Above the Law - Thinking Like a Lawyer

Legal Talk Network


Thinking Like A Lawyer is a podcast featuring Above the Law's Joe Patrice and Kathryn Rubino. Each episode, the hosts will take a topic experienced and enjoyed by regular people, and shine it through the prism of a legal framework. This will either reveal an awesome rainbow of thought, or a disorienting kaleidoscope of issues. Either way, it should be fun.

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292 episodes

Driving A Stake Through U.S. News

Elite law schools are withdrawing from the U.S. News & World Report rankings one by one, but what does it all mean? We've never loved the USNWR methodology, but the reasons these schools cite for departing the rankings don't seem all that great. Maybe the schools would like to help a certain alternative ranking get better results! And the Biglaw bonus cycle has kicked off even amid an uncertain business environment.

Nov 23
Game Of Owns: The 2022 FedSoc Convention

Annual gathering aims to silence woke heretics... misses spectacularly. The Federalist Society national convention kicked off with Judge William Pryor mocking Above the Law for insinuating that the organization is a bunch of ideological hacks in a monologue that was "funny" to the extent it amounted to a quarter hour of self-owns. A day later, FedSoc proved its hackery when the Board voted to bar its founder and co-chair from identifying himself to the media as either a "founder" or "co-chair" -- a move that backfired when Steven Calabresi's immediate response was to tell the media that the Board had voted to bar him from calling himself the founder or co-chair. Please do not let these people write your contracts! We also discuss "Paul Clement's Lament" that law firms care more about money than his passion project of making America objectively worse and more dangerous. And more news of bubbling layoffs!

Nov 16
The Drumbeat Of Layoffs Getting Louder

It's not 2009 all over again, but it's not great. Layoffs are continuing to percolate through the legal industry. Will they stay contained to a few firms with hard hit clients or are we seeing the beginning of widespread firings. Meanwhile, Jones Day has another brush with the Streisand Effect, leading the panel to have to explain who Barbra Streisand is to our youngest member.

Nov 09
Ye's New Single Should Be "Biglaw Walks"

Also, hybrid work models show strain. While Ye (née Kanye West) continues to bring new meaning to his song Black Skinhead with a flurry of antisemitic remarks, Biglaw firms are being Heartless and leaving his stable of representation a Ghost Town. But are they Stronger for making the move? Meanwhile, work from home policies remain in their infancy, but firms are already frustrating associates with tweaks. Cravath's originally announced policy has added a wrinkle and Ropes & Gray has folks positively grumpy. How long will the growing pains last? We also discuss Slaughter & May's new late night policy, the challenges facing Magic Circle firms.

Nov 02
Donald Trump Trying To Use The Courts For His Petty Grudges. Again.

Donald Trump is threatening a dumb lawsuit against the Pulitzer committee, but is it dumb like a fox? Because the right certainly has New York Times v. Sullivan in their crosshairs. There's still no information about the Supreme Court's investigation into the Dobbs leak. Color me utterly unsurprised. Steve Bannon is heading to jail, but that might not be the end of his legal woes. Maybe that federal pardon wasn't all that and a bag of chips.

Oct 26
Bar Exam Cheating Tale Almost Too Stupid To Believe

Also lawyers don't make enough money... maybe. 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. Your Opinion Matters Help us make this show better by completing the 2022 Listener Survey.

Oct 19
Clio Conversations

Joe went to a conference... here's what went down. The crew couldn't convene this week because of the Clio Cloud Conference, but here's Joe's interview with Pamela Smith talking about lawyer public relations.

Oct 13
It's Not A Lie If You Believe It.

But it might make you a sociopath. Ginni Thomas testified to the January 6 committee that she still believes the election was stolen from Donald Trump. They wouldn't call it the "big" lie if it went down easy! But she also testified that she and Clarence don't talk about work, which might be even less believable than her stolen election claim. Also, an attorney billed 277 hours to review 20 documents... that seems like something the firm should've stopped earlier. And Judge James Ho is trying to help conservative Yale students by announcing he'll never hire them. And you thought Ginni wasn't making sense.

