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LST's I Am The Law

I Am The Law is a show about law jobs. We profile recent and seasoned law school graduates in different jobs to help listeners learn about the legal profession.
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Jun 21, 2015

This episode is presented by The United States Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corp.

Where did you say you went to school? In a state where 75% of active lawyers went to one school, where you attended law school matters a great deal. While South Dakota is an extreme, it's just one example of how your law school choice can pay off or hamper you.

In this episode, we interview insurance defense litigator and University of South Dakota School of Law alumna Meghann Joyce. While she's hired and paid for by insurance companies, her clients are the insured defending, among other claims, professional liability and employment suits. A lawyer's duty of loyalty runs to the client, but business realities produce very real ethical dilemmas for Meghann and her co-workers.

Despite being a litigator, she's almost never in the court room -- a frustration common to civil litigators. Instead her work can be categorized as largely pre-trial practice. She's often steeped in research and brief writing. Her job responsibilities and expectations have evolved since she started, but the unpredictability of her days continues.

This episode is hosted by Kimber Russell, an account executive at Planet Depos, an international court reporting firm. It is sponsored by Barbri Law Preview and Top-Law-Schools.com.

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Jun 8, 2015

This episode is presented by The United States Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corp.

Don't make a federal case of it! Or do. That's a choice left to attorneys for the United States Government.

In this episode, Assistant U.S. Attorney and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law alumnus Mike Hunter details his role in the criminal justice system. From 4th Amendment advice for federal agents making a bust to deciding which cases to take, when to seek indictments, and who to make plea agreements with, Mike tells us how he makes choices in pursuit of justice.

This episode is hosted by Debby Merritt, a law professor at Ohio State University. It is sponsored by Barbri Law Preview and Top-Law-Schools.com.

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Jun 1, 2015

This episode is presented by The United States Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corp.

At a large law firm, the hours, pay, exit opportunities, and desire to leave are among the tradeoffs associates continuously negotiate -- if you can get the job in the first place. In this episode, Holly Carnell, a 2009 graduate of Loyola University Chicago School of Law, describes her challenge of getting a biglaw job from a non-elite law school.

Holly discusses her corporate healthcare practice in the Chicago office of McGuireWoods. Like associates at many large firms, she's seen her responsibilities evolve in her six years in practice. Holly tells how she learned on the job, but also how she developed one of her most important skills before ever going to law school. Her sales background helps her meet the firm's expectations that she build her brand and a book of business.

As a corporate healthcare attorney, she has a broad practice in the healthcare space. She spends a lot of time helping healthcare providers draft contracts, properly engage employees, and remain in compliance with the many applicable laws. Additionally, she does contracts and due diligence for private equity firms buying and selling healthcare companies. While the job may have been difficult to get, she's finding that excelling in the job has more to do with doing quality work, managing junior associates, and exercising good judgment than where she went to school.

This episode is hosted by Derek Tokaz, an academic writing teacher at American University. It is sponsored by Barbri Law Preview and Top-Law-Schools.com.

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May 18, 2015

This episode is presented by The United States Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corp.

The integrity of our criminal justice system depends on every individual receiving high-quality legal counsel -- even those who are guilty. Sometimes the attorney is hired by the defendant. Other times the attorney is appointed by the government. 

In this episode, Vermont criminal defense lawyer and Washington & Lee College of Law alumna Jessica Burke details her role in the criminal justice system. From her approach to plea bargaining to her philosophy on fee arrangements, her choices underscore the importance of letting clients make informed choices about their future. After all, it's the client's freedom on the line.

Although she held several different jobs in Virginia, Jessica moved to Vermont to be closer to family. She's about to hire the firm's third attorney, just a few years after starting a solo practice while working at a winery. Jessica tells us how she managed to grow her firm in a saturated legal market. The key for her was to expand the geography she covers, rather than the scope of practice.

This episode is hosted by Aaron Taylor, a law professor at St. Louis University. It is sponsored by Barbri Law Preview and Top-Law-Schools.com.

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May 11, 2015

This episode is presented by The United States Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corp.

What did you just call me? Many Americans are late -- way late -- on their debt obligations. But debt does not entitle a debt collector to use racial epithets, shame consumers, or call them at certain times. In fact, these practices are illegal.

In this episode, Minnesota consumer rights lawyer and William Mitchell College of Law alumnus Pete Barry explains the federal law that drives his law practice. What does Pete do? "I sue debt collectors." He uses this phrase on his website, as well as at cocktail parties. Explaining what he does in such simple, yet clear terms helps him market to those who don't realize they've been legally harmed.

