California ends practice of billing parents for kids in detention

Criminal Justice

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Shutterstock.com.

Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed into law on Oct. 11, a sweeping package of criminal justice reform bills including a ban on the practice of billing parents for their children’s incarceration, which had been prevalent statewide for decades and was the subject of a Marshall Project investigation earlier this year.

The new law — introduced by two Democratic state senators from the Los Angeles area, Holly Mitchell and Ricardo Lara, and approved by the legislature on Sept. 6 — prohibits counties from assessing a range of fees against parents with children in the juvenile justice system, including those for probation supervision, electronic monitoring, drug testing, and the services of a public defender. Most significantly, it ends the nightly bills that mothers and fathers had long been made to pay for their children’s time in detention.

That practice is a nationwide one, rooted in a decades-old belief among policymakers that families are responsible for supporting their delinquent kids and should not expect government to pick up the tab.

Nineteen states and county-level juvenile justice systems in 27 others continue the practice. Often, a child-support model is used to determine the amount that parents are billed and then to collect their debt, including by sending collection agencies after them, garnishing 50 percent of their wages, suspending their driver’s license or charging them with contempt of court.

But around the country, juvenile defense lawyers and law students have begun to challenge this billing system, arguing that it is akin to taxing parents for their child’s loss of liberty.

Within hours after The Marshall Project story was published in March, Philadelphia ended its fee-collection practice. This followed months of pressure from the community. And in California, grassroots activists teamed up with lawyers at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley to bar the imposition of the fees in several counties.

“The advocacy has been strong, I can respect that — I understand that the vast majority of parents with children in the system are facing financial challenges,” John Keene, legislative chair for the Chief Probation Officers of California, said in an interview earlier this year. “But the cost of providing for juveniles has gone up dramatically over the past few decades, as our juvenile halls have become de facto mental-health facilities. And those fees, especially in some of our smaller counties, have been pivotal to providing the more expensive types of programming and services for youth.”

Despite these fiscal concerns, the pressure from activists and the news coverage forced legislators to take notice of the issue and get the bill to Brown’s desk.“

We did not realize, until recently,” Mitchell wrote in a recent op-ed essay, “the onerous fees families must pay when their child becomes entangled in the juvenile justice system.”

This article was originally published by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system. Sign up for their newsletter, or follow The Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.


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ABA Legal Ed committee suggests changes to rule on law school admissions tests

ABA

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After recent announcements from various law schools that they will accept the GRE from applicants in addition to the LSAT, an American Bar Association section committee recently made various accreditation standard recommendations (PDF), including doing away with the admissions test rule entirely.

In March, the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar sought notice and comment for a proposed revision to Standard 503, that called for the council to establish a process that determines reliability and validity of other tests besides the LSAT. That’s a change from the current version, which directs law schools using alternate admissions tests to demonstrate that the exams are valid and reliable.

The section’s Standards Review Committee—which met Friday and Saturday in Boston—recommends that the council reject the earlier proposal, and consider three options:

  • • Eliminate Standard 503 and revise Standard 501—which requires admitting competent candidates—so that it includes having a valid admissions test as a factor for determining whether a law school is in compliance with the rule. Under this proposal, the requirement of having a valid and reliable admissions test would be removed from the standards.

• Revise Standard 503 to require an admissions test that assesses applicants’ capabilities, and require that law schools publish lists of accepted tests. Under that recommendation, there would be no requirement that the council determines whether the admissions tests are valid and reliable.

• Keep requirement that admissions tests be valid and reliable, but remove “protection” that the March proposal granted to the LSAT.

The section’s council will consider the recommendations at its November meeting in Boston.

“All three propositions are significantly different than the tentative proposition, which on its face is reflective. I happen to like the direction it’s headed in,” says Marc Miller, the dean of James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona, the first law school to accept the GRE as an admissions test in February 2016.

Since then, law schools at Northwestern University, Harvard University and Georgetown University, among others, have announced that they will accept the GRE as an admissions test.

The Law School Admission Council, which administers the LSAT, in a statement Wednesday said that it’s “vital for the health of our profession” that member schools continue to include the LSAT as one component of their admissions process.

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Kellye Y. Testy. Photo by Greg Olsen/University of Washington School of Law.

