Saturday, April 23, 2011

Becoming a Lawyer is Career Suicide, Yes. But What About Becoming a Para?

We received this letter and I was hoping someone who knows more about the paralegal industry and getting a paralegal degree could comment and guide this lost lemming:

Hi Angel and Hardknocks,
I came across your 'disenchanted lawyer' blog because I've been looking into starting a Paralegal Certification program this Fall -- career change from being a teacher to a paralegal.  So while I don't have any tips for you about the legal profession, I was hoping I could trouble you with some questions?
For one thing, I'm terrified about putting in the time and money to earn a Paralegal Certificate only to be left unemployed, as this seems to be a huge problem for lots of paralegals and others working in the legal profession.  Why are there so many unemployed paralegals, and why is it so difficult to find a job, and yet at the same time, there are TONS of articles floating around praising the paralegal profession as America's "Top Growing Profession," discussing the supposedly high demand for paralegals?  Are those articles all just bullshit?  Or is it a case where it depends on your location, like some places have a high demand for paralegals while others don't?
Another thing I wondered -- do you think that WHERE you obtain paralegal certification plays a role in obtaining a job?  I'm trying to decide between two ABA approved programs in my area -- one is COD, a community college that just got ABA approved 1 year ago.  It's the cheapest option by far, but I worry that the quality of the classes will be lacking.  
The other option is Loyola University, a private school in Chicago that has been ABA approved for a long time but costs approximately 4 times more than the other program...  My main concern is finding a job afterwards -- if the expensive university will better prepare me for the work, and will guarantee better job opportunities, then the extra tuition is worth it.  But if law firms don't care where you obtain certification, then I should go for the cheaper option.  What do you think?
Thanks so much for any help you can offer, and good luck with your work!
Dearest Para-to-Be,
My guess is that paras are suffering just as much as lawyers because new and unemployed and unemployable lawyers are infiltrating their ranks as well.  That's just a guess.  As for what type of certification?  I don't even know that it's necessary.  I, for one, would rather a college grad who is smart and sharp and will work for pennies.   Don't kill me because I'm honest.  I've actually never had a paralegal work under me that was "trained" as a paralegal--except for one. I hated that bitch.  She knew the CPLR far better than I and held her knowledge hostage like a prison warden.

What do you guys think?  Paralegal v. Teacher v. Lawyer?  What about marrying rich?  Is that option on the table?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Night Shift! Something to Aspire To...

From: "Andrew D. Rider" <>
Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2011 13:37:41 -0400
To: Andrew D. Rider<>
Subject: Hire Counsel is Currently Staffing a Night Shift for Admitted Attorneys in Westfield, NJ

Project Details:
  • Location – Westfield, NJ
  • Start Date – Mid April
  • Duration – 4 to 6 Weeks
  • Schedule – 6:00 PM to 2:00 AM
  • Rate - $29.00 per hour
  • Project Type: Document Review - relevancy and privilege issues
Project Requirements:
  1. Bar Membership – Any US Jurisdiction
  2. Availability – 4 to 6 weeks and not have vacation/travel plans during the duration of the project (Holidays and a day here or there will not be a problem)
  3. Experience – 6+ previous document review or litigation experience is preferred
Simply respond to this email (please do not change the subject line), attach your resume as a MS Word file (even if you know we have it already), and indicate that you meet the requirements listed above.

What Happens Next?
When we receive your resume and email indicating how you meet each of the requirements listed above we will review the resume and call you if we believe there is a good potential that you would be selected.  Once we have spoken to you and obtained your permission we will send the resume to our client.  Once we hear from them we will let you know if you were selected for the project.  We will not send your resume ANYWHERE without your express permission to do so.

Why am I receiving this email?
You are receiving this email because you have previously registered with Hire Counsel and our records indicate you are interested in temporary projects in the New York area.  If this is no longer the case please let us know by reply email.

