struggling lawyers (I do remember struggling) is that these fancy tax deduction CLE junkets only make sense if you have the income to want the deduction on....

      Delete
    5. I never hit the "struggling" part of my career.

      I just hit the "I need a big book of business or I am gone" part of my career.

      So, I decided to get gone before I was tossed onto the abyss. The second time I *did* get tossed the second time which was more of a "I talked my son into going to law school to take over the business problem", but fortunately, the tossing merely caused someone else to request me to replace a problem.

      I suppose if I ever wanted to do IP again, I would probably focus on the trademark side. I enjoyed that more than the patent litigation/prosecution side.

      When I stopped doing patent prosecution in 2006, the corporate clients weren't willing to increase the fee caps and the firm wanted to increase hourly fees since the firm's profit center consisted of captive industry groups that were willing to pay top dollar for hourly billing. I can only think that patent prosecution has gotten worse.

      Delete
    6. We do a little prosecution - but only when there is obvious litigation in the offing. BigLaw to the extent that it does any sees it as a way to keep the client around for a major matter. The amount of lousy patent work I see, especially on PCTs when they end up in the US national stage (means-plus-function claims not rewritten, figure numbers not deleted, leaving just one independent claim and not adding method, device, system claims, etc., essentially just translate the original claim and leave it at that, to hell with the legal differences) is infuriating. But then you find out that they have negotiated some ludicrous price per patent PCT....

      Delete
  46. I brought up the current situation with my physician and asked him to imagine a scenario where half of his medical school graduating class failed to obtain residencies upon graduation. I could literally see his jaw drop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uh, there are only so many spots on the ROAD.

      It's not like GPs make any money these days.

      Delete
    2. Yes, but that's because people are screened out of medical school at the outset. I knew people at my T1 undergrad who, despite science majors and > 3.0 GPAs, were rejected by every medical school to which they applied.

      Once law schools start to do the same of necessity, the scenario in which half the class fails to obtain jobs will end. But, the current bitter unemployed JD graduates will then be bitter unemployed BA graduates. I understand that this is the better scenario because they won't have massive law school loan debt. But we're talking about a group of people (the bottom achievers in undergrad, many of whom picked unemployable majors) who simply haven't set themselves up to be employable with or without law school.

      Delete
    3. Average for med school is 3.6 GPA and very high MCATs. Even top undergrad schools (e.g. Yale) keep their med school placement rates a top secret. If you go to a top school, you may be able to get with a 3.4, but 3.0 is generally not enough. I say generally because Princeton for a long time gave an average grade of 3.1 in science and their students rebelled. However, the average was something like 3.4 in nonscience. If you were in a Princeton class that had that grading curve you may be able to get into med school with a less than 3.4 GPA.

      3.0 is not nearly enough for med school acceptance, even if you were a Harvard undergrad.

      Delete
  47. Replies
    1. How is the job in the oil fields of North Dakota going?

      Delete
    2. Long and hard.

      Delete
  48. I wonder. Is it now easier to be an actor who plays a lawyer on TV than it is to just be a lawyer?

    ReplyDelete
  49. This scenario described in this post repeats itself with CLE and bar association dues. It also repeats itself with legal publishers all pricing their research services at several times the cost per person for a small firm as a large firm. Finally, it repeats itself because many trade organizations allow law firms to sponsor or become members for a fee. However, the fee is usually $5000 or $10,000. Even American Corporate Counsel Association has that price structure. Lawyers from the big firms that pay up to become sponsors can go to their CLE meetings and networking sessions. Other lawyers have to go as "lawyers in transition." Small firms cannot attend and compete for business because they cannot afford to pay the high sponsorship fees. The American Corporate Counsel Association discriminates against non-major firms in this way.

    It goes further. All of the bar associations have a semblance of Disciplinary Rule 7.3 that prohibits lawyers from contacting non-lawyers to solicit business with limited exceptions. In a big enough firm you are often soliciting clients in other practice areas, or people that at least someone in the firm knows. In a small firm, you are violating the disciplinary rule if you try to get business.

