An anonymous Illinois bar applicant took to Reddit to confess to cheating on the exam. Perhaps “anonymous” should be placed in quotes because the author proceeded to provide a ton of identifying details triggering a bar examiner investigation. Also, new data suggests lawyers should raise rates, but is that really true? And merger mania is back in Biglaw with two top-tier mergers. All that and a brief aside about Liechtenstein admiralty law.
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Joe Patrice: Hey.
Kathryn Rubino: Hey. How you doing?
Joe Patrice: I’m good. How are you?
Kathryn Rubino: I’m good. This is Thinking Like A Lawyer.
Joe Patrice: It is.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. Did you know that Chris that this is Thinking Like A Lawyer?
Chris Williams: I just woke up. I’m barely thinking like a person.
Joe Patrice: This is Thinking Like A Lawyer, your favorite legal news podcast where we talk about what’s been going on in the legal landscape. In particular, the sort of legal landscape that Above The Law would cover. You know why we talk about what Above The Law covers?
Kathryn Rubino: Because that’s where we’re from.
Joe Patrice: That’s right. I’m Joe Patrice from Above The Law and I’m joined by Kathryn Rubino.
Kathryn Rubino: Also of Above The Law.
Joe Patrice: And Chris Williams.
Chris Williams: Yes, I’m part of you all too.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, right? And so we’re here to talk about the week’s stories. With that, we normally though begin the show with a little segment that we put off to the side and we give it a little bit of fanfare. We talk to you all about —
Kathryn Rubino: It’s a lot of fanfare.
Joe Patrice: We talk about like our personal lives and stuff like that. Just it’s a little bit of a humanizing effect, is what I’m hoping for.
Kathryn Rubino: We are the people behind the podcast.
Joe Patrice: That’s right. That’s right.
Kathryn Rubino: You were just going to keep on ad-libbing until I said something so you could interrupt me.
Joe Patrice: That is correct. And now that’s done. So we’re going to begin the small talk section of the show. Small talk.
Kathryn Rubino: Small talk.
Joe Patrice: How is everybody doing?
Kathryn Rubino: Good. I just got back from a girls’ weekend with a bunch of friends that I have. We went to Savannah, Georgia which is apparently the most haunted city in the country or at least they claim that they are, built upon the dead. We walked over lots of graves where there’s just streets now. So that’s fun. It was good time though. Good time was had by all. I think the most entertained in time that I had was we went on one of those big bikes for like 10 people pedal at the same time that was also a tour. And there’s also a little bit of a pub crawl. So you would pedal through the streets, like they were cars behind us. And I’m like, “I’m so sorry, we are going as fast as our little legs are taking us.” And pull over in front of a bar, stop, get your $2 off your standard Mojitos and then get back on a bike and continue to pedal.
Joe Patrice: And you go on the road.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, super safe.
Joe Patrice: I mean that sounds like a law school hypo for an exam, if I’d ever heard one.
Kathryn Rubino: It also has some of the more liberal open-carry laws for alcohol. No lid plastic containers, but other than that have fun.
Joe Patrice: So you can’t have a lid, but so long as it’s not lidded.
Kathryn Rubino: Right. So, there’s lots of spills, but other than that, yeah. Which is why we could bring our Mojitos on the pedicab and pedal our little butts off.
Joe Patrice: Okay.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. It was a good time. Apparently it is no longer the largest city with open container laws because, well according to again one of the tour guides so you know only repeating information, have not verified it, but New Orleans recently or a couple years ago expanded their footprint of how far their open container laws go. And so Savannah moved to number two.
Joe Patrice: Well there you go.
Kathryn Rubino: So I had more fun than you did this weekend. Didn’t I Joe?
Joe Patrice: Well, yeah I mean I was sick.
Kathryn Rubino: That’s a bummer.
Joe Patrice: After returning from the conference —
Kathryn Rubino: Were you sick because you’re a ‘Bama fan and you saw them lose to Tennessee?
Joe Patrice: No. No, that had nothing to do with it. Although that was pretty epic.
Kathryn Rubino: Or did that make you feel better?