Pete has owned his own firm since he graduated law school nearly 20 years ago. He describes important criteria for taking a client, what's at the core of every lawsuit, and why we're all better off for the accountability he causes.

This episode is hosted by Debby Merritt, a law professor at Ohio State University. It is sponsored by Barbri Law Preview and Top-Law-Schools.com.

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Mar 23, 2015

Five years ago, while still in law school at the University of Washington, Marissa Olsson interned at a small, Seattle-based maritime law firm. She earned a full-time job by making herself indispensable to the firm's three attorneys. Today, she helps fishermen, ferry workers, and others sue their employers when they've been injured at work. These maritime workers sue under the Jones Act, a federal statute that allows those injuried "in service of the vessel" to sue for negligence.

Although her confidence and skills have grown noticeably, she routinely faces opposing counsel who treat her differently because she's a woman. "It seemed to me like it was a battle that had already been won." Her new outlook followed becoming a lawyer. "I wasn't doing anything where I stepped outside of expectations for a 20-something female. But once I became a lawyer, I joined an old boy's club." Despite these frustrations, Marissa uses them as motivation to maximize client recovery and to make positive changes in the legal profession.

Marissa's maritime practice is similar to other personal injury work. She must assess the value of potential cases to decide whether to invest her time and resources because her compensation is tied to recovery. She avoids filing suit when possible, but sometimes it's an essential step to making her clients whole.

This episode is hosted by Keith Lee, an Alabama attorney and author.

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Mar 16, 2015

There are many ways lawyers protect the public from wrongdoing. The lawsuit is one tool, but professional licensing boards also play a major role. Lawyers advise these boards on the creation of professional rules of conduct, and prosecute those who violate them.

In this episode, we talk to Vanderbilt Law School alumna Johanna Barde, a lawyer for the Tennessee Department of Health. In her capacity as assistant general counsel, Johanna creates public health policy -- researching and writing rules of conduct -- and prosecutes medical professionals during administrative hearings before state health boards. Her Department is part of the vast "administrative state" in the United States that runs parallel to the civil and criminal system.

For a medical professional, her property right -- a license -- is at stake during these hearings. When the government tries to take that right away, she's afforded due process. At the hearing, just like a trial, Johanna must litigate the facts and the law to persuade the decision-maker of her case. She subpoenas and interviews witnesses, makes opening and closing statements, argues rules of evidence and procedure, and ultimately wins or loses. The work can be repetitive and depressing, Johanna admits, but her colleagues and desire to protect the public health keep her motivated.

This episode is hosted by Debby Merritt, a law professor at Ohio State University.

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Mar 9, 2015

Oops, the doctor used an infected surgical instrument and now you're sick. If the doctor won't admit to wrongdoing, how do you prove that the tool was not only infected, but caused your illness? Medical malpractice lawyers specialize in this tangle of medical responsibilities, norms, and facts.

In this episode, Louisiana lawyer and Washington University School of Law alumnus Greg Aycock tells us how he transitioned from representing defendants to representing plaintiffs. He left his insurance defense practice on a leap of faith, despite limited cash, to be his own boss at his own firm. Until he can afford to pay for help, Greg spends a lot of his time doing accounting, marketing, and many administrative tasks.

Until Greg gets his medical malpractice practice off the ground, he pays the rent with divorces and child custody work. Family law pays hourly, compared to the speculative and risky contingency fee emblematic of plaintiff work. For either practice, Greg spends considerable time explaining the legal process and law to clients, while keeping them under control so that he can present their best case possible.

This episode is hosted by Mike Spivey, a consultant for prospective and current law students.

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Mar 2, 2015

Biglaw is changing. America's largest firms are experimenting with a variety of attorney tracks with less pay, fewer hours, and different expectations. Among the pioneers is WilmerHale, one of the largest law firms in the world. As part of the firm's larger effort to reduce overhead expenses, WilmerHale DiscoverySolutions -- located in Dayton, Ohio -- provides litigation support for WilmerHale attorneys around the country.

Nat Croumer, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, is the Discovery Attorney Administrative Manager for the WilmerHale DiscoverySolutions team. He's responsible for managing the firm’s discovery attorneys. In this role, he oversees coaching and career development, hiring, personnel matters, budgeting and finance, and marketing of the group.

In this episode, we learn about the discovery process, as well as how Nat's team fits into the big picture at WilmerHale. Electronic document discovery, or e-Discovery, may not be sexy, but it is essential to modern civil litigation.

This episode is hosted by Debby Merritt, a law professor at Ohio State University.

