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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Advice from a Successful Attorney: Don't waste your money on Law School

February 2014:  This Blog remains, by far, one of the most popular I have written, even one year later.  I have updated it slightly.  My husband and I, law partners, have been attorneys for 23 years each.  We are probably the last generation to be able to say the following:  we have no regrets about going to law school and we are happy to be practicing law.  Our kids, if they decide to go to law school (not pushing it) will be all right because they will "inherit" a successful law practice.  Unless you have a family law firm you will be walking into, my advice remains the same:  don't waste your time and money.

There was an article in the New York Times in January 2013 entitled, "Law Schools' Applications Fall as Costs Rise and Jobs Are Cut."  The article discusses the drastic decrease in law school applications, and the increasing debt load for unemployed law graduates.  There is a class action suit pending in which unemployed law school graduates are suing their former law schools for "fraud," claiming that they were induced into attending law school and taking on big loans, when in fact there were no jobs to be had.

The average cost of a NYC law school, including lodging, is said to be $80,000.00 per year.  Law school is 3 years, after which one must study for, then sit for the grueling NYS Bar Exam.  According to the NYT article, Professor William Henderson of Indiana University Law School said, "30 years ago, if you were looking to get on the escalator to upward mobility, you went to business or law school. Today, the law school escalator is broken."

That's true.  I can tell you why.  Essentially, there is nothing  more useless than a newly minted lawyer.  That includes myself and my husband when we graduated.  You know nothing that translates to the real world when you get out of law school. I would rather have a trained paralegal than a new lawyer any day, even a trained legal secretary is of more use to us.

New lawyers are coming out of school with so much debt, that they cannot afford to do what my husband and I did:  we took very low-paying jobs, in order to learn our craft.  Anthony worked for the Orange County District Attorney's Office as an A.D.A. for about 7 years, I worked for the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County for 2 and a half years, then took a low-paying job with a large local law firm to learn the business of practicing private law.

By the time we were done with our "apprenticeships," we had many years of trial experience behind us.  I had tried over 50 jury trials, Anthony had been in charge of the Newburgh Bureau or the Orange County District's Office.  Once you have that kind of experience, you have a new kind of confidence in the courtroom that you can't learn any place else.  We learned from the best.

Even back then, it was not easy to get our first jobs, there was a lot of competition, despite the low pay.  Now, with the hiring freezes and the economy the way it is, unless you know someone, it's really hard to get an apprenticeship-type job, and harder still if you're saddled with big law school loans.

I have put out ads for paralegals and received resumes from attorneys who had decades of experience but had lost their jobs.  I have no advice for the recent law school graduates, other than we wish you all well.  However, to any parents considering sending their kids to law school, and college grads thinking about taking the LSAT's: unless you're going to come back to work for the family business, my advice is:  Don't do it!

Juliana LoBiondo ("Mrs. Lo")

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fake Lawyers - Like There's not enough to worry about.

     How do you know if you have a fake lawyer?  Look on the wall, do you see a law license?  If not, you might want to do some checking.  Fake lawyers are more prevalent than you think.  Recently, there was the Arizona divorce lawyer who got disbarred but kept practicing law (he's in prison and, yes, that's a crime). Now there is the case of Terence Kindlon, Jr., who was just indicted in New York City on charges that he falsely claimed to be a lawyer.  The crime of Unauthorized Praactice of Law is compounded when the fake attorney takes money from "clients" and, in Kindlon's case, allegedly showed up in court several times with them.
      Terence Kindlon, Jr. is not to be confused with Terence Kindlon, Sr., who is a real attorney, in Albany, NY.  Dad Kindlon practices law with one of his sons, Lee, who is also a real attorney.  There's another Kindlon sibling, who is a US Marine Captain and a combat veteran.  Dad Kindlon said he stands behind his Fake Attorney son 100% and that his son actually passed the NYS Bar Exam.  Really?  Because passing the NYS Bar Exam is the hard part.  After that it's easy, all you have to do is pass the ethics -- oh wait, that's only easy for ethical people.  Dad Kindlon says his son has mental health issues.  We certainly sympathize with anyone who truly has mental health issues.  But what's the Kindlon family's law practice like anyway?
     In a September 22, 2008 article in the "Business Review" about Dad Kindlon hiring his son, Lee (the real attorney) to join the law firm, Lee is quoted as saying, "The unofficial firm motto seems to be 'Go (CENSORED) yourself' because that always seems to be our response when someone makes us an offer,' said Lee Kindlon, Terry's son.  'We don't care who it is -- we're not backing down.' "  Right.  Well, you might want to back down on this one.
Juliana LoBiondo