Oct 05
Playing Stupid Games

Receive The Appropriate Prizes. Did you know that it's not a good idea to keep two sets of accounting ledgers in order to scam banks and skimp on taxes? It's true! And the majority of the Trump family is finding that out as the NY Attorney General files a lawsuit. Have you considered putting your very freedom in the hands of a judge with decades of experience based on your own misunderstanding of one incident in their lives? Trump did that too, proposing Judge Dearie as special master, apparently on the logic that the judge got made at the Department of Justice once and assuming he'd hold a grudge. What about misleading the Supreme Court about the relief you want to be a political pawn? That's frowned upon as well... but no one seems like they're going to do anything about it.

Sep 28
Dueling Speeches Spice Up Supreme Court Offseason

And we speak of mermaids and copyrights. There are people out there planning to digitally replace Ariel in the new Little Mermaid movie with a computer generated white character. This is great news... if you're Disney's outside IP enforcement counsel! Meanwhile, the SCOTUS offseason heats up with Chief Justice Roberts complaining that the public questions the Court's legitimacy and Justice Kagan indirectly points out that it's his fault. Also, maybe ACB forgot whole parts of the First Amendment because she doesn't plan on those existing much longer. And we go down an antitrust rabbit hole at one point.

Sep 21
Law School Reform Gets Some Unlikely Support

Also, judges need to get their act together. Did you ever think we'd hear a Supreme Court justice questioning the law school model? Well, it happened! Sandwiched between some nonsense about the Dobbs leak, Neil Gorsuch mused that the United States may not need to force students through 7 years of higher education to practice law. We may not have all the answers, but at least people are talking about it. Also we have a couple of horror stories about judges refusing to respect lawyers with families and the best way to build an office culture.

Sep 14
Telling My Grandkids Judge Aileen Cannon Was Just Andy Kaufman Doing A Bit

See, it was an elaborate art piece to demonstrate the futility of law. We breakdown the shenanigans involved in the latest Trump search warrant order... which is in a civil matter... with a different judge... invoking privileges Trump doesn't have... granting relief he didn't even ask for. What does any of that even mean? Good luck to the judge's clerks in their future endeavors after getting handcuffed to this! We also discuss debt relief and how it impacts law students. And we discuss Jones Day and ponder if lawyers are morally complicit in the work their firms perform.

Sep 07
Trump Judge's Crim Pro Choose Your Own Adventure

Um... 28 U.S.C. Section... Why Not? The Donald Trump warrant fight provides a scattershot of weird challenges to unravel for the non-lawyers in our lives. We've got collateral attacks and special masters and still no clear sense of how there's any jurisdiction for any of it. But he's found a judge seemingly willing to play along. As a reminder, the job of finding judges like these belongs to Leonard Leo, the guru behind the Federalist Society who now has a billion in shadowy money to play with. Speaking of right-wing law students, Yale Law grad J.D. Vance really understands the opioid crisis in Ohio... because his charity appears to have contributed to it!

Aug 31
Humanitarian Crises Strike The Legal Profession

We didn't plan to get this deep into the feels, but here we are. Kathryn and Joe sat down to talk about a couple human interest stories in law. Joe discusses the story of AXDRAFT, a Ukraine-based legal tech provider (part of the Onit family) and its struggles and triumphs in the face of an ongoing catastrophe while Kathryn talks about an Afghan judge who fled the country with her law degree sewn into her clothes. All this and a brief chat about ILTACON.

Aug 24
Trump's Legal Braintrust May Need To Take Remedial Crim Pro

The FBI's search of Trump's residence has brought on a whole lot of caterwauling on cable news and social media from lawyers and law professors in Trump's orbit. Yet no one seems able (or willing) to accurately describe the whole warrant process. Meanwhile, a federal judge is pulling the rug out from his replacement -- who would diversify the bench -- for the stupidest reason. And a new report suggests that neural implants will replace the billable hour by forcing lawyers to bill by brain activity. That seems... unlikely, but this week was full of surprises.