“The LSAT is the only test designed specifically for legal education, the fairest mechanism to ensure a level playing field, and gives law schools a uniform method of assessing each applicant’s ability to thrive in their studies and in the profession,” Kellye E. Testy, president and CEO of the organization, said in the statement.

Also, she noted that the LSAC looks forward to engaging further with the legal education section’s council as it considers what to do next.

The standards review committee also addressed distance learning, faculty teaching requirements and diversity at its recent meeting. The group recommended that the council adopt a proposed revision to remove a percentage requirement for overall curriculum taught by full-time faculty, and send out for notice and comment a proposal regarding distance learning that would allow a law school to give students credit for up to of 50 percent work needed for a law degree.

Regarding diversity, the committee recommended that the council seek notice and comment for proposed revisions of two standards. Standard 205, which deals with nondiscrimination and equal opportunity for students, faculty and staff, has a proposed revision to include “gender identity” in its list of categories, as does Standard 206, which addresses diversity and inclusion for faculty and staff. The proposed revision to Standard 206 also recommends adding new language, stating that a law school is required to provide an environment “that is inclusive with respect to race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and disability.”


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General Counsel Salary Is At A 1:3 Ratio To Their CEOs. Not Bad Work If You Can Get It!

GettyImages-124135809-300x300.jpgEquilar just released its in-house counsel pay report and, well, remember kids: if you want to make real money, go into business not law. The report says that at companies with revenue between $1 billion and $15 billion, the CEO earned about 3.7 times what the GC makes.

At companies with revenue under $1 billion, the CEOs outstripped GCs by a ratio of around 3:1.

But don’t go crying for in-house counsel just yet. Median GC salary at the largest companies was $650,000, while the smaller companies Equilar tracked still posted at $325,000 median salary for general counsels. Which is pretty decent scratch, all things considered.

There’s another disparity between general counsels at the small companies (to the extent banking just under a billion dollars makes your company “small”) versus the large ones:

Salary was the largest pay component at the median for companies below $1 billion in revenue, while stock was the largest median pay component for larger companies… Stock grants increased most substantially with ascending revenue compared to other pay components in terms of total value—GCs at companies over $15 billion in revenue were awarded more than seven times the amount in stock value compared to companies with revenue less than $1 billion.

Ethically, this puts GCs at wealthy companies in a bit of a bind. If your compensation is so directly tied to the stock price, you’ve got a perverse incentive to not disclose information if at all possible. Lawyers, especially in-house lawyers, are in the business of telling truth to power, and having your compensation directly tied to the stock price doesn’t help that cause.

You want your GCs to be in the position to say “look, you’re going to pay me whether you take my advice or not.” But, maybe that’s what the big boys rely on outside counsel for.

Equilar also reports that tech companies are most likely to pay their in-house counsel in stock. Being a lawyer for a tech start-up is not unlike being a security guard at a strip club: you’re just there to make sure nobody needs to call the cops. So paying those lawyers in “funny money” seems entirely appropriate.

What this report really needs is to overlay these salary numbers with hours analysis. People don’t leave Biglaw to go in-house for the money. They go because of the money AND the expectation their children might someday actually meet them.


Elie Mystal is an editor of Above the Law and the Legal Editor for More Perfect. He can be reached @ElieNYC on Twitter, or at elie@abovethelaw.com. He will resist.

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Understanding And Working With Anger And Other Difficult Emotions Through Mindfulness

angry-upset-screaming-lawyer-300x199.jpgEd. note: This post is by Jeena Cho, a Legal Mindfulness Strategist. She is the co-author of The Anxious Lawyer (affiliate link), a book written by lawyers for lawyers that makes mindfulness and meditation accessible and approachable. She is the creator of Mindful Pause, a self-paced online program for creating a more sustainable, peaceful, and productive law practice in just 6 minutes a day. Jeena offers actionable change strategies for reducing stress and anxiety while increasing productivity, joy, and satisfaction through mindfulness.

As lawyers, we often experience anger. The judge rules against you; opposing counsel is rude or unreasonable; your client goes against your advice and then blames you for the adverse result. Hours, days, or even weeks after the event, you may find yourself stewing over these events and dwelling in anger. This inability to work through or let go of the anger may compound the problem and make you feel even more frustrated or helpless. You may continually feel anger or hostility toward the judge, opposing counsel, or client. How do you cope mindfully in situations where you’re seeing red?

What Is Anger?

