Tired of hearing negative news about the economy? Well this news just might lighten things
up. It is no secret that lawyers are
being laid off from law firms across the country by the hundreds. Not only are law firms firing attorneys, they
are also deferring the start date for new attorneys, and/or rescinding offers
that were extended to their incoming classes.
According to www.lawshucks.com, a legal industry website, 3,045
attorneys have been laid off since January 2008.
In MC&A Newsletter, Volume III, we brought you news that,
as a result of the bad economy, the hottest area for legal practice is now
bankruptcy. Now, it appears as though
law firms are finding alternative ways to trim their attorney rolls in a manner
that still provides attorneys with the opportunity to earn a livelihood. Rather than fire attorneys outright, some
firms have given lawyers the option to work for not-for-profit organizations
that provide legal services for the poor at a fraction of the original law firm
salary. In doing this, law firms are
providing often short-staffed and cash-strapped public interest and legal aid
firms with an influx of attorneys who are ready, able, and willing to
For example, Foley Hoag LLP, a Massachusetts law firm, gave
soon-to-be fired attorneys the option to work for Greater Boston Legal
Services, a legal aid group and offered to pay the attorneys a quarter of their
former salary for a year. Morgan, Lewis
& Bockius LLP, a law firm based in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, announced it will
pay deferred associates graduating in 2009 a $5,000 monthly stipend for one
year if they find a job in the public interest field. Likewise, Latham & Watkins LLP and
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP offered incoming associates who defer
employment until October 2010 a $75,000 compensation package.
These alternative methods help increase the number of public
interest lawyers and provide attorneys a chance to earn a living at a time when
they otherwise might not. Best of all,
the poor have a better chance of access to quality legal services.
Jobless Lawyers, Plan B Includes Good Works, by Stephanie Chen, March
17, 2009 http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/03/16/lawyer.layoff.public/
Social Networking Sites and Mistrials
The use of personal digital assistants ("PDAs") such as
BlackBerrys and iPhones are changing the landscape of U.S.
trials. A judge recently declared a
mistrial in a federal case in Florida
after he discovered that jurors had been researching the legal issues
associated with the case on their PDAs.
In another case, a company asked an Arkansas court to overturn a $12.6 million
judgment on the basis that a juror used Twitter to send updates during the
Source: As Jurors Turn to Web, Mistrials Are Popping
Up, by John Schwartz, March 18, 2009, The New York Times.
Jurors are not allowed to seek outside information or
perform research regarding cases. The rules
of evidence ensure that jurors consider evidence put before them in a court of
law -- evidence that was vetted by the judge and determined to be
probative. However, by accessing
information that is not presented in court, jurors run the risk of forming
opinions and even finding out evidence that was withheld from the jury because
it did not meet the strict standards of evidence and might be prejudicial to
With technology advancing at record speed and internet
access widely available on cell phones, it remains to be seen how pervasive
this problem will become in the future.
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© 2008 Midwin Charles & Associates LLC
MC&A successfully defended a client in an insurance
fraud investigation. After three months
of wrangling and a vigorous defense on the part of MC&A, the insurance
company withdrew its investigation of our client.
would like to thank Keith J. Bybee, Director, Institute for the Study of the
Judiciary, Politics, and the Media at Syracuse University
for inviting Midwin Charles to be a guest lecturer. The event, held on March 2nd, was a great