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why this "Baby Larceny" couldn't have occurred in NYS

Terry Archane, a South Carolina-stationed father of a 22-month-old baby, has finally been reunited with his daughter after a knock down, drag out custody battle.  Not with the child’s mother, but with the adoptive family.  Huh?  That’s right, Archane's wife, the birth mother (and I use the term "mother" loosely) gave the child up for adoption, while Dad, a drill sergeant, was stationed in South Carolina.  In New York State, an incredibly stringent waiver of rights is required by both the birth mother and father before an adoption can even be contemplated.  In New York, a judge would have had to hear directly from Birth Dad that he consented before the child could be placed for adoption.  The Mother was living in Texas.  Dad was stationed in South Carolina and, although the couple was reportedly estranged, they were not divorced.  Dad apparently expected to come home to find his wife and new daughter, born March of 2011.  However, the Mother had delivered Baby Teleah in Utah, and was able to give her up for adoption to a Utah family (who reportedly already had children in their family) just two (2) days later. In his ruling, Judge Darold McDade said he was "astonished and deeply troubled" by the actions of the Adoption Agency calling their treatment of Dad "utterly indefensible."   Say what you want about New York State, our laws would never have allowed that to happen.  As any of my clients who have gone through domestic adoptions know, the hoops you have to jump through are unbelievable.   I've had cases where the biological father was deceased and it still took a lot of hoop jumping to get the adoption to go through. As soon as Dad found out his daughter had been placed for adoption, he sued for her return and, almost two years later, he and his daughter have been reunited.  I don’t know who I’m more disgusted with, the Mother, the adoptive family, the Utah adoption laws, or a combination thereof.  In any event, congratulations, Sergeant Archane, enjoy your beautiful daughter!   All of a sudden, New York State's incredibly stringent adoption laws aren't looking so bad.  That kind of "baby larceny" simply couldn't occur here.  (Photo of Baby Teleah)
Juliana LoBiondo
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The $700K Chicken Sandwich

This comes under the heading, fellow attorneys, please stop profiting from lawsuits where your client isn't even profiting.  McDonald's will payout a $700K settlement over what we like to call the "$700K Chicken Sandwich."  McDonald's, the corporation, and one of its franchise owners, Finley Management, was sued by local resident, Ahmed Ahmed, on the grounds that the restaurant falsely advertised its food as being prepared according to Islamic dietary law.  There are two McDonald's in Dearborn which reportedly advertise their chicken sandwiches and Chicken McNuggets to be halal, meaning it  meets Islamic requirements for preparing food. The Plaintiff, Mr. Ahmed, alleged that he bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at a Dearborn McDonald's but found it wasn't halal. According to the lawsuit, “Islam forbids consumption of pork, and God's name must be invoked before an animal providing meat for consumption is slaughtered.” Ahmed's attorney, Kassem Dakhlallah, told the Associated Press that he's "thrilled" with the preliminary deal that's expected to be finalized March 1.  The thrilled attorney will be taking away about $230,000.00 in attorneys' fees.  McDonald's and Finley's Management deny any liability but say the settlement is in their best interests. That is lawyer talk for we really don’t think we did anything wrong but we would have to pay our lawyers so much money to prove it and we would get so much bad press that we would rather pay off the plaintiff.  To the plaintiff’s credit, he wants most of the money to go to charity. The final hearing will ultimately determine how the $700K gets whacked up, but roughly $275,000.00 is expected to go to the Huda Clinic, a local not-for-profit medical clinic,  about $150,000.00 to a local not-for-profit museum, about $230,000.00 to the attorney and $20,000.00 to Mr. Ahmed. 
Juliana LoBiondo
LoBiondo Law 
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