    All of these barriers to competition are areas that need to be fixed to put small firms on a more equal plane as large ones. It is not going to happen though because the big firms love the status quo and will keep things the same as now.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I wrote to the worldwide Alcoholics Anonymous tonight, and explained that I have a drinking problem because of my student loan debt.

    I can paste a copy of that confidential letter here if anyone wants to see it.

    I can share at least that much, since I haven't had a reply just yet.

    And well...I didn't exactly say to them that the debt was from student loans. I just said that I had a lot of debt and that I drink over it now.

    I hope someone gets back to me from the AA because I really am very distressed about my massive SL debt and I am even thinking about seeing a psychotherapist because my student loan debt burden is making me really depressed and turning me into a person that I do not even recognize anymore.

    I have never been in Psychotherapy before BTW. But I feel I am a candidate because of my hopeless American SL debt and I will explain as much.

    No bankruptcy is allowed and I am like some kind of a hunted, public enemy, and I have only a surreal future where my student loan debt accrues 2K a month of interest, and I will be old someday and owe massive income taxes on a massively ballooned student loan debt burden, thanks to IBR/ICR.

    It is all very depressing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. laying the foundation to an undue hardship claim...very shrewd Mr. Bond...very shrewd

      Delete
    2. Jesus - becoming an alcoholic over this is ridiculous. You should try to get your loans discharged. No one will think you can ever get them paid back.

      Delete
    3. Well that is why you need to go to North Dakota and work in the oil industry to repay your student loan debt.

      The midnight bus to North Dakota.

      Delete
    4. If you defaulted, then how did you get on IBR?

      Delete
  51. Re: Westlawlegaled, I've used it extensively and think it's exceptional. Most of the CLE classes in my state tend to be more "state" oriented, typical family law, blah, blah ... bread and butter stuff, which doesn't interest me as I'm more of an IP attorney. The West product offers classes on just about any practice area imaginable. The pricing can be steep, but they have a year-long subscription for about $800 (still a little pricy IMO) for solos. Unfortunately, my state (NJ) only allows you to take half of the credits on-line. The other half, you have to attend Live sessions. I guess the NJ lawyers incorporated that provision into the CLE mandate to make sure that the NJ BigFlaw attorneys would be able to extract their cut of the CLE dollars. It's a f'in scam. Sick of this shit. I received my Mass. registration statement yesterday - $270, but then they say in really fine print that $50 of this amount is VOLUNTARY. If you read the fine print, you see that you only need to submit $220 - oh and by the way, the fact that you are a "cheapskate" - well the Commonwealth of Massachusetts further provides that your unwillingness to pay the voluntary fee will be strictly confidential. How nice of them. SCREW!!!

    ReplyDelete
  52. This is the kind of shit that passes for CLEs (hat tip, Nando):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKeRQsg4bVk

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKJJEwCDV80

    Honestly, (try your best to) watch those videos and then tell someone that CLEs are necessary for lawyering - and see if you can keep a straight face. They're just another scam set up so clowns like Jack Marshall can "earn" a living without actually working.

    What a fucking joke this "profession" is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Be alert to various rules in various jurisdictions. Very important for ethics. Holy shit.

      Delete
    2. Replying to myself, but I don't know how you would even come up with the idea for that first one. I don't know where that would come from.

      Delete
  53. Replies
    1. Yes, because it's "the world's" fault...

      Delete
  54. if you refuse to pay your dues, the texas state bar will put up a notice on your lawyer page. The notice will say to the public that this lawyer's license has been administratively suspended because of one of several possible reasons: 1) not paying dues 2) not keeping up on education/CLE 3) not paying child support 4) defaulting on student loans and 5) something else innocuous.

    The question is whether this is BLACKMAIL? Are they blackmailing people, smearing their name publicly by associating them with being a deadbeat father and thereby forcing them to pay those fees?

    They did this to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So pay your dues...or don't and live with the consequences.

