It's not even Iron Bowl (ie: Thanksgiving) weekend yet, but apparently the Christmas season has already started. Of course, for those of you with jobs, the Christmas season started with Q4 when you looked at how far you were from reaching your annual billable hour target.
But, there's a cold front hitting New England and the Mid-Atlantic, and snowflakes have been spotted in Philly -- and we don't just mean the newest crop of students who think they'll beat the law school employment odds. Actual, melt on the ground, not melt-down in your class snowflakes. So, I guess that means it's Christmas Law Revue video season.
And by season, we mean one video from some kids at Syracuse Law. Enjoy:
We also would have liked: All I Want For Christmas Are Two Vacant Seats (on the Supreme Court)
Millennials are shallow, lazy, entitled, self-centered, delusional, trophy brats. They expect to be given great jobs right out of college when they've got zero experience and have not yet put in any of the hard work (except for the last 16 years of hard work, but no credit for time served). And they expect that great job to come with a pile of money (after adjusting for inflation, the minimum wage has dropped 20% over the last 40 years, and Gen Y is entering the workforce with $25,000+ of debt). It's like these damn kids think they don't have to spend the first two years of their careers fetching coffee and doing grunt administrative work for free (something never before expected of any generation).
So if Gen Y is busy tweeting their entitled attitudes during their lunch break (which was supposed to be spent working, you bums!), just what is the incredibly industrious Boomer generation doing all day?
Turns out they're looking at porn.
And they're bad at it.
A survey of 200 IT professionals found that 40% had to spend time removing malware from an executives computer which was downloaded by clicking a malicious link on a porn website. There are laptops, and tablets, and loads of free porn websites that are free of malware, so the Boomer executives (that's right, executives) aren't just wasting their time at work looking at porn, they don't even understand how computers or the internet works.
It's not just the folks who accidentally dropped their little blue pills into their morning coffee either. 56% of IT professionals said that executives had downloaded malware by clicking on a link on a phishing e-mail. Another 45% found malware that got there because the executive let a family member use their work computer -- and assuming they're not lying, that means the family member was smart enough to do all their dirty work on someone else's device. Perhaps the wrong person is in the boss's chair.
So, maybe Millennials are lazy and entitled, but they're at least modest about it. They want to be paid to do a job. Boomers want to be paid 270x as much to watch porn.
Remember when Senator Ron Wyden as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" And James Clapper answered "No, sir." Remember that?
Then it came out that the NSA collects data about pretty much every communication that happens in the United States. And the NSA tried to argue that telephony metadata isn't data, because you know, it's metadata, even though Wyden said "any type of data," and metadata is a type of data. The NSA's argument would have been more plausible if they said telephony metadata isn't data because it's phoney.
With even more news about our government's extensive spy program coming out, people are pissed off and calling for heads to roll. Specifically, Clapper's head and a charge of perjury for lying to Congress. A poll conducted in five states found a substantial majority of Americans want Clapper prosecuted, 69% in Kentucky, 68% in Texas and 65% in Iowa; even in the blue states of Hawai'i and California folks want Clapper behind bars, with 57% and 54% respectively supporting prosecution. [HuffPo]
So, it should come as no surprise that the federal job opening has a high-paying job available. No, it's not Director of National Intelligence. Not yet, at least. But as of last Tuesday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is looking for legal counsel:
Major Duties and Responsibilities:
Provide expert legal advice and guidance to senior Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) leadership on complex areas of law affecting ODNI’s duties and responsibilities under the National Security Act, Presidential directives, Executive Orders, and other related laws and policies.
Provide expert legal counsel to support the development, review, and preparation of United States (US) Government-wide and IC-wide policies, procedures, guidelines, rules, and standards.
Counsel clients, including senior ODNI leaders, on complex legal issues and provide innovative and highly effective guidance on possible courses of action; expertly prepare complex, high profile, and persuasive legal documents on complex legal issues for a variety of internal and external recipients.
