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This is the largest collapse of a law firm ever and an indictment of the state of the whole lawyerin' industry

Dewey & LeBoeuf Files for Bankruptcy - NYTimes.com
With historical roots stretching back a century, Dewey — the product of a 2007 merger between Dewey Ballantine and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae — employed at its peak more than 2,500 people, including roughly 1,400 lawyers in 26 offices across the globe. Dewey’s dissolution has generated a debate across the legal profession: Was its failure an isolated event or emblematic of bigger problems in the corporate-law industry? Many observers say the root causes of Dewey’s fall are not unique. Several of the largest firms have adopted business strategies that Dewey embraced: unfettered growth, often through mergers; the aggressive poaching of lawyers from rivals by offering outsize pay packages; and a widening spread between the salaries of the firm’s top partners and its most junior ones. These trends, they say, have destroyed the fabric of a law firm partnership, where a shared sense of purpose once created willingness to weather difficult times. Many large firms have discarded the traditional notions of partnership — loyalty, collegiality, a sense of equality — and instead transformed themselves into bottom-line, profit-maximizing businesses. “Because the partnership lacks any shared cultural values or history, money becomes the core value holding the firm together,” said William Henderson, a law professor at Indiana University who studies law firms. “Money is weak glue.”
(via Abhay Khosla on Tumblr)

May 29, 2012

Yes, in this economy educated white people are also using food stamps

There is so much about the subtext of food stamps in this piece I don't even know where to start other than to say I wish more people who qualified for them took advantage and I wish our stupid culture didn't act as if being poor meant you were justly cursed by god. Young, Privileged, and Applying for Food Stamps | The Billfold
One recent Friday morning, I went to work. Not to any glass-blocked high rise, or a sprawl of windowless office buildings, but a corner cafe, four minutes from my apartment. With my $1.50 cup of coffee in hand, I dropped my bag and sat down next to my housemate, also a freelancer-slash-struggling-painter, and a new friend. At some point, our casual conversation turned to the stack of papers sticking out from my seam-busted bag: My application for food stamps. Turned out, this new friend had been on them for a few months. I hadn’t even noticed them tighten, but in a second, my shoulders slumped at ease. “Go to this grocery store,” she said. “They let you buy beer and toilet paper.” I smiled slightly, less because of the beer, and more out of relief to be talking with someone who’d been through this sort of thing. I’d never been on any form of government assistance. I’d also never been more unsure of how I’d make rent in a few weeks. As we volleyed ideas for the most obscene items to buy with food stamps (a cheese wheel from Whole Foods, we decided), a woman seated next to us leaned forward, her words darting out faster than we could dodge them. “Excuse me, but you’re all disgusting. And if I had time to spare, I would report you.” We were silent, which was her apparent cue to continue. She got on us about the starving people in the U.S., about the people who live in the projects just down the street from us, about draining resources that are meant for truly needy populations of people. Our irony had fallen on the wrong ears. “But that’s what this service is for,” my housemate responded, relaying the simple facts of our less than part-time (mine) and nonexistent (his, currently) incomes. “How is it wrong?” “Because you’re overeducated white people,” she said. “Just get a job.”

May 27, 2012

Barbara Ehrenreich: How To Prey On The Poor

Another must read for this holiday weekend. Preying on the Poor | The Nation
The trick is to rob them in ways that are systematic, impersonal and almost impossible to trace to individual perpetrators. Employers, for example, can simply program their computers to shave a few dollars off each paycheck, or they can require workers to show up thirty minutes or more before the time clock starts ticking. Lenders, including major credit companies as well as payday lenders, have taken over the traditional role of the street-corner loan shark, charging the poor insanely high rates of interest. When supplemented with late fees (themselves subject to interest), the resulting effective interest rate can be as high as 600 percent a year, which is perfectly legal in many states. It’s not just the private sector that’s preying on the poor. Local governments are discovering that they can partially make up for declining tax revenues through fines, fees and other costs imposed on indigent defendants, often for crimes no more dastardly than driving with a suspended license. And if that seems like an inefficient way to make money, given the high cost of locking people up, a growing number of jurisdictions have taken to charging defendants for their court costs and even the price of occupying a jail cell. The poster case for government persecution of the down-and-out would have to be Edwina Nowlin, a homeless Michigan woman who was jailed in 2009 for failing to pay $104 a month to cover the room-and-board charges for her 16-year-old son’s incarceration. When she received a back paycheck, she thought it would allow her to pay for her son’s jail stay. Instead, it was confiscated and applied to the cost of her own incarceration. . . .