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Feb 23, 2015

Small and mid-size nonprofits have many legal needs that would not be met without the generous donation of time and resources by lawyers around the country. To this end, the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta (PBP-ATL) organizes local volunteer lawyers to meet the non-litigation needs of nonprofit clients. From contracts to corporate governance, PBP-ATL maximizes the impact Georgia nonprofits have on their communities. After all, organizations need legal services not just when something goes wrong, but also to prevent problems in the first place.

Rachel Spears is the executive director of PBP-ATL. Like many nonprofit leaders, she first practiced at a very large law firm. She tells us how issue spotting plays a central role in matching expert volunteers to clients. Not only does Rachel need vast legal knowledge to see what her clients don't, but she also needs to manage her board of directors and staff, develop a budget, do the books, fundraise, and more.

It turns out that focusing too much on your mission can actually impede your organizational success. Rachel can sympathize with her clients that simply want to help, but it's clear that ignoring fundraising or running afoul of state or federal regulations puts you on track to help nobody. Organizations like PBP-ATL are rare and small, but keep nonprofits within the law by leveraging the generosity of members of the legal profession.

This episode is hosted by Mike Spivey, a consultant for prospective and current law students.

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Feb 16, 2015

Deportation can rip families apart, and it's up to immigration lawyers to help individuals seek relief under the law. The job is pressure-filled and has high stakes. In this episode, immigration attorney and St. Mary's University School of Law graduate Manuel Escobar discusses his experience representing people whose livelihoods are on the line.

As Manuel tells us, an essential part of his practice is interacting with clients during "intake" sessions. Manuel spends a portion of every day interviewing clients, some of whom are petitioning for family members or are interested in learning how the law can affect them. Other clients are battling deportation and are desperate for help. "We have clients whose backs are against the wall," Manuel explains. "There is a lot at stake with immigration."

Manuel addresses some key questions pertinent to immigration law. What options are available to those seeking relief from deportation? How does an immigration attorney prepare for hearings? What challenges do immigration lawyers face, and which strategies can help mitigate stress from work? 

This week's episode is hosted by Debby Merritt, a law professor at the Ohio State University.

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Feb 9, 2015

One of the most famous cases in U.S. history involved a writ of mandamus -- an order to a government agency or official to behave in accordance with the law. In Marbury v. Madison, William Marbury asked the U.S. Supreme Court to order the U.S. Secretary of State (James Madison) to affirm Marbury's commission as the D.C. Justice of the Peace.

Today, courts still use these writs to compel government action. In this episode, Michael Morguess discusses his new solo practice in southern California, where he frequently seeks writs of mandamus for clients fired by government agencies. Michael's clients come to him when they need to appeal an unfavorable result from an administrative hearing. The job of the court is to review the administrative proceedings to ensure that the agency proceeded in accordance with the law, that the employee received a fair trial with the agency, and that the agency's decision is supported by the evidence and findings.

Michael has not only spent many years helping government employees, but he's also been across the aisle representing cities and in chambers clerking for a California state judge who ruled on the very writs he seeks. So when he writes and argues briefs for a judge, he knows exactly what everybody is thinking. With jobs and livelihoods on the line, Michael faces a lot of pressure, but the intellectual challenge and thrill of victory buoy his non-traditional litigation practice.

This episode is hosted by Debby Merritt, a law professor at Ohio State University.

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  LST Links

 

Feb 2, 2015

Think you might be allergic to litigation? In this episode, real estate attorney and University of Texas School of Law alumna Barbara Stewart shares what keeps her out of the courtroom.

Barbara started her career as in-house counsel for a large communications company before venturing into real estate law. Today, she helps clients purchase and sell residential homes. She spends her time drafting real estate transaction documents -- usually from forms -- and helping people understand the process.

Now that she's on her own, she's able to provide valuable insight into running a modern real estate practice. Barbara outlines several common trappings that face real estate attorneys. If her sky-high malpractice insurance is any measure, its among the riskier practice areas around.

This week's show is hosted by Aaron Taylor, a law professor at St. Louis University.

Episode Links

Jan 26, 2015

Interested in becoming a public defender? Appointed to represent those who cannot afford an attorney, public defenders play an essential role in the criminal justice system. Oft-romanticized in television shows and in movies, public defense is a complex field that bears little resemblance to its glamorous portrayals crafted by Hollywood execs.

In this episode, former public defender and University of Georgia Law alumna Laurie Landsittel gives us valuable insight into the day-to-day duties of public defenders. What are the different types of public defenders? What is the typical caseload for attorneys in this field, and how often can public defenders expect their cases to go to trial? 