Interestingly, the job appears to have zero qualifications other than U.S. Citizenship, a resume and a cover letter:
No mention of having attended law school, or passing a bar and having a law license, or experience in a relevant field, or even the typical X years at Y paygrade. None of that. For $150,000 a year, you'd think the government could afford to hire someone with at least a JD (though according to the Department of Education, if you have more than $96k in student loans, the $150k salary doesn't get you out of financial hardship, so maybe not). Maybe this is how Clapper got in trouble in the first place.
Hint: If you're called before Congress to testify, and are given the questions in advance, and one of the questions will require you to either perjure yourself or to disclose classified information, and a non-answer would in effect be disclosing classified information, you're allowed to request a closed session so that you can answer honestly without violating any laws.
That's right kiddies, Blind Drunk Justice is back, but this time with a new co-host Orange Julius! (Because Namby Pamby is currently busy trying to rescue Philadelphia Lawyer from a Nazi castle on the Austrian-German border.)
In this episode BL1Y and Orange Jules alienate the Jewish community, the Syrian community, the gay community, the transgender community, the feminist community, the international maritime shipping community, the law school construction subcontractor community, and of course, Sovereign Citizens. Though to be honest, all of those are due to BL1Y, not Orange Julius, except for the Sovereign Citizens, that's all on OJ (lock your door, bro).
Here's what we know is going on in Syria: There's a rebellion that's been going on for about two and a half years. A ton of people have died, including a lot of civilians known to have been killed by the Assad regime. We also know that someone has used chemical weapons, it was probably Assad, but may have been the rebels, there may be some false flagging going on, and it may be the case that both sides have used chemical weapons.
Anyone who heard Obama's "red line" comments a while back would know that Syria using chemical weapons would be apparent regime suicide. Assad can possibly win a protracted civil war, but if the United States gets involved it's going to be game over for him, and chemical weapons have such a huge stigma that he should expect to gain many other opponents and lose any allies who are on the fence.
Of course, he probably has used chemical weapons, and ended up calling Obama's bluff. That's going to be deeply embarrassing for the President. Even if Congress does vote to strike, asking for permission to back up a threat makes him appear weak, so even the best case scenario for Obama is still pretty bad. There's a problem with this plot though -- it doesn't explain why Assad would use chemical weapons. What does he gain from embarrassing Obama, or even for making the US look like it won't back up its threats? It might embolden his supporters some, but that's a huge risk to take for what may be minimal gains.
There is the possibility that Assad is either stupid or desperate or desperately stupid, but at the international level you have to suspect that there's a larger strategy at work. Our Mentat is suffering from a dental emergency at the moment though, so we're going to have to turn to another angle of the Syria crisis, the legal angle.
Under international law, there are only two grounds for an attack against a foreign nation: Self Defense, and a United Nations Security Council resolution. With China and Russia holding veto power, such a resolution against Syria will never come, and a civil war in Syria poses no imminent threat to the United States. ...Political gymnastics aside, of course. Could a civil war result in chemical weapons slipping out of the country and into the hands of terrorists? Yes. Is destabilization in the Middle East something the United States should be worried about? Yes. But if that counts as a threat so imminent that an attack can be classified as self defense, then so could a preemptive strike against any leader who we thought might have sympathies with our opponents, along with a whole host of other very weak reasons, and self defense would become an utterly meaningless concept.
Doug Bandow, writing for the Cato Institute, pointed out another interesting legal angle to the Syrian conflict. As we all know, chemical weapons are banned under international treaties. What you might not know is that five nations have not signed on to that treaty: North Korea, South Sudan, Egypt, Angola, and yeup, Syria. (In South Sudan's defense, they're a new nation and maybe haven't gotten around to it yet.) In addition, Myanmar and Israel have signed it, but the treaty was not ratified by their national legislatures.