Let’s start by looking at anger. Why do humans experience anger? What is its function? Anger is an essential survival mechanism. It protects us from harm. It serves as an alert system. It lets us know when we are being mistreated, when we’re under attack, or when our boundaries have been crossed. It also protects others from harm; for instance, when those we care about are in danger or are being mistreated, it propels us to take action.

Continue reading over at Jeena’s website…

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Using Technology To Increase Diversity

happy-woman-lawyer-associate-partner-thumbs-up-diverse-diversity-300x200-300x200-300x200.jpgWe’ve previously written about the six high-level strategies Stephanie A. King, general counsel and part of AdRoll’s executive team, along with AdRoll’s People Team including Shelly Vernick, AdRoll’s Head of Employee Engagement, responsible for Diversity and Inclusions programs, used to increase diversity in AdRoll’s hiring and retention process. We wanted to focus this article on the technology AdRoll relies on, and the specific approaches it takes to interviewing to increase its diversity efforts.

Using Technology to Increase the Funnel

An often-cited problem with hiring diverse candidates is the “pipeline” problem of simply not having enough diverse candidates who meet the job qualifications. Technology can be extremely helpful in specifically targeting diverse candidates. Ad King explains, “We partner with Teamable, which helps unearth diverse candidates from our own employees’ networks that they might not have thought about. We also partner with Atipica, a startup that combines artificial and human intelligence to help us sift through own recruiting database to identify top candidates through a ‘bias-free’ recruiting process.”

Once you begin expanding your company’s hiring pipeline, it becomes clear that the issue is not a lack of diverse candidates. “There are many groups working on this issue that you can join to get access to diverse candidates. Many smart people are working hard to solve the pipeline problems,” King observes. “We have also used sourcing tools like Power to Fly, a source for female remote technical talent, and Entelo, using various search filters to unearth and engage diverse talent.”

More old-fashioned networking also has its place. Companies should reach out and create connections with underserved sources. King adds, “We very actively build connections with the career centers at diverse schools, programs, and job boards.” Ultimately, opening up the hiring pipeline will require collaboration and an open mind. “Just like with every worthy goal, you may need to hustle, be creative, and persist,” says King.

Use Twenty-First Century Tools

One major issue in hiring is implicitly biased job postings. King observes, “Ultimately, the language we use impacts the hiring process. And we can work to overcome unconscious bias by being intentional about the language we use.” There are a number of tools to help companies identify language that is unconsciously biased and convert it into more inclusive language. “We use Textio, a third-party software, to review our job postings for unintentional bias,” King explains. “Textio helps us make our job posts more neutral and gives us advice on how certain words might resonate to a specific gender, for example, collaborative vs. high performing team. Textio also helps us craft better recruiter outreach messages which can be more accessible when targeting specific demographics or more neutral if we’re targeting a wide range of people,” King adds.

Reinvent Your Interview Process

It is important to objectively look at your hiring process and change it if it does not help you meet your goals. Sometimes, this may require a near-complete overhaul, so it may be difficult to know where to start.

AdRoll now works to ask a consistent set of questions across all candidates. “We have shifted our process so now an interviewer is assigned a focus area and is then the owner of that focus area throughout the interview process until a candidate is identified for hire. This person is responsible for making sure that all candidates have similar experiences, have the same chance to shine, and are consistently given opportunities.” King adds, “When we stick to this process, it really helps with calibration, consistency, and a fairer assessment.”

King also suggests defining what “fit” means in advance. “‘Fit’ means different things to different people,” says King. “It can become a catch-all category to justify excluding people with different backgrounds and experiences. And this may conflict with the company’s inclusion goals.” You need to have clear standards so that implicit bias can’t creep into the process. She continues, “It is important to agree on what ‘fit’ means in each case and ask stakeholders to explain when they ding someone for ‘fit.’ It is not enough to merely say, ‘not a fit.’ We require more details.”

AdRoll’s journey through reinventing its hiring process has required collaboration, creativity, and honesty. In the end, however, it is paying off with increased progress toward the company’s inclusion goals. By articulating specific goals, partnering strategically, opening the hiring pipeline, using new hiring technology, and staying open to reinvention, any company can take important first steps toward a more inclusive, diverse hiring and retention strategy.


