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12 Sep, 2017

Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner Retires

Author |Circuit Court, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Legal Profession|0 Comments

The legal world was shocked when the infamous Judge Richard Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit announced his retirement last week, effective immediately. Judge Posner is well-known in the legal community for being witty and outspoken, sometimes courting controversy with his statements. Though his retirement is seen as abrupt, […]

8 Sep, 2016

The Top 5 Skills of the Best Legal Assistants

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At Cockle Legal Briefs, we are honored to work with some of the brightest legal minds in the country.  In doing so, it’s clear that an organized and competent legal assistant is worth his or her weight in gold.

These individuals are key resources for an attorney and are frequently responsible for legal research, writing, and […]

23 Oct, 2014

Experience: The Reason You Should Outsource Your Supreme Court Work

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Remember those early days of your legal career? Perhaps as a student clerk, or a freshly minted JD, remember those first few steps out of the classroom, and into the real world? Remember the terror?

For three years they poured legal knowledge into your head, and perhaps more significantly, they gave you the tools to find […]

18 Jul, 2014

The Top 5 Skills of the Best Legal Assistants

Author |Legal Profession|0 Comments

We work with some of the brightest lawyers and legal assistants in the country each day.  If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the course of filing approximately 1,200 Supreme Court briefs a year, it’s that our office runs on COFFEE!  But, if there’s a second thing that we’ve learned, it’s that an organized and […]

29 Oct, 2013

Conversations About the Law Series: Roy T. Englert Jr.

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Over the next couple of months, the CockleBur will provide a series of conversations about the law with a number of prominent legal journalists, practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and social justice advocates. I chose these particular people because I think they can bring a unique perspective about topics such as advocacy, legal education, the legal profession, how the media covers the law, and how the law can work social justice change.

Our third conversation is with Roy T. Englert Jr., a partner at the Washington D.C. firm of Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP. Prior to co-founding Robbins Russell, Mr. Englert was an Assistant to the Solicitor General and, after his graduation from Harvard Law, he served as a law clerk at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Mr. Englert has argued 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and countless others in federal courts of appeals.

I have known Roy for around three years now. He is one of the smartest people I know. And he is a very kind man, who has always taken the time to answer my questions and give me sound advice.

Q. Thanks for taking the time for this discussion. Someone once told me that you try to read every decision handed down by the Supreme Court. Is that true? And why do you read all of them?

A. Yes, I do read every decision the Supreme Court issues, and almost always on the day of issuance. I feel that reading every decision helps me to understand how the Justices think. By reading everything, I sometimes notice discussions that are relevant in other contexts but wouldn’t be obvious to look for using standard research techniques. And staying on top of everything the Supreme Court says is helpful in litigation in lower courts as well as in Supreme Court litigation.

Q. When you start working on an appeal, do you start thinking about the oral argument even before you begin writing the principal brief?

A. Only in an attenuated sense. The brief is the main event, so it requires plenty of focus in its own right. It does help to think of questions that may ultimately be raised in oral argument, and to think about whether and how to anticipate them in the brief, but the brief is so important in its own right that I’m thinking overwhelmingly about the written advocacy and only a little about the eventual oral advocacy. […]

28 Jul, 2013

Conversations About the Law: A New Series from The CockleBur

Author |Legal Profession|0 Comments

Over the next three months, the CockleBur will provide a series of conversations about the law from a number of prominent legal journalists, practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and social justice advocates. I chose these particular people because I think they can bring a unique perspective about topics such as advocacy, legal education, how the media […]

11 Apr, 2013

How to Write An Effective Appellate Brief: Lessons from Judge Richard Posner

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Judge Richard Posner, of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, recently laid out his view of appellate briefs (you can read the article on the ABA website here). Judge Posner writes:

So, my essential advice to the appellate brief writer is to put yourself in the judge’s shoes all the way, as it were. That will […]

9 Feb, 2012

The New Greenbag Almanac Is Published

Author |Legal Profession|0 Comments

The 2012 Greenbag Almanac and Reader was recently published. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Greenbag is “a quarterly journal of short, readable, useful, and sometimes entertaining legal scholarship.” The Greenbag has a distinguished Board of Advisors that includes Linda Greenhouse, Howard Bashman, Adam Liptak, Judges Alex Kozinki, Diane Wood, and J. Harvie […]

1 Feb, 2012

Happy birthday, Sir Edward Coke!

Author |Legal Profession|0 Comments

The greatest lawyer in the Anglo-American common law tradition would have been 460 today, had he lived.

7 Sep, 2011

Of Famines and Lawyers

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Query:  What is the connection between famine (on the one hand) and the current tangle of issues regarding the undersupply or oversupply of lawyers and legal services (on the other)?

Answer:  The problem in both instances may be one of distribution.    

As to famine…

Thomas Keneally’s new book Three Famines traces the great Irish Potato Famine of the mid-1800’s, the Bengal Famine of 1943, and the Ethiopian famines of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

His conclusion is that overreliance on one source of food leaves a population vulnerable to famine, but it is only when other factors such as inept government or idealogy come into play that the initial trigger balloons into catastrophe.

Hearing Keneally interviewed on NPR’s Marketplace recently reminded me (once again) of the wisdom of so much of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s work.  Sen made the case almost 30 years ago that famine is caused not by a lack of food per se but by a lack of distribution of food. Hence his much-repeated declaration that there has never been a famine in a functioning multiparty democracy.

Famine as maldistribution diagnoses the primary cause of the current famine in the Horn of Africa, for example, not as a lack of food worldwide but as food not getting to people who are desperate for it.  Which may, according to both Keneally’s and Sen’s insights, have a lot to do with why destabilized and dysfunctional Somalia is at the epicenter of the famine.

Famine as maldistribution also explains why famine in one place doesn’t mean that other places don’t have enough or even too much food.  Think, for example, of rising levels of obesity here in the United States.

* * *

As to lawyers and legal services…

What if the undersupply of legal services for poor and moderate income Americans is like famine in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya? 

The New York Times recently highlighted a “Justice Gap” – a serious unmet need for lawyers –  in the U.S.   A 2009 Legal Services Corporation report,  for example, concluded that for every qualified low-income person provided legal aid, another person seeking legal assistance is turned away for lack of resources.  And that is only those who seek help: The same report estimates that only about one in five low-income person needing legal help receives it. […]