Since Syria hasn't signed on, that makes it very hard to argue that the United States should intervene solely because of the use of chemical weapons. Plenty of dictatorial regimes have killed their own civilians, and with a wide variety of weapons. Chemical weapons aren't even particularly deadly compared to other modern weapons. The high end estimate is about 1400 people killed with sarin in Syria. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, it killed about 30,000 Iraqi soldiers without the use of chemical weapons. Since the invasion, over 20,000 coalition and Iraqi security forces have been killed -- without the use of chemical weapons.
And one last point... DMDNB, 2,3-dimethyl-2,3-dinitrobutane, the explosive in C4 and other plastic explosives, is a chemical, so the distinction really is a pretty silly one.
In New York City, real estate developers often cut deals with the local government in order to get zoning variances and tax breaks, and often what they have to give up is a slice of their profitability by providing a certain number of affordable apartments. A new development on the side of the Hudson River on the Upper West Side has just such an arrangement; developer Extell is making 55 out of the 219 units in its luxury condo building affordable. Condo owners have to shell out a minimum of a million dollars to live their, but the affordable units will go for as little as $845 a month.
So of course, Linda Rosenthal, who represents Manhattan in the State Assembly, wants to shut the project down. Why? Because the condo would have a separate entrance and elevator for the affordable units. Oh the humanity!
My question is, why do the affordable units have to be segregated apart from the condos that the wealthy can afford to buy?
Developers up and down the west side and across the city manage to inter-mingle the affordable units with the non-affordable units – it’s done everywhere. There’s no reason that there needs to be segregation.
Rosenthal's objection underscores the basic problem with government in the Big Apple. "What do they have to be segregated," "There's no reason that there needs to be segregation."
They don't have to do it, they choose to do it, and private citizens shouldn't have to justify their choices to a government niceness council. The government can rightly put certain stipulations on the zoning and tax perks, things like the units need to have windows, and a minimum size, and maybe some paint on the walls. But Rosenthal wants to go beyond that and use the building process as a way to ensure that poorer residents of New York City don't have to suffer the indignity of using a separate entrance from the rich folks.
Well here's a news flash Ms. Rosenthal: There already is a separate entrance. It's called the Triborough Bridge.
A New York Judge has finally slapped down the state's controversial Stop and Frisk policy on grounds that it violated the 4th and 14th Amendments was doubleplus ungood. ABA Journal coverage of the decision points out that racist underovertones to the policy:
In 52 percent of those 4.4 million stops, the person stopped was black, in 31 percent the person was Hispanic, and in 10 percent the person was white. Weapons were seized in 1 percent of the stops of blacks, 1.1 percent of the stops of Hispanics, and 1.4 percent of the stops of whites. Contraband other than weapons was seized in 1.8 percent of the stops of blacks, 1.7 percent of the stops of Hispanics, and 2.3 percent of the stops of whites.
Left out of the ABA Journal's coverage is that 92.8% of people stopped were male. Noticing this oversight, we poked around a few other law blogs to see what was going on in their coverage. Specifically we wanted to see what the coverage was like in feminist spaces since all the rage in feminism these days is about how The PatriarchyTM is also bad for men and feminism helps everyone, so come on, put on your This Is What A Feminist Looks Like t-shirt and become an ally! Nevermind that the label "allies" is necessarily describing someone in terms of otherness.
Predictably, Feminist Legal Theory, a blog run by some professors at UC Davis fails to have a single post discussing stop and frisk, though it has plenty of posts on race issues, BLTGI issues, and a couple on animal abuse. Feminist Law Prawfs, a site which counts virtually every Law and Gender/Women/Feminism professor among its contributors, likewise has no stop and frisk post. It does however have posts on racial discrimination, BLTGI issues, and yes, animalabuse. And that's in spite of its slogan, "Nearly all of us root for fairness, not for our own sex."
Of course some people will argue that it's okay to profile men because men are actually more prone towards violent crime -- doing the same for racial minorities is bad though, because the races are equal. (Nevermind that there's a link between poverty and violent crime and between race and poverty.) Stop and frisk is still getting it wrong. Women are stopped only 7% of the time, but are 20% of violent offenders. [BJS, Table 38]
And yet, we've heard no complaints about women being woefully underrepresented in stop and frisk incidents.