Aug 17
Punitive Damages Cap In Alex Jones Case Is The Ultimate Jury Nullification

Alex Jones is not going to be paying anything near what the jury determined. While slapping Alex Jones with $45 million in punitive damages for defaming the families of Sandy Hook Elementary shooting victims. But the state of Texas makes juries deliberate and then substitutes its own cap for their decision. Thanks for your jury service, but we've decided to go in a different direction! Now get out! We also talk about the tax controversy surrounding Ivana Trump's final resting place, the Supreme Court's legitimacy woes, and Brittney Griner's Russian sentence.

Aug 10
fBar Exam Working To Prove Its Own Irrelevancy

This podcast must vest, if at all, within 21 years... The bar exam decided to ask a couple of rule against perpetuities questions, obliterating its last claim to legitimacy -- that it teaches real-life practical law. Another reminder that licensing is broken and we need to take bold steps to reform it. Clarence Thomas opted to give up his cushy seminar at George Washington Law and some people are whining about that. And Nicholas Sandmann's "epic" defamation lawsuit against the entire mainstream media ended with a thud... just like we said it would.

Aug 03
Don't Do What This Lawyer Did

Mistakes were made. A lawyer tried to get away with a little misogynistic insulting in open court. It did not end well for him. Meanwhile, a Biglaw partner laments low hours and associates skipping out on the office. This should be a warning to associates as the economy cools because whether or not this is fair, this is the sort of thinking that guides layoff decisions. And the bar exam is here and so are all the indignities. Like asking applicants to spend over $100 on lunch.

Jul 27
Maybe Elon Musk Shouldn't Have Waived All Those Protections?

Due diligence is your friend, Elon. Twitter has sued Elon Musk for walking away from his plans to purchase the company and it's hard to see how Musk gets out of this unscathed. Twitter's deal lawyers negotiated a pretty ironclad agreement, Musk's complaints fail basic logic, and Delaware law is roundly against him. But other than that, he's doing great! We also talk about the value of impeaching Supreme Court justices for lying during the confirmation process -- even if there's no hope of removal -- and we chat about the value of a good video deposition angle.

Jul 20
Doth Protest Too Much? Not According To The Supreme Court

Plus Texas targets Biglaw. Since the Dobbs opinion came down, Supreme Court justices have faced protests outside their homes and outside their favorite restaurants. The Supreme Court asked local officials to clamp down on it and Morton's Steakhouse used its JD from the Filet Mignon School of Law, but the Court's problem is its own pesky precedents catching up with it. We also discuss the threat Texas legislators sent to Sidley Austin suggesting it would go after the firm for its health plan covering health care travel and the future of state border-crossing laws and guns and briefly preview Elon Musk's Twitter fight.

Jul 13
Hearsay Schmearsay

January 6 hearings invite a more hearsay mistakes than the bar exam. Hearsay isn't the easiest concept in the world in application, but compared to the "fertile octogenarian" it's at least straightforward. The complexity is in all the exceptions, not hearsay itself. And yet the January 6 hearings invited a lot of hearsay talk that wildly missed the mark. The gang also takes a look back at the now concluded Supreme Court Term -- and the nightmarish preview the justices dropped on the last day -- and chats about the latest in the Britney Spears litigation.

Jul 06
Supreme Court Isn't Even Trying Anymore

Constitutional law is more of a vibe now. Well there's not much to talk about in the legal world besides the Supreme Court so... let's do that. The Court ruled that state legislatures are both free to craft the laws that suit their state and that state legislatures are dangerously lawless entities that must be crushed by judicial fiat... WITHIN A DAY! The half century of Roe isn't a historical tradition, but a 111 year old gun permit statute is not as historically rooted as a 14 year old Supreme Court opinion. It's a wild time to try to untangle the rule of law. Also, Biglaw firms are scrambling to react to the Dobbs opinion, and former Solicitor General Paul Clement throws a pity party in the papers.

Jun 29
The Supreme Court Has A Little Chatterbox

Starting to notice a pattern? The January 6 Committee is very interested in speaking with Ginni Thomas following revelations that she had a correspondence with John Eastman about election shenanigans. But more interesting is the revelation that Eastman was telling his buddies that he had inside information about closed door Supreme Court meetings casting an even brighter spotlight on Thomas. It's still anyone's guess who leaked the Dobbs opinion, but it's worth noting that Occam's Razor is undefeated. We also discuss the latest religious schools opinion from the Supreme Court and UCLA's Absent-Minded... or just plain absent... professor.

