Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Attorneys cheer as law school numbers dwindle

It's no secret that the myth of law school being an easy path to riches is largely just that -- a myth. An article in today's edition of The Courier-Journal provides the latest numbers behind the disturbing trend of declining applications at law schools nationally and in Kentucky. Here's a glimpse:

U of L
2011: 1,495
2012: 1,109
2013: 749
2014: 618
Decline: 59%
2011: 1,114
2012: 1,168
2013: 919
2014: 672
Decline: 39%
2011: 891
2012: 717
2013: 681
2014: 524
Decline: 41%

The number of applications is dropping, the article says, in large part because smart students realize that the job market for freshly minted lawyers is not strong enough to justify the mountain of student loan debt that often comes with a three-year Juris Doctor degree. Even at a school such as U of L Law, where tuition is far lower than private schools, it's not difficult to pick up a $60,000 or even $80,000 tab if you are borrowing for tuition and taking a cost-of-living stipend.

But what gets me about the C-J's very well-written article is not the application drop. It's the quotes from practicing lawyers who are cheering the bottom falling out in our industry. One criminal defense attorney said the trend is "great news," while another remarked that some local lawyers are "starving" for work.

It's true that we're enduring a market correction in the legal industry, and fewer applications to law schools may result in a better job market for new grads over the next few years. But if you ask me, the pallor mortis hanging over law schools is not a good thing in the long term. I agree with the following thoughts from Susan Duncan, U of L's law school dean:

While polls show most Americans distrust lawyers, Duncan says they will care about declining law school enrollment "if the quality of legal services declines" or if they can't get "an expert lawyer when they need one."
She also said that it is in the country's best interest to ensure that "the best and brightest" go to law school.
She cited a statement from the American Association of Law Schools on the value of a legal education that says "progress begins with the rule of law" and that it is "the foundation of our society."

Once upon a time, I had similar thoughts about journalism, an industry that has been rocked even more than the law in recent years. Before I bailed out of newspapers and went to law school, my job prospects often felt uncertain, but I never cheered for the industry to implode. For the same reason, I wouldn't steer anyone away from law school now. If you are smart, hard-working, and most importantly have a passion for justice and helping others, my advice is to ignore these negative comments of practicing attorneys. The law school route isn't easy. But if you are fully committed, when you reach the battlefield, there's a good chance they will be no match for you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Judge's orders: lawyers need vacations

Sitting in front of a federal judge at a recent hearing, I picked up a valuable grain of wisdom. Teams of lawyers on both sides were negotiating a schedule in a class action lawsuit. Someone mentioned that they might need another week to submit the final version of a document because someone in the office took a vacation. It was almost like an apology. Like the attorney dared to take a break from the hectic pace of the legal profession. But the judge didn't blink.

"I'm all in favor of lawyers taking vacations," he announced, and then quickly extended everyone's deadlines.

The judge was right. Lawyers do need breaks. Our work is stressful. If we do not achieve the desired result, a client may lose thousands or even millions of dollars. Or maybe they'll go to prison, or lose the right to see their kids on weekends. As I take on more responsibility as an associate attorney, tackling larger and more complex cases, I understand these high stakes. And I see the value of balancing long hours with a few breaks in between. It doesn't have to be a month-long junket to the other side of the planet.

Over the weekend, I had a fantastic getaway with a couple of guy friends on the Ohio River. We paddled kayaks for 30-plus miles, from Madison, Indiana, to the outskirts of Louisville, camped on a beautiful sand beach, and sipped bourbon as the waves lapped the shoreline. It was a page out of Huck Finn, with a dose of Walt Whitman and a few coal barges mixed in. The trip reminded me that the beauty of the outdoors is often just a few steps from my home here in Louisville. And now I'm back in the saddle early on a Monday morning, the first one in the office, ready to slay the dragon and fight for justice for my clients. But first, a few photos.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Louisville beats nation in latest lawyer jobs report

Graduates of the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law are snagging jobs in greater numbers than their peers at other schools, a new report shows.

The latest numbers from the ABA show that, out of 127 graduates in U of L's Class of 2013, a total of 104 students — 82 percent of them — had secured jobs where bar passage is required or it is an advantage to have a J.D. Only eight of those students were unemployed and still seeking a job. Both figures are pretty much unchanged from the previous year's data on Class of 2012 grads.