As you may have heard from one of the not-quite-a-handful of media outlets that decided to cover the story, members of Congress working to reform the tax code have decided to conduct their negotiations in secret. [Click here for Daily Show coverage. We removed the video due to autoplay problems.]
Conducting major policy debates in secret strikes many people the wrong way, and rightfully so. Keeping the legislative process in the dark tends to fly in the face of the basic principles of democracy. And yet, we're going applaud our leaders in Washington for perhaps finally making a right call. Not that they'll come up with sensible tax reform, but conducting the process in secret is definitely the right way to do it.
The tax code is full of special interests and any attempt to debate it in public is going to be met with too much resistance, even from people who would gladly accept system-wide reform. If each provision is put up for debate on its own, its supporters will fight for it tooth and nail, and the process quickly becomes gridlocked with no representative daring to offer up his constituents' interests in exchange for someone else's.
The idea that policy debates which involve a multitude of issues none of which seem touchable should be conducted in private is hardly new. It's the same procedure that was used to craft a little piece of law you may know as THE CONSTITUTION. Whole lot of third rail issues there, the big states vs. little states, taxes, individual rights, the national debt, slavery. Members of the Constitutional Convention knew that they couldn't go on record as supporting any small bit of a compromise, but also that the nation would accept the entire package. So, James Madison took notes, and they were kept sealed for 50 years.
Democracy does require transparency, but that is satisfied by the entirety of the law being presented for open debate. All the provisions and compromises are included within the four corners of the bill, and the vote will be televised on the CSPANs. All that's left out is the ability to yell at your congressman for any one particular item.
Just when you thought there couldn't be more analysis about why the lack of lawyer jobs is no big deal, they pull some more in. Robert Anderson, a professor at Pepperdine Law (45.5% Employment Score, 35.7% Under-Employment Score, $46,680/yr (+9.0% vs 2012-13)) says the problems with the job market may be nothing more than the result of an aging lawyer population. From his blog Witnesseth:
Between 1980 and 2005, the median age of lawyers increased from 39 to 49. [...]
That means that the reported oversupply of lawyers may well result from demographic factors, rather than permanent changes in the legal market. The demographic factors, in turn, probably result from a combination of lawyers waiting longer to retire because of 401(k) accounts decimated during the financial crisis together with the "bulge" of baby boomers working their way through the system.
The bulge of baby boomers should be a very rare occurrence, one which the legal market maybe doesn't need to do much of anything to address. It sucks for people graduating while boomers are hanging on to their jobs, but any solutions would take too long, the problem will be gone before there's any affect. But what about that first explanation, that lawyers are staying in the workforce longer in order to recoup their losses from the recession? The market is back, baby:
The Dow hasn't just recovered, it's up nearly 12% over it's pre-recession high. If you add in extra income from staying on the job a few more years, lawyers who were delaying retirement because of the recession should now be much better off than they were before the crash. Why not just cash out now and get the demographics back in line? We suspect two reasons.
First, lawyers may be below-average investors. Many lawyers work in small shops that won't have a formal retirement program, so they're going to be handling their retirement savings themselves. And partners in firms big enough to have retirement programs are probably investing quite a bit beyond their 401(k)s. You know what happens when people who have a lot of faith in their intelligence but less information than professional investors try to play the stock market? They lose. People who play the market are also more prone to pulling their money out during a recession, as opposed to people with generic mutual funds who will tend to just let it ride. So, those lawyers who were too smart for their own good didn't get to reap the benefits of the recovery, and now they have to work an extra decade to make up their losses.
Second, there's the availability heuristic at work. The recession is still fresh in everyone's memory, and if you saw your retirement savings wiped out, it's going to be an especially strong memory. That means the goal posts for retirement have moved. You now need enough to retire on plus enough to cover the losses of another recession. It doesn't matter that retirees should be putting their investments into safer vehicles, or that another recession would be followed by another recovery, so you don't really need to save much extra to prep for it; cognitive biases don't care about that stuff. You're once bit and twice shy, and that's the end of that.