Laurie also discusses some of her personal experiences working as a public defender, such as her biggest challenges representing defendants that had committed serious crimes, as well as the time that she helped a teenage girl get out of jail and back on her feet. "That is what public defenders do," Laurie tells us. "If you want to help, it’s never ending."

This week's show is hosted by Derek Tokaz, LST's research director.

Episode Links

Jan 23, 2015

See that shiny new smart phone of yours? It's the product of many powerful inventions created by engineers and protected by patents. The patent system seeks to protect these inventions in exchange for detailed public disclosure about how they work.

In this episode, we hear from patent attorney Carlos Rosario, a graduate of Santa Clara University School of Law. Though he graduated 3.5 years ago, he has twice switched law firms in Silicon Valley to strike his ideal balance between patent prosecution and patent litigation. Today, Carlos works for one of the largest intellectual property firms in the world. It turns out that if you want to concentrate on patent litigation, you all-but need to work for a large firm.

Like many students, Carlos was attracted to intellectual property prior to law school because he found technology exciting. This interview illustrates the IP world to listeners generally—including whether certain IP lawyers need special credentials—before diving into the particulars of day-to-day practice. Ultimately, you'll get a feel for patent practice and can unpack whether it’s as glamorous as it seems. For Carlos, he is right at home in the combative yet collaborative litigation process. 

This episode is hosted by Mike Spivey, a consultant for prospective and current law students.

Episode Links

 LST Links

Jan 21, 2015

Crash! The U.S. tort system provides civil redress when one party unfairly harms another. Plaintiff lawyers represent clients who allegedly suffered physical, emotional, and economic injuries as the result of somebody else's negligent or intentional action. Despite the alleged harms, in the vehicle collision world, the injured rarely file lawsuits and trials almost never happen.

In this episode, we talk to Tricia Dennis, a graduate of the University of Tennessee School of Law. She's been a personal injury attorney in Chattanooga, TN for almost 30 years. While she's become extremely successful in her solo practice specializing in vehicle collisions, she provides a sobering look at how small law firm economics impact new and experienced practitioners.

From dealing with sexist attorneys to corralling tough clients, Tricia reveals several challenges she's faced in her career. She walks us through client intake, negotiations, and settlement from a plaintiff lawyer's perspective. By the end of the interview, listeners understand that, more than anything, Tricia is a small business owner who helps her clients navigate an insurance maze.

This episode is hosted by Debby Merritt, a law professor at Ohio State University.

 

 

 

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LST Links

Jan 19, 2015

Divorces don't have winners or losers. They're messy disputes over assets and kids. The lawyers who handle them? Many just want to help their clients move on with their lives as quickly as possible.

When Gabriel Cheong—owner of a small family law firm in Boston—graduated from Northeastern Law School at the start of the Great Recession, his back was against the wall. Today he's proven that he can build a sustainable business by putting client needs first. In this episode, Gabriel explains how his use of technology and fixed fees maximizes time spent on his clients' legal dilemmas.

Gabriel’s practice does not reflect what you see on Law & Order. He devotes most of his time to paperwork rather than arguing in court. He mixes traditional litigation with mediation, conciliation, and guardian ad litem. With this kind of work, Gabriel experiences emotional ups and downs. Yet he observes that they’re two sides of the same coin. After all, his job is to help clients whose lives are being torn apart.

This episode is hosted by Aaron Taylor, a law professor at St. Louis University.

Episode Links

 LST Links

Jan 5, 2015

I Am The Law is the inaugural podcast produced by Law School Transparency for LST Radio.

In the introductory episode, LST's executive director (Kyle McEntee) outlines why LST decided to venture into public radio. He'll interview legal education leaders and others about why the show is important for the legal profession and those seeking to join it.

LST's mission is to make entry to the legal profession more transparent, affordable, and fair. We have thus far focused on the statistical side of choosing whether and where to go to law school -- check out the LST Reports here. But statistics only tell part of the story. Students need to know what law jobs are really like when deciding to make the significant and important decision to join the legal profession. Unfortunately, the legal profession can be a bit of a black box.

Enter I Am The Law. Each episode of IATL (after this one!) will profile a different law school graduate. Every week, we'll ask probing questions that reveal what the practice of law is really like. We'll interview public defenders, prosecutors, corporate attorneys, e-Discovery specialists, and more.

As a result, listeners will be better equipped to make more informed career decisions.

Tune in on January 19, 2015 for the first informational interview with Gabriel Cheong, a family law attorney in Boston, Massachusetts.

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