Joe Patrice: Look, I don’t hate Alabama or anything like some people.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, but it just feels good that it was.
Joe Patrice: It is. It was fantastic to see. Yeah. No, I was sick because, you know, conferences, being on work.
Kathryn Rubino: Conference life really wears you down.
Joe Patrice: It does, very little sleep running around.
Kathryn Rubino: I was joking but you were very serious about it.
Joe Patrice: And so I was sick, but I feel pretty good. It was not COVID thankfully. So that’s nice.
Kathryn Rubino: How about you Chris? What did you do this weekend?
Chris Williams: Today my house almost burned down.
Kathryn Rubino: Well that’s not great.
Chris Williams: it was hot but —
Kathryn Rubino: Well, I guess the almost part is good.
Chris Williams: The almost is good.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, the almost.
Chris Williams: So, it was 2:00 a.m. and I was grading my papers for the Gillespie’s Africana Studies course. I told my students I would get the grades to them by Friday, and Friday at this point was two days ago. So I’m in my second energy drink trying to suffer through misplaced gerunds. And I saw the light flicker in my back study. I’m like, okay that’s fine, things happen. But then it happened again. Then I was like, I should go check this. So I look around the house. I go down into the kitchen and there’s an electric fire around the dryer. Thankfully I had a fire extinguisher that I bought like two months before this, rapidly put the fire out and I’m like, okay I don’t see a fire but it doesn’t mean there isn’t one. There could be one in the walls.
Joe Patrice: In the walls, yup.
Chris Williams: So smart thing to do was call the 911 people. So I’ve dialed that number and I called the fire department to my own house and I’m sitting outside. Thankfully, I was dressed because usually at 2:00 a.m. I am not dressed like normal.
Joe Patrice: That makes sense. Most people aren’t.
Chris Williams: So I’m sitting there with my little 20-dollar fire extinguisher as the people with the big guns come by and make sure I’m not going to die of monoxide poisoning or anything. And you know now I’m fine. I got a couple hours of sleep in which weren’t as restful as usual because of the whole fire thing.
Kathryn Rubino: Almost dying thing.
Joe Patrice: No, that’s rough.
Chris Williams: But you know, the thing is, it was like it was the best conditions to almost have a house fire burned down, because I was awake, I went on my gut instinct and because it is my dryer. I’ve ran a dryer when I was asleep before. I had a fire extinguisher on me.
Joe Patrice: And also like everyone should.
Chris Williams: Everyone should. It was like 20 bucks. Besides listening to Joe’s sultry voice, if you take anything else from this podcast, buy a fucking fire extinguisher. Like they last far longer than the bottle of bourbon that you haven’t been drinking because your uncle got it for you a couple years ago, and it’s more useful. Just get one off Amazon. But yeah, that was my morning. I know that was on weekend.
Joe Patrice: Who hasn’t been drinking? And I’m like, go on.
Kathryn Rubino: it seems to be the procrastination maybe saved you and your house, because if you hadn’t been awake and watching when it was happening, who knows what have happened. So procrastination is great.
Joe Patrice: Yes, integrated them on time. Yeah. You know what, the thing that I take away from this out, one of the revelations, we’ll talk a little bit more about the Legal Trends Report that was released at the Clio Conference that I was at. But being in the small talk section since this is relevant, you know 2:00 a.m., one of the one of the revelations of the Legal Trends Report, is they run based off the data that they have what hours lawyers are actually using the system. So they can they can say like, lawyers were working at this hour of the day or whatever. But they also ran a survey of what times of the day do you want to work, and ran those against each other. Unsurprisingly, lawyers are working kind of around the clock, but when did they really want to be working? And, you know, there are people who want to keep non-traditional hours, and I prefer working from 11:00 to 1:00 that I have kids or whatever, those are all in there. But the one thing that blew me away, just by its absence, is there were people working round the clock and there were people who wanted to work in every hour segment, except 3:00 a.m. Universal me-time for attorneys is apparently 3:00 a.m. Mark it down, everybody.
Kathryn Rubino: Amazing. So, trying to get home from the bar right about then.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I guess. Anyway, we should move on and maybe that’s a good transition for us to end small talk.