Back before the recession, and even during its early days, the pom-pom wavers talked about how law was recession proof, or at least resistant to the recession. Crimes still get committed, those people need lawyers, and there's more bankruptcies and divorces to make up for slower areas. Of course the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and as it turns out if your clients have less money they can't pay you as much, and it's not all that simple to go from a deals practice to bankruptcy, or a T&E shop to divorce. There are some industries worse than law during a recession, and some areas of law are counter-cyclical, but whatever resistance the law has to recessions is pretty minimal.
But while the law may not resist recessions well, the number of older lawyers still in the work force indicates that law may be recovery resistant. Baby booms are rare, but recessions? They happen frequently enough that if the legal industry gets any worse at recovering, it might not move fast enough to be back on its feet before the next one hits.
From the "Leave law school alone!" crowd comes this Bloomberg Law interview with Stephen Sheppard, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development at the University of Arkansas School of Law, and a man who may be the inspiration for the character naming conventions used in the Harry Potter series.
We wanted to write about the ridiculous idea he puts forth that if law schools cared more about getting jobs for their students, only BigLaw and the government would exist. But, as we tried to suss out the logic behind that theory, we felt our heads getting too close to 'sploding and just gave up. Instead, we're going to analyze this gem:
As a percentage of either Americans or of university students or of college graduates, the number of people who enter law school has in fact fallen as a percentage whether you look at this from a window of 30 years or 20 years.
Let's first toss out the red herrings. Percentage of university students or college graduates entering law school is completely irrelevant. The comparisons that make sense are number of law school graduates compared to demand for legal services, legal industry jobs, and yes, the first comparison Sheppard made, the national population.
When trying to figure out if we're making too many or too few lawyers, comparison to the total population makes sense, though it doesn't give a final answer. As the federal government passes more laws of greater complexity, the need for lawyers per capita may go up. Policies such as the war on drugs may also increase the need for lawyers per capita. So might something such as growing wealth and home ownership among the middle class, which creates a greater need for lawyers to write wills, or a growing divorce rate and child custody suits. On the other hand there are variables that could decrease the needed lawyers per capita, such as electronic research tools making individual lawyers more effective at their jobs, or increased education among the population and access to online research and DIY guides allowing ordinary folks to handle many routine legal matters on their own. So, lawyers per capita only tells a part of the story, but it's still an important part.
Currently there is one law school grad for every 169 people. In 2010, the ratio was 1:174. [Flustercucked] Remember, Sheppard's claim is that the percentage of people is going down compared to previous decades. In 1993 the ratio was 1:163, and in 1983 it was 1:161. So, how do we rate Sheppard's claim? True.
And damned misleading. Let's take another look at his exact wording:
the number of people who enter law school has in fact fallen as a percentage whether you look at this from a window of 30 years or 20 years.
When we first heard this, it sounded to us like he meant "pick whatever time frame you want, doesn't matter, percentages are going down." The truth is that he means "the percentage is going down only if you make a 20 or 30 year comparison." If you pick any other time frame, the percentage has gone up.
In 2003 the ratio was 1:187. In 1973 the ratio was 1:190. And in 1963 it was an amazing 1:490. But wait, the "window of 30 years or 20 years" comment is even more misleading than that. From 1987-1990, we produced fewer lawyers than we do now, with ratios ranging from 1:171.1 to 1:174.1.
For Sheppard's statement to be true and not misleading, it would need to read something a bit more like this:
As a percentage of Americans, the number of people who enter law school has in fact fallen as a percentage whether you look at this from a window of 30 years or 20 years, but not 10 years, and not 40 years, and also not 23 to 26 years, or 15 years, or 28 years.
Impressed with Sheppard's bit of sleight of hand, we decided to give it a go ourselves. How did we do?