Jun 22
Law School Rankings Show Which Schools Offer Best Deal

Also, people don't want to go back to the office. At all. The latest edition of the ATL Top 50 Law Schools ranking is out and provides some interesting insights into legal education. As the ATL system privileges "outputs" by focusing on job placement and costs rather than incoming student GPAs and LSAT scores, the ranking gives prospective students a look at the best bang for their tuition buck and gives law schools a great way to game the system: be cheaper and get your grads jobs that will let them pay off debt. We talk about the rankings and some curious schools dropping down the list. We also discuss associate resistance to the "3-day in-person work week" model. It seems as though lawyers don't want to return to the office at all and that might not be in their best interest.

Jun 15
Preparing For The Bar Exam — The Last Test You’ll Ever Take (Rebroadcast)

The bar exam is a daunting obstacle, but it doesn't have to be. Joe and Elie chat with Rich Douglas, COO of Themis, about the bar exam and how to conquer it. Rich also tells us about the Themis Law School Essentials program of free review materials for law school courses and we discuss the impact the GRE is going to have on law school admissions.

Jun 08
The Podigal Son Returns: Elie Mystal Talks About The Supreme Court

"PODigal"... get it? Whatever. The original Thinking Like A Lawyer hosting team is back for a limited engagement! With the team depleted by holiday vacations, Joe is joined by Elie Mystal of The Nation to talk about the Supreme Court, touching on everything from Shinn -- deciding that "actual innocence isn't enough" when it comes to getting people off death row -- to the coming Bruen opinion that will stifle even the mildest of gun regulations across the country. We may even have a little to say about leaking draft Supreme Court opinions.

Jun 01
Once Again The Epicenter Of All Drama

Yale. Again. Everything keeps coming back to New Haven. Conservatives are doxxing law students for saying they might not party with FedSoc anymore. Professors are whitewashing Alito opinions. Alums are attacking the press. Why can't this school chill out a little? Also a Biglaw firm needs some lessons in collegiality and Elon Musk is trying to make his own law firm.

May 25
Texas Social Media Law DEMANDS That You Listen To This Episode

Does the new Texas social media law banning platforms from moderating content really require you to listen to this episode? Well, it's on Twitter so now you're compelled! Frustratingly, this reasoning is just as stupid as the Fifth Circuit's crayon-scratched opinion rubber stamping the statute. It's an opinion so bad that Justice Alito immediately swooped in to get the appeal rolling. Meanwhile, we also talk about the changing nature of in-house counsel and the growth of "legal operations" as the chief operating officers of legal departments, a judge with a penchant for handcuffing lawyers, and the latest law school dean hypocrisy.   Special thanks to our sponsor, Posh Virtual Receptionists, LLC.

May 18
Supreme Court Unveils New Doctrine Of 'Stare 5-Voticus'

A leaked draft opinion informed the world that the far-right wing of the Supreme Court has broken from Chief Justice Roberts and intends to overrule Roe v. Wade outright based on... "we've got five votes now, so suck it." The gang discusses the opinion, the demise of stare decisis, the obsession with the leaker, and a law professor's problematic response to it all. Joe didn't even use the sound board this week, so you know it's serious. Special thanks to our sponsor, Posh Virtual Receptionists, LLC.

May 11
Guess What Happened After We Recorded This Podcast?

If you're tuning in today to hear our thoughts on the leaked Dobbs opinion and what that means for the future of both reproductive rights and the entire superstructure of the 14th Amendment going forward... well, you'll have to wait a week. Putting together a quality show takes time and that means we recorded this before that revelation. But that doesn't mean there wasn't a lot to cover! We have a breakdown of the latest Am Law 100 ranking of law firms, recaps of the "interesting" lawyering both in and before the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial, way too much talk about the legal woes facing Ron DeSantis as he goes after Disney, the racist standup career of Alex Jones's lawyer, and some pointers on how and how not to report on legal news. Special thanks to our sponsor, Posh Virtual Receptionists, LLC.

May 04