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Women staff attorneys, Oppenheimer moves, insanity defense

A new issue for women lawyers?

Above the Law ponders whether or not there’s a new “pink ghetto” into which a disproportionate number of women attorneys are being relegated.

What is the blog referring to with this odd term? It’s an update on criticism of the stratified nature of law firms that, in growing numbers, are hiring nonpartnership-track attorneys.

The practice of having “staff attorneys” has been around for a while, and there are plenty of reasons it can be a good idea – e.g. less hours, more flexibility, the opportunity for greater life balance, etc. But there’s increasing evidence that it has also become a way to take women out of the partnership equation.

Above the Law picks up the following quote from Vivia Chen at The Careerist:

“One change in the profession is the proliferation of nonpartner-track lawyers. NAWL finds that 80 percent of Am Law 100 firms and 50 percent of Second Hundred firms employ staff lawyers. But the big surprise is that ‘more than 60 percent of staff attorneys are women – the highest percentage of women lawyers in any category or practice, and by definition, a category with little possibility of career advancement.'”

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Oppenheimer firm gets a new lease on law

After 25 years, Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly has a new home.

The firm is leaving its longtime digs at the Plaza VII building in downtown Minneapolis (or “the lawyers are packing their brief cases,” as the Star Tribune reports) to go to the Campbell Mithun Tower.

“The deal, signed Monday, is one of the largest downtown lease transactions this year as high vacancies and lower rents have landlords working overtime to hold on to key tenants,” the Strib says.

The firm apparently got a good deal, with chairman Tom Letscher reporting, “The economics were too good to set aside.”

Well, that blows apart that whole notion about people going to law school because they aren’t good at math …

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Ex-nurse will face aiding suicide charges

Associated Press reports that Rice County District Judge Thomas Neuville ruled yesterday that a former Minnesota nurse who allegedly sought out depressed people in Internet chat rooms and encouraged two of them to kill themselves won’t get his case dismissed on free speech grounds.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, of Faribault, is charged with two counts of aiding suicide, for allegedly advising two people to take their lives.

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DOJ response due today in ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ case

The legal battle over the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has landed before the U.S. Supreme Court, reports the DC Dicta blog.

The Log Cabin Republicans, the GOP gay rights group that sued the Obama administration seeking an end to the policy that prohibits openly gay service members filed their appeal with the high court.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, to whom 9th Circuit petitions are assigned, asked the Department of Justice to chime in on the matter Friday. The government’s response is due today.

What will happen with this case you ask? Tough to tell.

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The best things in life are free, but a legal education is pricey

Over at JDs Rising, Minnesota Lawyer’s blog for new lawyers, attorney/blogger Kelly Francis picks up on a post from a jobless BC Law School student asking the school’s interim dean to keep his diploma in exchange for a full tuition refund.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I am a BC law grad, so I know very well the fine cafeteria food on which that student was able to dine. If the dean should get an offset for that. Plus, the law school’s in a nice area of suburban Boston, so there’s that. It has a U.S. News ranking – another offset for the dean. You get the idea.

But putting aside my fond memories of three years as a legal eagle in Newton, Mass., what does Francis think – should the lad get a refund?

“The immediate problem with this student’s proposition (and I imagine the answer that he received from interim Dean Brown) is that we are not technically purchasing a ‘diploma’ when we enroll in school, but an ‘education.'”

True enough. So, until memory extraction technology becomes commonplace, it’s no refunds, no returns with your legal education.

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An insanely tough defense to carry out

The insanity defense is rarely ever use because, among other reasons, juries just don’t tend to buy it in a society that holds individual accountability important. Rarer still is when a defendant invokes the defense and actually prevails. The defense was used with some success in a recent Martin County case involving a savagely beaten elderly farm couple. While the defendant did not win an acquittal, he did not get convicted either. The article will be published in Monday’s print edition of Minnesota Lawyer, but is also available now to subscribers on our website.

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A fond farewell to a dedicated public servant

The Strib has an obit worth checking out on longtime Anoka County Attorney R.W. Johnson, the father of the current Anoka Attorney.

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Sidebar is Minnesota Lawyer’s service providing links to items of interest to the state’s bench and bar on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Today’s installment of “Sidebar” was prepared by Minnesota Lawyer editor Mark Cohen, who can be reached at [email protected], (612) 582-1531.


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