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Lawyers in Hot Water

Vivia Chen

October 4, 2011

Here's a quick look at the many ways your brilliant career can hit a bump:

Shattered-Glass-Scene-1 1. If you're a famous liar (and a movie was made about you), maybe law shouldn't be your default career. Remember Stephen Glass, a onetime wunderkind writer at The New Republic in the mid-1990s who fabricated most of his articles? (His story was made into a terrific movie, Shattered Glass, starring Hayden Christensen and Chloe Sevigny--pictured at right.)

Well, guess where he ultimately ended up after the dust settled? Law school, of course. Reports the ABA Blog:

After his firing in 1998, Glass earned a law degree from Georgetown University and passed the New York State bar exam. He withdrew his application for bar admission in the state in 2004 after learning he would likely be denied a law license there. He moved to California the same year.

Since passing the California bar exam in 2007, Glass has been tryng to overcome objections about his moral fitness to practice law. Glass finally got some good news from California: The state bar court found in a 2-to-1 decision that he was morally fit for admission.

Honestly, I have nothing against Glass and wish him luck in his new venture. But, seriously, didn't he know the hassle he'd have in getting bar admission, not to mention finding employment? And didn't Georgetown warn him of the uphill battle? (He eventually graduated magna cum laude, though it doesn't look like that helped him much on the job front with big firms. )

2. Being a major meth dealer in law school won't help your career either. According to Richmond Times Dispatch, Jennifer Marie Patterson, who graduated from the University of Richmond School of Law in January, has been sentenced to three years in prison for selling methamphetamine:

Although she was facing ten or more years in prison, the government asked for a five-year term because of her "substantial assistance" to investigators.

But what are the chances that she can ever practice law? According to an official with Lawyers Helping Lawyers, an organization that helps lawyers with addiction, "Her felony conviction would not necessarily prevent her from practicing law in Virginia," reports the Dispatch

Stephen-Smith 3. Cheaters and drug addict/pushers might be redeemable, but a wife-beater? Fortunately for this alleged wife abuser, Stephen Smith (on left) is already a member of the bar; in fact, he's a criminal law professor at Notre Dame. Here's David Lat's account in Above the Law :

Professor Smith doesn’t fit the profile of the typical defendant in a domestic violence case. How many DV defendants have clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court? How many have graduated from Dartmouth College, where Smith served as a trustee, and the University of Virginia School of Law, where he once taught?

After graduating from Dartmouth and UVA Law, Smith clerked on the D.C. Circuit (for Judge David Sentelle) and SCOTUS (for Justice Clarence Thomas). He practiced at Sidley Austin before joining the UVA Law faculty, where he served as John V. Ray Research Professor before moving to Notre Dame.

Smith could get a sentence of up to three years if he's convicted of the felony. The circumstances of his arrest, as South Bend Tribune reports, aren't pretty:

Prosecutors allege that Smith became angry with his wife after they had been out with friends on June 24. Smith allegedly tried to punch her in the face in their upstairs bedroom but she dodged his fist and it grazed her cheek.

He then allegedly knocked her to the ground and kicked her.

The question I'm curious about is this: Will he lose his job at Notre Dame, if he's convicted? He's tenured, so I don't know how easy it would be to get rid of him. Let's just hope he won't be teaching women's rights or domestic relations.

Photo: 2003 Lion Gates Films Inc.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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