Briefs: Bill Your Clients for Interns, 25% of Texas Grads Don’t Have Law Jobs, Etc.

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Another iPhone Privacy Case Solved Without Apple’s Help

First, we had the big San Bernardino iPhone case end with a whimper rather than a privacy-destroying bang thanks to the FBI figuring out how to break into the thing without Apple’s help. After that, though, the FBI demanded Apple help it in a New York drug case, but Apple pretty much laughed at them.  Turns out that the FBI didn’t need any help after all.

For the second time in less than a month, the Justice Department has backed off using the courts to force Apple to help it gain access to a locked iPhone in an investigation.

On Friday, it told a federal court in Brooklyn that it no longer needs Apple’s help in pulling data from a drug dealer’s iPhone after someone came forward with a passcode.

Guess that settles that.

You Can Charge Your Clients for the Work Your Unpaid Interns Perform

…at least in New York.

[T]he NYSBA ethics committee said that there was nothing in the state’s ethics rules that would prohibit a law firm from billing clients for the services of a law student-intern on either a fee basis or as an expense to the firm, even if the firm didn’t pay the intern or the law school. […]

While the firm could bill the student’s work to the client as legal fees (by the hour or per task, for instance), the committee also approved the possibility of billing the work as an expense instead.  In that case, the committee said, “the lawyer may charge the client ‘either … an amount to which the client has agreed in advance or … an amount that reflects the cost incurred by the lawyer’ to sponsor the intern (e.g., the cost of supervising the intern).”

In other words, although the law firm does not have any direct costs in connection with using an unpaid intern, it does incur overhead costs, and may peg the expense value of the  intern’s work to include those costs to the firm.

Courtroom Sketch Artist May Have Inadvertently Drawn Justice Thomas Napping

screenshot-twitter.com 2016-04-24 21-56-43

If you have been dying to have a print of Justice Thomas possibly sawing logs, you can buy a print from the website of the courtroom artist, Arthur Lien.

Reminder: Don’t Accept Credit Cards for Bankruptcy Fees

A Florida law firm allegedly allowed its clients to pay bankruptcy legal fees with a credit card. While we routinely talk about how to accept credit cards for your law practice, that is not a thing you are allowed to do if you are a bankruptcy attorney, because new credit charges equals new debt equals something that can be wiped out in, you guessed it, bankruptcy.

When Loyd Cadwell decided to file for bankruptcy, he allegedly paid legal fees to the Orlando, Florida-based KEL law firm in January using two credit cards […] [W]hen Cadwell later decided to switch to another law firm, Jacksonville-based Mickler & Mickler noticed the unusual payment and filed suit Tuesday against KEL on his behalf.

The lawsuit is seeking class-action status, alleging this was routine behavior for KEL.

Almost 25% of Texas Law School Grads Are Unemployed or Underemployed

The attorney market is getting better! No, wait! The attorney market is getting worse! You can get whiplash trying to keep up with the various ways the market statistics are sliced and diced. The most recent news out of Texas isn’t encouraging, however. Nearly 25% of the 2015 class from Texas law schools are not working as lawyers or, worse still, working at all.

About 12 percent of graduates are employed full-time in non-lawyer professional positions.

More than 13 percent of newly minted Texas lawyers are unemployed, which is actually worse than in 2010 — the year the Great Recession hit the Texas legal industry the hardest — when 9 percent of Texas law school graduates could not find a job after graduation.

Three percent of 2015 law graduates are stuck working part-time jobs — some of them having nothing to do with law at all.

Long range, the outlook isn’t much better. Texas has 9 law schools hurling 2000 lawyers per year into a legal job economy that only added 3500 jobs in the last four years. Is it time to consider just manufacturing fewer lawyers?

This Startup Will Rate You Based on Your Win-Loss Record

From the minds of a couple of Harvard University undergrads comes Legalist, which will profile and rate you based on your win-loss records and how many cases you handle. Over at Law Sites, Bob Ambrogi breaks down some of the potential problems.

I recently spoke with Shang and Haigh [the developers]  and asked them how their algorithm will handle all the cases that never go to trial, where the docket would not show a winner or loser. All of those cases will be factored into the overall experience rating, they said, in that if a lawyer has handled a high number of a certain type of case, even if all the cases settled, the algorithm would presume that the lawyer is better at those cases than one who’d handled only one or two.

Another concern I see is that winning or losing is not a reliable measure of lawyering skill. Top-notch lawyers lose cases. It is often the best lawyers who are willing to take on the toughest matters with the lowest odds of success.

While tools to evaluate lawyer effectiveness are great, reducing people to their in-court success is a pretty narrow metric. Hopefully this tool will be able to evolve a bit.

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  • Simpleman

    The Legalist concept suffers from a number of problems. In litigation, so much goes on that is privileged that it’s hard to know even from trial results what is a “win” or loss, let alone to divine this information from settlements. A $10M plaintiff verdict looks like a big loss for the defense, unless you happen to know they evaluated their total exposure at 20 and offered 17 before the trial (which the judge recommended), but got a good jury and defense counsel scored a lot of points on the plaintiff’s expert. Ask the plaintiff who held out for 25 about his “win”- chances are he’s cursing his lawyer’s name.

  • George Wrong

    Billing for unpaid interns may not get a lawyer into ethics trouble, but it might result in an FLSA issue. Billing for an intern’s time may indicate the internship was mainly for the benefit of the firm rather than the intern, and make the intern really an employee subject to wage and hour laws. I would advise either not billing unpaid interns’ time or paying the interns.