How to remove your name from our list:
Simply reply to this email but CHANGE THE SUBJECT LINE TO "REMOVE ME"


Andrew RiderManaging Director, Administration & Account Management
Hire Counsel575 Madison Avenue, Suite 3000
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wall of Shame: Touro's Pride and Joy...Mistrial, Yay!

I'm sure you all have read the story over on JJD's blog about Joseph Rakofsky, the newbie lawyer that managed to have a mistrial declared in a murder trial solely because of his inexperience.  If you haven't, here's the story and I have to add to it:

A Washington, D.C., judge declared a mistrial in a murder case on Friday, saying he was “astonished” at the performance of the defense lawyer who confessed to jurors he’d never tried a case before.
Judge William Jackson said lawyer Joseph Rakofsky did not have a good grasp of legal procedures, citing as an example the attorney’s rambling opening statement in which he told of his inexperience, the Washington Post reports. Rakofsky graduated from Touro law school in 2009 and obtained a law license in New Jersey less than a year ago, the story says.
Rakofsky had repeated disagreements with his local D.C. counsel, causing his client, Dontrell Deaner, to become “visibly frustrated,” the Post says. On Friday, Deaner told the judge he wanted a new lawyer.
The judge declared a mistrial after reviewing a court filing in which an investigator had claimed Rakofsky fired him for refusing to carry out the lawyer's emailed suggestion to "trick" a witness, the story says. Rakofsky's suggestion allegedly read: “Thank you for your help. Please trick the old lady to say that she did not see the shooting or provide information to the lawyers about the shooting.”
Afterward, Rakofsky refused to comment and rushed out of the courthouse, the story says.
I often find that the comments are more interesting than the story itself.  Even here on BIDER, I find your comments to be the highlight of my day.  On this particular story, an interesting comment was made by someone about Mr. Rakofsky:

Clarence Smith Apr 6, 2011 7:40 AM CDT
Rakofszki was never fired. He requested that he be relieved because of a conflict between his client and him. The judge removed him because he asked to be removed; it was Rakofszky’s request. Have you ever, even one time, read the transcript?
Conflict is completely different from and has nothing to do with “incompetence,” but none of the “reporters” have lifted a finger to read the transcript. After the judge removed him, he criticized Rakofszki (but never accused him of being incompetent). Anybody who was actually in the courtroom on Friday already knows this—the Judge was very clear about this.
I doubt that supposed email (and the quotation in it) exists. If the Post was willing to quote Rakofszki, why did they not print the supposed email? Is it possible that Rakofszki does have a lot of experience? Is it possible that he was telling the truth?
Some of you are truly awful. If you at least read the transcript, no one could fault you; but, instead, you glibly accepted what the Post said and ran with it. I was there on Friday and there is no way the Post reporter was even in the courtroom at the time the Judge was addressing Rakofszki. What the Post wrote and what actually happened are 2 different things. That kid has been catapulted into this, what is undoubtedly a terrible event for him and his whole family, and none of that which has been reported about him (which is said to have occurred on Friday) actually happened.
Could this be Mr. Rakofsky commenting on the story himself?  I didn't think of this on my own, but another comment called attention to the ludicrous misspelling of the dude's last name.  Could he be more obvious?
I really feel for the kid.  I made a comment on the story, something along the lines of ... silly him to think that going to law school would qualify him to be a lawyer.  Someone took my comment a little too seriously and asked if I was an attorney for thinking something so naive.  I am sure my readers know what I meant.
Maybe he's a narcissist.  Maybe he's overly confident.  Maybe he's misguided to consider this a win (someone who commented on the story had a looksie at this Facebook page where he declared this a win.  But isn't it though, in a way?).  The readers were ruthless in tearing him a new one.  I don't blame him for piping up.  His legal career is pretty much over before it began.  I have to pity him.
But no story or comment trail is complete without a troll.  The latest comment comes from a Tuoro student herself:
Mr, Rakovsky does not fairly represent Touro Law Center—and his behavior maligns the dedicated faculty and the many hard-working and high achieving students that Touro has educated over the years.  Touro Students work as Judicial Interns for the Federal Judges of the Eastern District Of New York as well as State Supreme Court Justices,  Our Vis Moot Team has consistently won honors in interntional competition, Touro Alumni serve honorably and competently in the NY State Judiciary and the Assembly.  My professors always stressed the importance of professional ethics,  I had the privilege of learning from professors who trained at Harvard and Yale.  I was fortunate to take part in Touro’s Collaborative Courts program which gave experience in arguing before federal judges.  I know better than to take on a case I am not qualified to handle.  Jackasses can be found at EVERY law school, but don’t malign a school because of ONE individual.  I remember Mr, Rakovsky.  He had many of the same professors I did so I dont know why he didnt learn the same things I did about professional responsibility and the duty of competence,
Did they teach you grammar and spelling at Touro as well?  I will quit maligning a law school for the acts of one student when law schools stop admitting people that aren't qualified or mature enough to be attorneys.  If every law school is allowed one "nut" a year without an impact on its reputation, that's 200+ crazy attorneys fucking up people's lives royal--yearly.  That's way too many nuts.  If we cherish our profession and our collective reputation, law schools need to become more selective with who they admit and who they allow to graduate.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yes, We Can and DO Shape the Legal Profession! Scambloggers Are Credited in Law Review Article