The local numbers are better than the nation as a whole. For example, a friend and fellow U of L grad who is now a reporter published this online story showing the following:

"Nationally, 11.2 percent of graduates from the class of 2013 were unemployed and seeking work as of Feb. 15, up from 10.6 percent in 2012. Only 57 percent of graduates were working in long-term, full-time positions where bar admission is required, which is an increase of almost a full percentage point over 2012.

The class of 2013 was the largest ever, according to the ABA, with 46,776 students earning degrees. About 4 percent of employed graduates were working in positions funded by law schools, most in short-term, part-time jobs."

I've written about law school employment issues many times before on this blog. You can slice the statistics any way you want, but the bottom line in my view is that students are better off at schools such as U of L where tuition is relatively low, and there is not a bevy of competing nearby law schools in the area (UK and IU are an hour's drive away, and NKU is closer to 90 minutes). It also goes without saying that you probably shouldn't go to any law school unless you have a solid game plan for what you are going to do with that expensive degree. Congrats to UofL grads who are entering the job market, and good luck!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ten Reasons I Love Louisville More Than Ever

It's tough to live somewhere ten years and call it short term. This dawned on me a few months back when I passed the decade mark as a Kentuckian. It's easily the longest amount of time I've lived anywhere — including Vermont, Indiana, Ohio and Oregon — since childhood. And while I've been restless from time to time, the truth is I love Louisville and Kentucky more with each passing year. Cue the drum-roll for my Top Ten List of reasons to dig the River City that have nothing to do with Derby. 

10. The Highlands. Just when I think I’ve checked out every restaurant, pub, and art gallery, something new pops up. I’ve lived in this funky neighborhood for all ten of my Louisville years, and it keeps getting better. My wife and I met friends over the weekend for drinks, and our theme was “places we’ve never been” that are close to our houses. We started at El Camino (see photo below), a hip new taqueria with a surfing vibe. We hit three other new places nearby, and probably could do the same thing again next weekend. Other great neighborhoods: Crescent Hill, Clifton, Germantown, NuLu.

9. Outdoor Rec. I’m an outdoor junkie, whether it’s biking, kayaking, running, or skiing. You might think, after ten years, that I’d have a good handle on all the local hidden gems for outdoor recreation. Not true. In just the last year, I’ve discovered half a dozen new whitewater kayaking surf holes (lower pool, McAlpine Lock and Dam), and a bunch of new cycling and running routes (tip of the hat to the new Big Four Bridge and the new sections of the Ohio River Greenway in Indiana).

8. A Terrific Job. The market for new lawyers is generally terrible, but that’s not the case in Louisville. Most of my colleagues from the Class of 2012 at U of L's Brandeis School of Law are gainfully employed in jobs that we love. I count myself in this group. I love my job as a trial lawyer at Jones Ward PLC, fighting for people who are injured by big corporations. It brings new challenges every day, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. 

7. Urban Living. One of my pet peeves is waiting in lines. Same goes for sitting in traffic. In Louisville, I get the benefits of living in a big city without the hassle of a terrible commute. My drive to work down East Broadway lasts about five minutes. The coffee in my to-go cup barely gets touched. 

6. Great Public Schools. JCPS gets a bad rap for long bus rides, and its Rube Goldberg student enrollment system. I  have no complaints. My kids attend a magnet school a mile from our house, where the test scores are among the best in the nation and kids call teachers by their first names. There are no hall passes, no dress code, and very few discipline problems. 

5. U of L. A few years ago the University of Louisville unveiled a giant billboard along Interstate 65, proclaiming the school as the best college sports town in America. Some people laughed. But not anymore. The school’s sports teams won so many titles in 2013 that national media dubbed it the “Year of the Cardinal.” I grew up in a pro sports town, but I’m now a full convert to the hysteria of March Madness, plus college soccer, football, and baseball. Bring on the ACC in 2015. 

4.  Progress, Progress. Kentucky might not be known for left-leaning ideals but Louisville a pretty progressive place. We’re pushing for more bike paths, creating arts districts, reinventing downtown, expanding parks, and preserving our heritage of great architecture, from the Victorians of Old Louisville to the cast-iron facades of Main Street.  Don’t get me wrong, the city could be more progressive. But it’s pretty good right now, and getting better all the time. 