Kathryn Rubino: Small talk.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. I like that new thing. All right, so let’s transition directly from that to one of the stories that I did want to talk about coming out of that Legal Trends Report, which was one of the findings of the report was that attorney rates, and now we’re talking more small and regional law firms here. I don’t think that the people who are charging upwards of $2,500.
Kathryn Rubino: It’s so your role Kirkland, don’t raise your rates.
Joe Patrice: I mean, Neal Katyal was one of the keynote speakers at this event. We know based on that kind of bankruptcy filing or whatever he was involved in, that he charges $2,450 an hour. So his rates may not need to go up. However, for small and regional law firms, they found that most are charging too little as it turns out. Based on tracking in opposite the increases in inflation, most of those lawyers are not charging enough. Now, is this an overflow of overcharging in the past just kind of catching up?
Is it a situation where inflation is kind of transitory and working through different supply chains and not yet hit law? Iffy.
Kathryn Rubino: Well I think also for those smaller firms that are dealing with individuals as clients despite inflation having a tremendous impact on the outlay of expenses for most folks, it is not really translated to an increase in salaries for a lot of people. So maybe, I don’t know where this extra DUI money is coming from.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. I mean there’s definitely that. Although, I also thought part of the issue, maybe, you know, we talked about the in the moving towards hybrid at big law levels. But I mean, it’s also trickling through everything else, especially when there are products like Clio that are allowing small lawyers to work remotely from anywhere because it’s all cloud-based. Is there a part of this that the
Kathryn Rubino: Overhead.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, the overhead is going down. They don’t need the offices they used to need. And maybe from the bottom line of what the lawyers bringing home, it’s not changed all that much. They don’t need to increase it.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, if you were lucky enough to have your lease expiring in 2021 maybe this has really worked out for you.
Joe Patrice: It’s interesting. So another aspect of it I thought that was interesting, was that Clio was reporting that to their users at least they’ve been able to increase the utilization and collection rates. It’s not a huge amount. Basically, based on their users, most people are in a position to bill about two-and-a-half hours a day or something along those lines.
Kathryn Rubino: More two-and-a-half hours?
Joe Patrice: No. No, total. Like that is ultimately out of an eight-hour day what ultimately works out to be billable in a lot of cases. And with these increase in utilizations and collections, they were getting an extra 0.2 or 0.3 hours over the last years’ worth of their data, which doesn’t seem like much but when you’re billing $300.00 an hour, which is kind of what a lot of the folks in their client base are doing. You think about it, and that 0.3 multiplied out across the whole year, means they’re bringing in an extra 30 40 grand, or something like that. You know, when that’s happening, maybe you don’t feel the need to increase your rate as much because your bottom line is improving, because that’s not you working any harder, that’s you just doing a better job of collecting on the work you are actually able to pull.
Kathryn Rubino: So don’t shed a tear for attorneys, but they should also maybe be looking at how much they’re billing.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. And like it’s always a rough situation whenever you hear this stuff because of course the access to justice gap which we usually think of as poor people not having access to legal services, which is obviously still a huge problem, but it’s increasingly becoming a gap that affects lower-middle-class, if not middle-class folks who aren’t eligible for some of the overtures we’ve made to make legal services more accessible to folks who are on the lower end. And we’ve increased rates enough that legal services aren’t available to people unless they’re rich. And so you’ve got this growing second access to justice gap and that’s the sort of thing where an increase in rates might be problematic. So even though the data suggests that it’s time to increase rates, maybe it’s not a great idea for society and all.
Kathryn Rubino: And you probably know your client base best.
Joe Patrice: Right. That’s a good way of thinking about it actually. You know your client base best. So anyway, all right. Well, this is looking down. I see that we have a bunch of messages.
Kathryn Rubino: Oh no, I’m busy right now because I’m recording a podcast. If only —
Joe Patrice: Yes, if only when you were doing your legal work, you had someone else handling and in taking those calls.
Kathryn Rubino: Right, so you can focus on the task that you are trying to accomplish and not get distracted by telephone calls when you can have a virtual receptionist take care of that mundane work.