Check it out!  Lucille Jewel writes a law review article entitled: "You’re Doing It Wrong: How the Anti-Law School Scam Blogging Movement Can Shape the Legal Profession."

It feels good to get some credit.  It feels even better that we may be making a difference.  Read it when you get a chance!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Being a Lawyer, Stress and Its Physical Manifestations

Sometimes your job makes you sick.  Sometimes, it really makes you sick.  I realize that stress induced illness is not unique to the legal profession, but I really would like to compare notes with my readers to make sure that I'm not alone in thinking that the legal profession is hard on your body (and your soul).

 When I first started practicing, I really loved what I was doing.  My first firm job was at a general practice firm where I had many clients, made court appearances, drafted motions--I really felt like I made a difference in their lives.  They were very satisfied with my services and thankful.  Some of them even gave me Christmas gifts.  However, I was very stressed. My boss had me on a short leash and put me in some unforgivable situations.  He yelled constantly.  He had meetings about collecting--all the time.  He didn't pay us on time.  It was a volatile work environment.  While I was there, I had a chronic stomach ache for 3 years.  Every day... all day.  I went to numerous doctors. I had no insurance at that time.  I just wanted someone to diagnose it and fix it.  Finally, a doctor told me it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  He said that he didn't know what caused it, but he could prescribe Prozac because a mood enhancer was the best cure.  I declined.

Also, while at the same job, as the months and years went--I literally felt the mobility in my back and neck decline.  One day, I was sitting at my desk with my back to the door.  A secretary came in and said, "Angel, I need you to review this for me."  I tried to turn my head--and I couldn't.  I couldn't turn my head and neck for the next two months.  I went to countless chiropractors. I got massage therapy, took muscle relaxers and got acupuncture.  Everyone who touched my neck said it was likely stress.  Eventually it worked itself out.

So, we're years later.  I worked at Big Law--which I didn't find stressful.  After listening to people cry to you about their real problems, I really could put the problems of the Corporate World in their place.  Nothing seemed that serious because only money was on the line.  Yes, I worked late hours--but I would slip out to the gym regularly. I ate well.  I had money. It wasn't that bad.  I was just tired.  Until the layoffs began.  Then my stomach began to hurt me again...  I wanted to increase my performance so that I wouldn't get the axe and my stomach was not cooperating.  Well, we know how that story ended.