Olga V. Mack and Katia Bloom are startup enthusiasts who embrace the current disruption to the legal profession. Long gone are the days when in-house legal departments simply manage outside counsel or provide services. Today’s legal department is a sophisticated business unit that co-manages the company’s bottom line, embraces technology, and analyzes risks constructively. Mack and Bloom love this change and are dedicated to improving and shaping the future of the legal profession. Together they passionately collect and share inspiring stories of legal leaders who are thriving through the ongoing tectonic shift. Mack and Bloom are convinced that the legal profession will emerge from this revolution even stronger, more resilient, and inclusive than before. They are currently co-authoring a manual of the skills and traits lawyers need to succeed in — and even enjoy — today’s rapidly evolving in-house legal departments. You can reach them at olga@olgamack.com and katia@katiabloom.com or @olgavmack and @bloomkatia on Twitter.

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Get More Sales Calls From Your Website. Averaging 30% More Inbound Calls

BusinessCreator Releases a New Website Engagement Widget, Designed to Increase Website Engagement and Sales

Edward Kundahl, Ph.D., M.B.A., President and Owner of
BusinessCreator, Inc. and ForLawFirmsOnly is proud to announce a new
offering, BounceHelp, a program designed to increase website engagement and sales.

Edward Kundahl stated, “Website owners lose at least 25 percent of
potential customers every day. The average website owner is losing at
least 25 percent of potential customers from their websites and landing
pages, and don’t even know it. When companies focus on driving traffic
to their website, costing money, converting website visitors is often overlooked. Unfortunately, a large number of businesses do not focus on using all the tools available to maximize conversions.
With Bouncehelp, your website can now generate more
business. Bouncehelp delivers website engagement tools that guarantee
increased phone calls from your website traffic, quickly connecting
visitors, otherwise lost, with your business. In addition, site
retention time goes up and bounce rate down. Both are factors in
Google’s search engine ranking.  The net result will be higher organic ranking, even more traffic and better conversions.”

“Every website visitor will be prompted to connect with you within
seconds. 97 percent of visitors tend to leave your website without
making the desired action, so it’s a good idea to try to catch them at
that time. Bouncehelp monitors visitor’s behavior, once an exit intent
has been triggered, the Exit Monitor displays a targeted offer or a
question to your visitor. Engaging your visitor, Bouncehelp invites him
or her to get a call from a company within 9 seconds. Engaging and
converting abandoning website visitors into leads, that could have
bought from your competition, increases profits, and is just “Smart
Business,” concluded Kundahl.

See Also: Tense Times In America

July_Lineup_Paris_Accord_300x250-300x250.jpgTHE WHITE HOUSE INTRIGUE IS INTENSE: Yeah, most people are focusing on the backstabbing disaster that is the Trump foreign policy team. It’s right to worry about it, because those people are going to get us all killed while the Wall Street Journal runs a thinkpiece on the white economic anxiety that makes them cool with nuclear war. The infighting among Trump’s legal team is less… earth destroying, but still pretty interesting. Read about it here.

THE NRA IS TRYING TO TRICK YOU: Here’s an entirely reasonable thought process: “Hmm… the NRA seems to be doing something not evil.” –> “Let me investigate this issue more to figure out how the NRA is trying to be evil.” I explain it here.

GOD, PLEASE LET THIS ECONOMY CRASH SOON: Yes, I’m rooting for economic destruction. Yes, it’s because I hate Trump. Yes, it’s also because I hate the people who voted for Trump. Yes, I am willing to risk my own investments, just for the chance to drive past breadlines full of people in tattered business suits wearing #MAGA hats so I can shout, “YOUR MARGINAL TAX RATE HAS GONE DOWN THO,” while I YouTube them chasing the sandwich I attached to the back of my car. I am not joking. I wish NOTHING BUT THE WORST for the people who put this country into this situation. This story about declining deal values makes me GIDDY.

U.G.L.Y. YOU AIN’T GOT NO ALIBI, YOU UGLY: In honor of this law school.

I WANTED TO BE AN ASTRONAUT WHEN I GREW UP: Space is cool. Getting off this gross planet is cool. Spending years in the military, test-piloting unproven weapons of war, hoping to be given the opportunity to strap yourself to a bomb so you can be propelled into a vacuum that will boil your blood if your tinfoil thick coating gets damaged is… a big part of why I ended up going to law school instead. Astronaut Chris Hadfield delivered the keynote at last week’s ClioCon. Read about it here.

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