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Male: Today’s legal news is rarely as straightforward as the headlines that accompany them. On Lawyer To Lawyer we provide the legal perspective you need to better understand the current events that shape our society. Join me, Craig Williams in a wide variety of industry experts as we breakdown the top stories. Follow Lawyer To Lawyer on the Legal Talk Network or wherever you subscribe to podcasts.
Joe Patrice: What else do we want to talk about? Let’s move to the, it’s not really law school, it’s not really practice, it’s right there in between, let’s talk about bar exams.
Kathryn Rubino: Don’t cheat.
Joe Patrice: That’s a great idea. This has been your subject check the bar they know.
Kathryn Rubino: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Joe Patrice: Okay. So this is a story that came up a couple of weeks ago but obviously I weren’t around to talk about it last week. So, there was a Reddit post in the bar exam sub-Reddit where someone made the claim that they cheated on the Illinois bar exam.
Kathryn Rubino: If you are going to cheat, don’t admit it to the internet.
Joe Patrice: I wonder though if that was a problem.
Kathryn Rubino: It is. Delete, delete post.
Joe Patrice: Well, it’s a weird post because the person also is complaining a lot about accommodations, which of course triggers a whole other set of issues because I think a lot of folks — there’s a lot of negative pushback against accommodations which people need, but there are stodgy element out there who thinks that it’s wrong that somebody might get extra time to work on something because of any issues they may have. So, it did read as though it was setting up the idea that anybody who gets accommodations is just in another room cheating because they can, which —
Kathryn Rubino: Not what’s happening.
Joe Patrice: Is not what’s happening, even if you put this as true.
Kathryn Rubino: And I know you think this as well, but it really kind of builds upon these stereotypes of folks that do you need accommodations. So I mean, it’s problematic certainly in that way that this thread is kind of building on those assumptions.
Joe Patrice: But, here’s where things get a little interesting. The intrigue of course, is that this person obviously is posting anonymously but like not anonymously, because this person’s posting all of this but also shares what law school they go to. The fact that they had failed two previously, that they had accommodations and then pass this time. With that information —
Kathryn Rubino: That’s probably a handful of folks.
Joe Patrice: I am willing to say that with all of those bits, even if it was just somebody from that law school with accommodations who passed, I think it’s a small handful. If you add in “and previously took it twice and failed”, I think you can directly pinpoint whoever the person is. Which then raise the question, is this person the dumbest person on the planet? Or is this an intentional effort to get someone else in trouble who may or may not have cheated, we don’t even know, but potentially just to put a target on somebody.
Kathryn Rubino: Interesting.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. And one of the people who, in the comments on this thread, noted that the person who posted it and they deleted a bunch of their previous Reddit posts apparently but they had in the past been on a real tirade about some ex of theirs.
Kathryn Rubino: Seems sus. It’s very very questionable, but also not the only cheating story from the last couple of weeks, which obviously when you’re talking about accommodations, there’s just more of stereotypes involved. But in this particular case, a law professor talked about finding 12 different BIC pens that have been etched with the principles of criminal procedure on them. Also, why do you need like a dozen pens to take the exam? Are you writing for seven days straight? Like I can’t imagine you would need more than two.
Joe Patrice: So here’s the thing, it’s been a while since you’ve been in law school, so you may have forgotten. But if somebody showed up with 12 pens and said, “Well I was just nervous that they might all go out and I needed backups.” That person existed. And certainly in my law school, people were like that such that I never would have blinked an eye if someone was that crazy.
Chris Williams: If there’s a person in law school who has 12 pens and they are not a character in a hypo, they have a problem. They have a problem.
Joe Patrice: They absolutely have a problem. But I’m just saying they absolutely existed. I do remember, this is not a class I was in but a second hand, I remember there was an argument being had about whether or not a take-home exam — the professor was giving everybody an opportunity whether they wanted a 72-hour take home or a 24-hour take home.
