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More on the supposed death of Biglaw

A response to critics by the New Republic journalist.

Whether or not the author is on to something important, this reply struck me as fairly weak.  To be sure, one should not confuse sensationalistic journalism with in-depth analysis.  The generally declining job market for law school graduates, which seems to me to be amply supported by the data, does not in and of itself support the bold claims of the New Republic article.

Moreover, scapegoating Chicago and Mayer Brown seems not only unprofessional, but also saps a good deal of credibility from the article.  The claim that Chicago BigLaw should be especially hard-hit is not supported with any data in this article (or elsewhere, so far as I can discern).


Wildcat football — one month and counting!

northwestern_football_helmetComing off an historic season — 10 wins, bowl victory, monkey off the NU back.  Looking forward to another (even better?) year.

In windup to new season, here is a shout out to the superb NU athletics blog, Lake the Posts.  You can, as I do, get your news about every important aspect of the Wildcats sports year from LTP.


Guest post: Prof. James Pfander

Fed courts scholar extraordinaire.  This from Jim:

Northwestern Law School has many virtues, among them a strong sense of history.  I sit in the old section, Levy Mayer Hall, where the portraits of English jurists dot wood paneled walls and classrooms with such names as Lincoln Hall feature stained glass windows contributed by the graduates of yesteryear.  One cannot escape the sense that Anglo-American law has both a dignity and a distinguished past.  Perhaps that’s what our former dean, John Henry Wigmore, realized when he assembled the collection.

I sit in LM 215, a dark office with a closet and washstand, and a satisfyingly substantial set of bookshelves that hide behind wood panels in what I’m told was a style adapted from the chambers of English judges.  I’m down the hall from the Owen Coon library, not too far from the portrait of Elbert Gary, and only a few yards further away from the chair in which Justice John Paul Stevens sat during much of his tenure on the Court.  Wigmore’s own chair sits in the office of my colleague Ron Allen, the Wigmore Chair at Northwestern.

Northwestern maintains its sense of history with a light touch.  Recently, a recent graduate and I completed a few articles on the subject of the anti-injunction act, a much misunderstood statute that Congress enacted in 1793 to prevent federal courts of equity from staying state court suits.  (Yes, you can find them on SSRN.)  I won’t bore you with the details, but we did become quite intrigued by the early seventeenth century battle between law and equity that gave rise to the equitable stay practice addressed in the 1793 legislation.  In one corner, representing law, was the great chief justice of King’s Bench, Edward Coke.  He held that equity had no power to enjoin the enforcement of a common law judgment.  In the other corner, were the chancellor, Lord Ellesmere, King James (he of divine right fame) and the brilliant Francis Bacon.  In the end, James issued a decree confirming Bacon’s conclusion that courts of equity had long exercised the power in question and could do so notwithstanding Coke’s protestations.  Coke left the bench in disgrace a short time later, and Bacon became Lord Keeper only to suffer his own fall (away from law and into science).

As it turns out, Northwestern has portraits of both Coke and Bacon, no doubt collected by Wigmore in his perambulations around England.  What’s more, the managers of Northwestern’s facilities operation have a good sense of humor.  When asked, they agreed to relocate the two portraits and they now occupy a place on either side of the door to my office.  Come by Room 215 and check out Coke and Bacon, the symbolic parents of the division between law and equity.


Law firm economics: some good news

so says the most recent comprehensive survey.

Intriguing difference between very large and very small firms.  Anomalous or a trend?

Note also that lawyers remain optimistic about revenues going forward, and this optimism runs similarly across the firm size categories.


More on the $1 million question: Is law school worth it?

American Lawyer weighs in.

Empirical question is a difficult one, to say the least, and the vituperative debate about methodology raises the larger question of how we would best measure the value question.

Of course, this important debate doesn’t drill down into the question of whether and to what extent the value of a particular law degree (at Northwestern or elsewhere) is worth the price.

Will continue to post contributions to this debate that seem especially pertinent and valuable.


Death of BigLaw?

Provocative article in the New Republic says “yes.”

Not so fast, says a commenter on Slate.  Compares hyperbolic article to the “vampire squid meme.”  To know what on earth this means, you’ll have to read this post!


Good idea

Says David Lat in The New Republic.

Yes, indeed.  This is what Northwestern Law has been doing for many years now.  Between 90 to 95% of our entering students in recent years have had post-graduate experience before coming to the Law School.


Thank you, Lanny and Sharon Martin!

One of the great pleasures of being the Dean at Northwestern Law is getting to know our school’s alumni—a remarkable group of people who have gone from this school to achieve many extraordinary accomplishments. I’m doubly fortunate that I get to talk with alumni who appreciate what the school made possible for them and who want to give back in some way. These conversations are invariably enjoyable and enlightening. We discuss what’s working well at the Law School, and what can be done to make the school even better for future generations of students.

Two of the people I’ve been able to get to know in this way are Lanny and Sharon Martin. It is with gratitude and pride that I announce that the Martins have made a $10 million unrestricted gift to the Law School.

This remarkable gift will have a lasting impact on the Law School. It will enrich opportunities for our students and allow innovations that will further prepare our students to become leaders in the profession.

I am deeply grateful for Lanny and Sharon’s extraordinary gift. We will use these funds responsibly and ambitiously to bring Northwestern Law to the highest level of excellence.


An Exoneree’s Gift

From time to time I report on the remarkable gifts people have given us to support our work here at the Law School, and today I want to tell you about a gift I find particularly inspiring.

Terrill Swift was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder at the age of seventeen, and spent seventeen years in prison for it, until the hard work and perseverance of the students, faculty, and staff in the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth led to his exoneration in January of 2012. (You may recall that we wrote about his case in the Fall 2012 issue of the Northwestern Law Reporter.)

In cases of wrongful conviction, Illinois law allows monetary damages. For his years in prison, the state paid Terrill roughly $210,000. The first thing Terrill did upon receiving this payment was to make a Wigmore-level gift to the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth.

He told CWCY staff attorney Joshua Tepfer that he had been waiting a long time to do this.

This gift is, on one level, a way of saying thank you to the people involved in an individual exoneration. But it also illustrates the broader continuum: since sometimes things go horribly wrong in our justice system, we must work individually and collectively to not only correct those mistakes when they happen, but do all we can to make sure they don’t happen again. Even though he is no longer wrongfully incarcerated, Terrill knows the work continues and his gift supports that effort.

My warmest thanks to Terrill for his gift and his extraordinary generosity, and to my outstanding colleagues in the Bluhm Legal Clinic for their tireless efforts.