In recognition of today’s generations of short-attention span Internet readers, here is a list of five things JDs Rising readers should care about from 2010. There were certainly more than five interesting stories over the past year, so add yours in the comment section.
Here’s hoping 2011 gives us just as many things to talk about around the watercooler and the blogs!
1. Law School – You Suck! No, Not Really.
Lots of comments and discussions were started by these two posts Dear Law School: It’s all your fault. Signed, recent grad and Law School Debt and the Mortgage Meltdown. Many newer lawyers unable to follow the traditional big firm track started their own firms, found jobs outside the legal practice, or unfortunately may still be unemployed. Law schools are a perfect scapegoat but should they take 100% of the blame? Are law schools serving the legal market? Should students take out thousands of dollars for a career that may not reap close to that amount? Those questions remain for every new lawyer and the legal practice. These two posts along with many others across the Internet bring to the forefront some of the complexities that people today face when choosing to pursue a legal career and the practical problems many new lawyers deal with.
2. Judicial Activism?!?
In Minnesota this year attorneys running for judges sought endorsement from political parties, attended political events while speaking out against “judicial activism,” and may have been appointed based on their political leanings. There was a bill in the Legislature last session (and likely one this upcoming session) to take away our right to elect judges or to protect the impartial nature of the judicial branch, depending on what side you were on. I’m sure some of these things have been done for years (and we have a trustworthy judicial system here in Minnesota even with such actions), but we can be sure this debate will continue to develop as us newer lawyers advance in our careers.
Each time a story invokes “judicial activism,” whatever the political context it has, as new lawyers we should be aware that is our job and will be our job in the future to protect the impartial judicial system that sets us apart from many other countries (and U.S. states), whatever form that protection may take.
3. Electronic Filings
Slowly, Minnesota state courts are catching with the federal courts and going to electronic filings. Hennepin has a pilot program and gets credit for the first filing, with Ramsey to follow in 2011. Remember that one time in law school where you couldn’t use Westlaw or Lexis to do your legal research project? That is what your paralegal has to do to file that word document motion you e-mailed to him which was drafted on your laptop (maybe using these tips on electronic briefs). Along with not needing paper books to search for cases and not needing paper to draft those motions, you soon won’t need paper to file your motions.
4. WikiLeaks And All That Internet Stuff
WikiLeaks is basically a large scale version of what happens when information we would rather not share with the public gets put out on the Internet (either legally or illegally), and has given us a story or two on how to deal with twitter in the courtrooms. Inappropriate facebook messages? College drinking photos on Flickr? Client data not password protected? Your client blogging about how horrible a judge is or how awful your representation was?
What does all of the published information on the Internet mean for new lawyers?
Discovery will be forever changed by the internet(The Best Way to Conduct Discovery into Social Media?), new rules of professional responsibility, evidence and other practice areas will further develop as we figure out what to do with facebook pages, meta data and all that other tech gobbledygook. Our professional reputations will be more public than the gossip phone trees that were around when our senior partners and bosses were new lawyers. There are more opportunities to accidently divulge a client’s confidential information.
On the up side though, we have more opportunities for specialized careers, more places to search for the needle in the haystack, more opportunities to share our knowledge with the public and other lawyers, and more opportunities to make our marks on the practice of law.
5. Denny Hecker and Tom Petters
For a list of things to tell your client not to do, see Denny Hecker. One Google search on Hecker got me 34,000 results and I’m sure in 2011 there will be many more. Tom Petters went away last year but the aftermath of his legal problems is still hitting others deep into 2010, including his former corporate counsel. There are several Minnesota lawyers who had issues this year and several others bahaving badly, and they are certainly not forgotten but since these two guys get the most headlines, they get the title.
Why care about this? Because there will always be scandals, there will always be colleagues that violate the rules of professional responsibility and many of us who will need to report such actions. These events serve to remind us that attorneys and clients are never perfect but that is what we expect of both.
What is your top legal story of 2010? Comment and tell us why.