Archive for the ‘Access to Justice’ Category

A friend of mine hired a lawyer to help him create a trust in which to put some of his earnings. The lawyer charged $800/hr. Another friend needed a lawyer to appear with him (for a few hours) at his administrative hearing to help him contest his termination. The fee was $20,000. The fee for a lawyer to advise a friend on a single provision in his mother’s trust was $1,500. An attorney in my office once described the sense of guilt she sometimes feels when she looks at the total amount due on the invoice she is about to send out. “Don’t feel guilty!” a colleague told her. “Everyone else charges that much. You deserve it too!” If clients are willing to pay it, why should lawyers charge less? Legal fees of $1,500 or $20,000 – or even $300 – are so out of touch with the cost of […]

The gap in the middle The U.S. ranks last among peer nations in access to legal services. Despite a very crowded legal profession, millions of Americans — those who are too rich for subsidized legal services but too poor to afford a private attorney at market rates of around $200 to $350 an hour — lack access to high-quality, or any, legal assistance. As Jeanne Charn puts it, our legal system has had “a nearly exclusive focus on the very poor at the expense of middle income people who also cannot afford traditional market-rate lawyer services.” It guarantees help to those who have incomes of 125% above the poverty line but offers nothing to those whose incomes are at 150 or 200% of the poverty line, but who also cannot afford the legal assistance they need. As lawyers know, the law guarantees the right to a (government-subsidized) attorney if you are […]

As a society, we must figure out how to rapidly re-skill a vast number of people on an ongoing basis to both remain relevant globally and to avoid long periods of high unemployment. ~ Harvard Business Review There is a gap between what schools teach and what employers need their employees to know. The highest-growing job sectors –among both white-collar (biochemists, market research analysts) and blue-collar (contractors, electricians) jobs — are those in which extensive preparation and up-to-date skill development is required. Low-skill jobs (postal mail carriers, switchboard operators) are becoming more and more scarce. A study by the Harvard Business Review and Deloitts’s Shift Index found that America is in a “cycle of obsolescence”: what students learn in college is obsolete within a few years. The result is that college graduates can’t find jobs — more than half of those who have received a college degree since 2006 cannot find full-time jobs, according […]

There is a large, and growing, mismatch between either (1) the number of law school graduates we are producing and the jobs available for them to fill or (2) the kind of law school graduates we are producing and the jobs available for them to fill. Or both. The numbers gap Over the last five years, ABA accredited schools have graduated at least 73,652 students (33.5 – 38.1% of graduates) who did not obtain jobs practicing law within nine months of graduation. In the most recent year, 2011, the percentage was 40.2% (best case) to 44.0% (worst case). (Source: Deborah Jones Merritt, “The Declining Job Market for Law School Graduates, 2001-2011“) According to figures recently released by the National Association of Legal Professionals, nine months after graduation, 83% of 2011 graduates from the 20 schools with the highest employment were working as lawyers; 31% of those from the bottom 20 were working as lawyers. The […]

Glitz and glamor One night during my first couple weeks at law school, my First Law Professor Ever — scion of an old-world order who still enjoys a nightly bourbon and cigar — invited my class of about 150 people, plus guests, to the offices of a prestigious New York City law firm for a little soiree overlooking the city. Somewhere between a sip of wine and a bite of cheese, FLPE stopped us all for a moment to welcome us to the profession. Sweeping his arms toward the sparkling night vista before us — the towering skyscrapers of the Financial District, the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge, the thousands of tiny pinpricks of light below — he finished off his little speech with a stentorian, “You’ve made it! The world is your oyster!” It was perhaps the setting — in a swanky law firm, with the city at our […]

In Spiritual Intelligence, The Ultimate Intelligence, Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall, write, “The young son of a Chilean biologist, Umberto Maturana, became unhappy at school because he felt his teachers were making it impossible for him to learn. They wanted to teach him what they knew, rather than drawing out what he needed to learn. As a result Maturana wrote “The Student’s Prayer,” of which this translation is an abridged version. It expresses the spiritually intelligent individual’s response to the conforming pressures of parents, teachers, bosses or the crowd.” A Student’s Prayer Umberto Maturana Don’t impose on me what you know, I want to explore the unknown And be the source of my own discoveries. Let the known be my liberation, not my slavery. The world of your truth can be my limitation; Your wisdom my negation. Don’t instruct me; let’s walk together. Let my richness begin where yours ends. Show me so […]

In his book The Global Achievement Gap, educator Tony Wagner identifies the core competencies everyone should master by the end of high school: Critical thinking and problem solving (the ability to ask the right questions) Collaboration across networks and leading by influence Agility and adaptability Initiative and entrepreneurialism Accessing and analyzing information Effective written and oral communication Curiosity and imagination How to teach these competencies? Perhaps by following the mantra, “First do no harm.” In another book, Creating Innovators, Wagner identifies five ways in which current educational practices actively undermine the development of these competencies: By focusing on individual achievement (e.g., GPA), schools fail to promote collaboration skills. By rewarding specialization, which hinders innovation. Wagner says the director of talent at Google once told him, “If there’s one thing that educators need to understand, it’s that you can neither understand nor solve problems within the context and bright lines of subject content.” By penalizing mistakes, which makes students risk-averse. […]

After the invention of the printing press, Europe experienced a Renaissance in art, science, and scholarship. Will the new learning structures made possible by the web allow a neo-Renaissance in our own time? Fred Wilson, VC and principal of Union Square Ventures, recently assembled a group of “leading thinkers, educators, and entrepreneurs” to talk about reinventing the “traditional school model of education.” The web, says Wilson, “transfers control from institutions to individuals and it is going to do that to education too.” How? According to Wilson’s group: (1) “The student . . . is increasingly going to take control of his/her education including choice of . . . curriculum.” We now have not only the web, but also a rise in crowdsourced knowledge. I think this would in many ways be a positive development. The most finely wrought curriculum in the world is of little value if it is not tailored to the needs, interests, and […]

A study of our academic elite In an Atlantic Monthly article from 2001, “The Organization Kid,” David Brooks writes about going to Princeton University to learn about “what the young people who are going to be running our country in a few decades are like.”What Brooks found with respect to the over-structured lives of the Princeton undergraduates he spoke to is very close to how I remember my undergraduate classmates at Harvard from 1999 to 2003: I asked several students to describe their daily schedules, and their replies sounded like a session of Future Workaholics of America: crew practice at dawn, classes in the morning, resident-adviser duty, lunch, study groups, classes in the afternoon, tutoring disadvantaged kids in Trenton, a cappella practice, dinner, study, science lab, prayer session, hit the StairMaster, study a few hours more. One young man told me that he had to schedule appointment times for chatting with his friends. No time […]