Now, I have my own practice and the stress is getting to me.  It's not the same stress as when I was a newbie or working late hours for Big Law.  I have different stress now.  Whether or not I'm going to collect my legal fees. Whether or not I'm making enough.  Whether or not I'm doing enough.  How I can be in 3 places at one time, all the time.  These days, I get these massive headaches.  MASSIVE.  My brains starts to burn and hurt for hours and hours and nothing seems to make it go away.  I feel like my brain is burning my hair from the inside out. Every time I have one of these massive migraines, I see that a few more grey hairs have popped up.  Correalation or causation?  I don't know.  Neither of my blue collar parents had grey hair at my age.  And the gym?  Forget about it. I simply don't have time.  I wish I did. I'm sure it would help.

I am not sure what the job satisfaction of being a lawyer holds up to other careers, but I can't be alone with all of my ailments. I have plenty of friends who suffer migraines, fluctuate greatly in weight, have high blood pressure, IBS, etc. etc. etc.  A look around any given courtroom shows me my future and it ain't looking too good.  We, lawyers that is, seem to be rundown.  We really resemble meth heads.

Have you suffered any physical ailments you feel are attributable to your job?  Or is being a law student affecting your health?  What about being unemployed?  What about your mental health?

P.S.  Harry's Law is right on point today with Prosecutor Puck talking about how he is a ball of nerves and lost all his hair because of his job.  I wish I could post a clip, but it literally just aired.  I wonder how many guys lost their hair a little too fast because they are lawyers.  Hmmmm.
In case I haven't mentioned it; Harry's Law is the only legal show out there that is semi-realistic.  I hear Lincoln Lawyer is too--but it's a movie.  Should I go and see it?  Or will I hate myself for contributing to the glorification of the legal industry again?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

UMASS Dartmouth School of Law: "Winning"!

The only school I love to hate nearly as much as Tom Cooley is UMass-Dartmouth. It's a recent addition to the over saturated market in Massachusetts.  It was opened on the premise that every last corner of Massachusetts needs a law school.  Every.... last... corner.  And with the opening of every shit law school is bound to be an influx of shit students.  There are only so many decent, accomplished applicants to go around.  It's my guess that Harvard, BU, BC, Northeastern, Suffolk, UMass, etc. etc. etc. got first dibs on those applicants and UMass-Dartmouth was left with this winner:
John E. Cassidy, 26, was released by Fall River Superior Court Judge Thomas MaGuire on the condition he does not break any laws and does not possess firearms, the District Attorney's Office said.... The UMass Dartmouth law school student charged with illegal firearms possession was ordered released on personal recognizance Friday...
No big whoop, right?  He's not the first law student to break the law, but like many law students--he rises above his peers with another charge:
Cassidy, a Texas native, has an open fugitive warrant from his home state, where he was charged last year with possession of explosive components. He will remain incarcerated in the House of Corrections pending that matter, the District Attorney's Office said. 
So close!  If only that past warrant didn't come up!  He'd be roaming the halls at UMass Dartmouth with the other students and those people that won't shut up in his head.  With his intimate knowledge of the criminal justice system, he'll surely be a great attorney.  He gives new meaning to jailhouse lawyer.  Maybe he'll get paid by his fellow inmates in cigarettes.  He's got to command a higher rate than other jailhouse lawyers--while he's in jail at least.
On March 2, police seized an AK-47 military assault rifle along with a 9-mm handgun and 200 rounds of ammunition from Cassidy's apartment at Ledgewood Commons in North Dartmouth. A roommate also alleged Cassidy had assaulted him. 
Any chance his intention was to have a shootout at school?  I definitely don't encourage it, but what the heck was packing so much heat for?  Was he pissed about the tuition?  Maybe his roomie was the classroom gunner?  Maybe he's just stark raving mad.  If that's the case, you'd think that it would have been apparent from his prior record, his essay.... the way he looks?!

I feel like I'm playing the fiddle on the slowly sinking ship formerly known as the legal profession.  Quantity, not quality.  Remember!  That's the key to the educational industrial complex.

I'm wonder if UMD is going to expel him.  I'm sure it's hard to part with his tuition check, but here's to hoping they will do the right thing.

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