And there was one person very adamant that they needed it to be 24 because they had other tests. And I don’t know about anyone else, but if I have the time, I’m going to be working on it the full time that I have. So it’s going to disrupt my studying for everything else. And the second-hand story heard is that one person in the class who was on law review and very with it raised his hand and just said, “Look, I think in my experience it is easier to down toward neurotic than up to.” And suggested we should accommodate the idea of people not being crazy, which I thought was a really nice way of saying it in class, if you had to do that. Anyway, but yeah, so cheating a bounce don’t do it. Now, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t reform the bar exam and the bar licensing process in this country.
Kathryn Rubino: Sure, sure, sure. These are separate inquiries but also as long as it exist, don’t be a cheater.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. You should have an open-book test, because that’s actually a skill of how to be a lawyer, is to see a question and then research and correctly get the answer. That’s how the test should be done. It should not be closed book so the people don’t have to go cheat by looking things up on their phone. But that’s it. Given that this is the rule right now, you should not be cheating.
Chris Williams: Or maybe only bring three pens.
Joe Patrice: Right, new or yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean, the professor actually included image of all the pens they had confiscated them and it was a work of art. Also at a certain point, learning the material has to be easier and I bet just writing it on the pens helps you write it in your brain. The queen know that, like psychologically, like when you write things it helps your brain retain information like physically writing them out. And I’m sure etching is just more.
Chris Williams: I’m just imagining, and what it is, what I really want to say, is well I hope is that whoever was cheating in this way was also one to be like a maritime lawyer. Because what is a better way to have just like legal scrimshaw just to have like an outline in your BIC?
Joe Patrice: Has anybody ever seen? I’ve seen it, but I’ve never seen it on sale anywhere, but I’m sure if the country wanted to put it on sale. Has anybody seen the ‘Liechtenstein Maritime Law Case’ book? It’s been making the rounds. People send it around. Apparently there’s a ‘Liechtenstein Maritime Law Book’ that you open up the first page and the first page is just like, Liechtenstein has no navigable waters and there are no maritime laws. And it’s like all the book says. I’ve seen it. By, every account it doesn’t seem like it’s a spoof like because it looks like a physical copy whenever I see it. Anyway, that’s my new favorite case book. Your clients are expecting you to know a lot of things about a lot of things, even topics like domain names.
Kathryn Rubino: Domains were definitely not covered in my law school classes.
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Joe Patrice: All right, let’s do the merger talk. So, big mergers.
Kathryn Rubino: Big law big mergers.
Joe Patrice: We got Dentons taking over bringing in a firm in India, which is an interesting legal market. There’s an old episode of this podcast actually, back when we had a format where we did a lot of interviews, where I was interviewing some folks about how the law practice works in India. It’s interesting. They don’t really have a big law system because how their laws about structuring legal firms are antithetical to the firms getting very big. They basically don’t let them be big, which is part of the reason why all of those ASLPs are – did I do that right? Or is it ALSP?
Kathryn Rubino: Alternative Law.
Joe Patrice: ALSP, yeah whatever. All of those have their robust business over there because you have Indian Lawyers.
Kathryn Rubino: Because you can’t get bigger. So you got to farm some stuff out.
Joe Patrice: You have Indian lawyers who aren’t in a position to really practice who are coming out of school not able to get a law firm practice going but they can work for these ALSP’s and do legal work in India at these larger entities because they’re outside of the firm systems, which was an interesting conversation, I will endeavor to figure out what episode that was. Anyway, but yeah, Dentons now brings in an Indian law firm, which of course, is par for the Dentons course. Dentons is endeavors to be the largest Law Firm at all times and so this is one more move into a market, but it’s an interesting move because it also signaled to me whether or not, maybe India is realizing that they need to be more, you know, more modernized towards the idea of big firms with this move because it certainly puts those folks in a good position to leverage Dentons giganticness.
Kathryn Rubino: To their advantage, yeah.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: But there are more than just this merger?
Joe Patrice: Yeah, there’s a few new mofos out there. Morrison Forrester brought in a litigation boutique which was another, I mean, look bringing in litigation boutiques and stuff like that makes sense and has always and it’s also useful because you have pre-existing client base and you have a team that works well together. But what got me about it is, at least on the domestic side, now I get the international expansion, domestically we’re hearing all these talk of stealth layoffs and things going to get tough and whatever. So the idea that a firm would be going out and looking to add, and not just add one or two lawyers in like the constant lateral shuffle, but add a group of lawyers.