      Delete
    2. That's ridiculous. In California, if you are administratively suspended for MCLE non-compliance or non-payment of dues, your lawyer page will note the specific reason. There will be no mention of deadbeat parents.

      Delete
  55. LawProf: would love your take on the clerkship scramble, including:

    http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=191871&start=400

    ReplyDelete
  56. What's the cheapest way to get California CLE credits done?

    ReplyDelete
  57. @7:27AM

    Thank You for a very good question. I got into ICR (C as in Charlie and not B as in Bill) through a collection agency.

    I know everybody around here thinks I am just a stupid jerk, but if you go to my blog and look for the link for my radio interview, I tried to explain how I ended up on ICR.

    As far as the AA goes, they couldn't have been nicer, and some very kind people have replied and of course the rest is confidential and Anon.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually we think that you might be able to find a job in the oil fields on North Dakota and get yourself out of this. Maybe even pass the North Dakota bar.

      Delete
  58. @ 11:45AM

    Good God! What is it with the oil fields in

    North Dakota?

    Is that the best kept secret in America?

    If I go to work there, should I get tattoos all over my body so as to fit in?

    And who are the "We" that seem to think so?

    The gamesters of Triskelion?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So what percentage of your overall debt will be wiped away eventually because it is on ICR?

      Delete
  59. There are probably more than a few liberal arts graduates or Indebted lawyers trying to pay their student bills by working in the oil sands in the Dakotas. I doubt if any have tattoos. Why should your debt be dumped on taxpayers who are already working several jobs so their kids can go to the local community college?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No oil sands in ND. It's the Bakken. Shales.

      Delete
  60. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Listen JD Painterguy, we are giving you possibilities for a way out. It is not our responsibility to find you a job. If the New York Tristate area is working out great for you, then stay there. But honestly it really doesn't sound that way and it sounds like you need to change the variables.

      Delete
    2. Nuns and monks don't have children (most of them anyway). Are you saying that God hates them? Vatican city has the lowest birthrate of any city in the world (0).

      Delete
  61. Ok, new idea here. Go to work for the student loan collection outfit that is trying to collect from you then "accidentally" delete your account info and quit.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Having lived in the tri-state area and visited the Dakotas for me it would be the Dakotas every time. I would go there and save some serious money. I honestly would visit my congressman there and say I wanted to pay my student loans back with a reasonable (3 percent) interest rate and request a special bill from him, if that what it takes.

    The guy is much better off than the vets who come back from Iraq or Afghanistan missing one or two arms or legs or their eyesight or their mind.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Illinois' bar association just announced free CLE for its members:

    Dear ISBA Member, 
     
    I'm excited to announce a terrific new member benefit – free CLE for the vast majority of ISBA members.  Beginning January 1, 2013, all eligible* ISBA members will be able to earn up to 15 hours of online CLE each year at no additional cost – these hours will be covered by your annual dues!
     
    The ISBA Board of Governors is well aware of all of the fixed costs associated with maintaining your license, including increasing ARDC registration fees.  These costs also include fulfilling your minimum continuing legal education requirements – that's why this new member benefit is so significant.   By providing 15 hours of free CLE – enough to meet your 30 hour requirement over a two year period – the ISBA is adding another great benefit to our list of free services, which already include, for example, free online legal research through Fastcase, and EClips, with its up-to-the-minute digests of court opinions.
     
    In short, an ISBA membership has never been more valuable – I hope you'll spread the word!
     
    More information about the Free CLE benefit can be found at www.isba.org/freecle.
     
    Warmest Regards,
     

     
    President John E. Thies
    2012-2013
     ---
    ChicagoDePaul

    ReplyDelete
  64. I was in the nearly-free criminal defense association in my city, and they had something like 2-3 free CLE hours a week. You need to be in that group anyway if you are actually doing criminal defense.

    You could easily do free or near-free CLE if you tried. Heck, the only CLE I ever paid for as a defense lawyer was $20 for an ethics online one to add an hour or so.

    ReplyDelete

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