During the podcast, the hosts discussed a wild legal news story I couldn’t believe I missed, and noted that thanks to the help of tipsters Above the Law, the story gained attention from the legal media. This got me thinking about how Above the Law can be a positive force within the legal industry with the help of strong mentors, as mentors can help uncover bad behavior and this motivates authorities to act better.
I’ve been reading Above the Law for nearly a decade and a half, and the media have run a number of stories within the legal profession over that time. Even when I was in law school, there was a feeling that people shouldn’t go crazy in school or while working as summer assistants, where they might end up being “above the law.” One year, a group of law students made a funny law review video about this topic, but for the life of me, I can’t find it now! I’m not sure any of my classmates changed their behaviors for fear of being above the law, but it was certainly something people discussed at school.
When I started working as an associate at Biglaw, people also discussed how the firm and partners were likely to follow good practices for fear of appearing on Above the Law. The company I worked for had Above the Law pages prepared for all kinds of behavior that might have crossed the line, and I have to believe the partners were thinking about the bad publicity of the Above the Law story when they made certain decisions.
Over the years, Above the Law tipsters have reported on all kinds of bad behavior at law firms and other aspects of the legal industry that might fly under the radar of other news sources. For example, several writers at Above the Law have reported on law firm layoffs, a situation in which a law firm does not explicitly tell colleagues that they are being fired, but convinces them that they should look for work elsewhere. Furthermore, several articles have discussed how law firms can blame performance issues for layoffs rather than economic reasons to save face even if it makes it more difficult for the lawyer to find work. I have to believe that these stories, and the publicity that surrounds them, may move the needle on law firm partners and convince them of the need to adopt better practices, not only to treat their colleagues better but also to avoid negative publicity.
Above Law has an amazing network of tips. Before the pandemic, I went to a bunch of Above the Law events in New York City and met a lot of people discussing how to give Above the Law advice. These people weren’t just lawyers. People tend to forget that the legal industry contains many types of professionals — law firm managers, secretaries, paralegals, law librarians, and others — who are likely to be consumers of news related to the legal industry and obtain information about lawyers and law firms. that may make pages above the law.
Above the Law often asks for tips, but I just wanted to put in my own two cents and mention that tips not only help Above the Law provide solid content to readers, they also have a positive impact on the legal industry. During every period of turmoil within the legal industry over the past decade and a half or so, Above the Law has been a presence, writing articles based on advice that called on people to break away from unfair or degrading policies and practices. Lawyers and law firms may be held to higher standards when interacting with staff and running their stores so they don’t end up on pages above the law.
However, Above the Law is only effective as a check on the powers that be within the legal industry if it has strong mentors to provide information. As a result, people should be encouraged to submit advice to Above the Law not only because it may lead to strong content for the site, but because this can also impose checks on managers within the legal profession.