Kathryn Rubino: Well, I mean presumably they are also bringing their client base that had been working for them previously. But I think, I take it kind of I’m looking at other trends that I think makes this make sense, which is that we’re seeing that continued stratification in the top of big law, right? There’s a real difference between the top 50 and 50 to 100 sort of when we’re ranking firms by profits. So I think that trying to get bigger makes a lot of sense for those firms because I think it’s a way to sort of ensure your profitability.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. And I do think that there is a bit of a carve-out. Obviously litigation generally is counter-cyclical. So one is expecting that.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, I think that we had a trivia question last week.
Joe Patrice: Did we?
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, of course, we did. Where the most jobs available currently in the legal field are in litigation.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. So that’s true. And there’s also an advantage to the extent that apparently dirty tengris of the batik in question. I guess I didn’t say before, but they have a big IP base for IP litigations. Personally, I feel like IP, both the litigation side and the more transactional side, is basically recession-proof. So I feel like you got IP and litigation.
Kathryn Rubino: It’s a safe bet as far as like things go.
Joe Patrice: So, there’s a lot of people saying that this is going to be part of a trend of more — maybe mergers are still in the offing and maybe some will be, but I feel like this is kind of a unicorn situation where we’ve got a perfect match.
Kathryn Rubino: Well, congratulations to the firms that have found their perfect match. Tune in next week when we go on the law firm bachelorette and see what’s happened.
Joe Patrice: You’re doing it. You’re doing a bet.
Kathryn Rubino: Well, the way you made it sound like perfect match, you know it’s like of like —
Joe Patrice: Yeah, sure sure. I thought you were going into the conclusion or something. And I was like, good, I can kick back, she’s going to do that.
Kathryn Rubino: No, you’re going to have to work. Work it.
Joe Patrice: Fine. So that I think brings us to the end of the show. So with all that said, you should be not just listening to the show but subscribe. You can go do that and then you’ll get the new episodes when they drop. You should be giving it reviews, stars, write something, every little bit helps. You should be following us on social media. I’m @JosephPatrice, she’s @Kathryn1, Chris is @WritesForRent. The Above The law Twitter account is @atlblog. You should be reading Above The Law so you can read these and other stories as they come out. You should be listening to the other shows. Kathryn is the host of The Jabot. I’m a panelist on the Legaltech News.
No, no The Legal – See that was — I’ve not had an issue in a while and you all like made faces.
Kathryn Rubino: I did not.
Chris Williams: All I know is Kath have said work for it and you fumbled.
Joe Patrice: The Legaltech Week —
Kathryn Rubino: You did it again.
Joe Patrice: No. I didn’t. I did it right there. See, it doesn’t work.
Chris Williams: You don’t in Legaltech.
Joe Patrice: No. I did it right the second time and you laughed over it anyway. I’m turning this roundtable. Then you should also be listening to the other Legal Talk Network shows much like On The Road which you got access to last week.
Kathryn Rubino: You probably heard an episode of that last week.
Joe Patrice: Yes, they did. That is correct.
Kathryn Rubino: I was talking to the audience like individually.
Joe Patrice: But they did. You said it like it was sly like they didn’t get it, but they did.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean they did. They got in their feed and they tried to listen to it is what I’m saying.
Joe Patrice: Right. Yeah. Where you could have heard me give an interview untainted by my co-hosts.
Kathryn Rubino: I bet no one interrupted you. And we are all poor err for it.
Joe Patrice: In fairness I was interrupted by the PA system which blared at one point but I think the editors were able to get that out. Anyway, with all that said, you should do those things.
Kathryn Rubino: Great.
Chris Williams: And get a fire extinguisher.
Joe Patrice: And get a fire extinguisher.
Joe Patrice: And thank you as always to Posh and GoDaddy Domain Broker Service for sponsoring the show.
Kathryn Rubino: Thanks.