3. Booming Business. The River City has always seemed like an easy place to launch a new venture. In my time here I’ve managed rental property, flipped houses, run a tree removal business, and started a law practice. My wife runs a bed and breakfast, and she recently launched herown self-run business as a clinical social worker. In all these endeavors, we’ve met people who provided us with advice, encouragement, and ideas. The city’s business vibe is friendly and supportive, about as far from cutthroat as you can get. 

2.  Family Friendly. For all the cool grown-up stuff to do here, the bigger draw for me is how easy it is to raise a family. The low cost of living allows us to have a house with plenty of room that’s close to almost everything we want to do. The kids’ basketball and soccer leagues are just a mile or two from home. Same with Cub Scouts, church, indoor soccer, Lakeside Swim Club and other family-friendly venues. 

1. A hometown for the wandering spirit. Louisville, and maybe to a larger extent Kentucky, has a Southern sense of hospitality and charm that is easy to take for granted until you spend time elsewhere. If you are a military brat, a gypsy, or just don’t like where you’re from, chances are Louisville will change your mind about the concept of home. This place, with its amazing people and independent funky spirit will make you want to settle in and stay awhile. And it’s home to bourbon, lots of bourbon. Come on.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant Litigation: My Corner of the Legal Universe

A friend recently asked me how I spend my time as a lawyer. She is an attorney in Florida, handling  real estate issues, wills and trusts. I know a little bit about those areas, but not much. Like a lot of attorneys, I know a little about a lot of areas, and a lot about a few tiny niche subjects.

In the last few weeks, for example, I helped a Spanish speaking lady find help with child support. I talked to a prospective client about a medical malpractice case, and discussed a debt collection issue with a friend whose property was damaged by a renter. I also spent time preparing for a trial in a car wreck case. But the vast majority of my energy was devoted to the finer points of litigating on behalf of patients with failed metal-on-metal prosthetic hip implants. If you're keeping track at home, that falls into the field of torts, in the area of product liability, in medical devices. It's a pretty small corner of the legal world, but many lawyers spend their time hanging out in these niche areas. Here's a blog post that I wrote about hip implant injuries, for our law firm, Jones Ward PLC.

"Metal-on-metal hip implants made by DePuy, Zimmer, Stryker and other companies can fail after just a few years, forcing the patient to undergo a painful and costly revision surgery. But that’s just the starting point in terms of injuries that some of these defective devices can cause unhappy customers. Here are some of the other problems that can result from a failed metal-on-metal total hip arthroplasty:
Dislocation after revision: after the metal hip is surgically removed, it’s not uncommon for the patient to experience a painful dislocation in the following months. This usually requires a return trip to the hospital, where the surgeon performs a closed reduction or open reduction operation to re-join the femoral components.
Foot drop: even the most skilled surgeons face a tough job repairing a joint with damage from metallosis. This condition is caused by elevated levels of cobalt and chromium, which can lead to osteolysis, purulent fluid, infection, tissue necrosis, ALVAL, pseudotumors, and other damage to the hip area. Revision surgery also carries a risk of damage to the sciatic nerve. If the nerve is stretched or cut during surgery, it can lead to a condition called drop foot, where the patient has trouble lifting the front part of the foot.
Re-revision: having a revision surgery to remove the failed prosthetic device carries a higher risk of future revision due to the compromised hip area.
Pulmonary embolism: dangerous blood clots can form during or after revision surgery. A clot in the legs, often called a deep vein thrombosis, can breaks free and travel to the lungs, causing blockage of the arteries. In some cases, this can be fatal.
Stroke and heart attack: unfortunately, revision surgery can lead to increased risk of stroke or heart attack, especially in a patient with a history of cardiac trouble.
The lawyers at Jones Ward PLC represent people with metal-on-metal hip implants across the nation. Here is a list of some of the defective hip devices that Jones Ward is litigating, along with typical dates of implantation.

Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG hip stem: Feb. 2009 to June 2012.
DePuy ASR: 2005 to 2010.
DePuy Pinnacle: 2003 to 2012.
Biomet M2A Magnum: 2004 to 2011
Biomet M2A Taper: 2003 forward

Smith & Nephew BHR and R3 liner: 2006 to 2012
Zimmer Durom: 2007 and 2010
Wright Conserve and ProFemur: 2003 to 2012.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a defective metal-on-metal hip implant, call Attorney Alex Davis for a free case evaluation, or send an email to alex@jonesward.com."