Today is the penultimate day of 2020 and what a year it was. It had a few highs, but oh so many lows. I was on maternity leave on the first day of 2020, and when I got back to work I only ventured into the Above the Law law firm in Manhattan a few times before the city closed. Working parents, I felt your pain because, like many of you, I worked full time while teaching at home while taking care of a baby. Luckily I had Joe Patrice and Kathryn Rubino on my “quarantine team” (plus all of our wonderful columnists), and I’m happy to say we made it out of this damn year, happy, healthy, and able to be our readers to bring the latest and greatest legal news.
Since I started at ATL in 2010, we’ve closed the year with a list of our top 10 stories. Because this year was so different, we’re doing it differently – each of the editors will make their own top 10 lists. You saw Joes, you saw Kathryns, and now it’s my turn. Get ready for some of our best stories about human interest, legal rankings, and your favorite thing: CHARTS.
10. This attorney has New York’s second confirmed case of coronavirus
The legal profession has been linked to the pandemic from the start. Often referred to as the “patient zero” for the spread of COVID-19 in the community, Lawrence Garbuz has moved from a critical condition to a full recovery. To this day, he doesn’t know how he caught the coronavirus.
9. Law students forced to urinate while being watched by proctors during the distance ethics exam
Thanks to the pandemic, law students and recent law graduates around the world have faced a tough decision: take exams online with strict rules, or skip the year and delay starting their careers. Those who opted for virtual testing have faced aggressively embarrassing and humiliating situations. Take, for example, the budding lawyer who had to urinate into a bottle without breaking eye contact with his screen while being watched by a proctor. Unpee-lievable!
8. Florida attorney appears in full hazardous materials lawsuit in federal court
How far would you go to help one of your customers during a pandemic? If you put on a protective suit to represent one of them during a hearing, you might be a hero of the coronavirus crisis. Unprecedented times like this require unprecedented action – and this was one of the most unprecedented courtship fashion choices we have ever seen.
7. Pregnant woman takes bar exam during labor and exits hospital test after childbirth
Brianna Hill spoke about the extreme lengths recent law graduates have gone through on online exams. She finished the first day of the bar exam while doing active work, gave birth to a healthy baby, and then finished the second day of testing in the hospital. Not only did our original story go viral and spread to mainstream media and television networks like CNN, the New York Times, the TODAY Show, and Good Morning America, but it also has a happy ending – it passed the bar exam. Congratulation!
6. All Rise: Hundreds of lawyers protest the Supreme Court’s moves to demand “impartial justice” in Trump’s impeachment
In case you somehow forgot, Donald Trump was indicted by the House in late December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. His impeachment trial began in the Senate in January 2020, and lawyers gathered to protest when it looked like things were going sideways. Trump was eventually acquitted by the Senate, but the lawyers did their best to stand up for justice.
5. Law school graduate who failed the bar exam threatens to sue the prosecutor, threatens to knock judges “unconscious” unless they follow GOT DAMN LAW !!!!!!!
This legal work of art does not need an introduction. Please sit back, relax, and read one of the most entertaining Pro-Se papers of 2020.
4. The US News Law School 2021 ranking is here
There’s nothing like a little bit of ranked madness to end the regular madness of a pandemic. Lawyers and law students love to compare their law school’s prestige to that of competition, and in a year where there was little else to do while socially distant and lived online, everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to come back to do something normal. (Personally, when the ranking was posted, I wrote this story with one hand while rocking a baby … and now I am writing this blurb with one hand while balancing a 1 year old on my knee. We do the job!)
3. Associate Compensation Scorecard: Biglaws 2020 Bonus Bonanza
Given the dire year the legal sector has been through, it’s a wonder the bonus season has been so plentiful. With regular year-end bonuses between $ 15,000 and $ 100,000 combined with special bonuses between $ 7,500 and $ 40,000, lawyers at many law firms have been able to cash in obscene amounts of money despite the ongoing pandemic. How does your company measure up? Based on the number of times people viewed this table, this is what every lawyer wants to know.
2. Law school to close their doors permanently
From closing their campus to running courses and exams online, law schools across the country have undergone an incredible change in 2020 thanks to the pandemic. Unfortunately, one law school faced the biggest change of all, a permanent closure as it struggled under the weight of “financial hardship” and stranded unsuspecting law students. That story finally had a happy ending when another law school arrived to rescue all of the students who were left without an alma mater.
1. COVID Crisis Law Firm’s Discharge Tracker: What Is Your Law Firm Doing To Survive?
The coronavirus really took the legal community by surprise, and as the economy plummeted at breakneck speed, law firms were quick to try to manage their expenses by taking key cost-cutting measures ranging from salary cuts to vacation to layoffs. Legal workers were often hardest hit when companies decided to reduce their workforce, but lawyers also suffered. Some saw pay cuts of up to 50 percent. That big chart was the big information center everyone in Biglaw needed to see in 2020, making it the most-read story of the year. (Don’t forget to take a look at the sister table, the rollback tracker for salary cuts. After their initial cuts, many law firms not only survived but thrived as 2020 went on.)
Thank you for joining us in 2020 here at Above the Law. We look forward to sharing what we hope for a happier and healthier 2021!
Staci Zaretsky is Senior Editor at Above the Law, where she has been working since 2011. She would love to hear from you. Please send her an email with tips, questions, comments or criticism. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.