Letters From Our Readers

Letters From Our Readers

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Redesigned Journal

Way back when, in prehistoric times, I was the associate publisher of the ABA Journal. We embarked on a redesign of the magazine, as you just did in the September-October issue. It was 30-plus years ago. Only Debra Cassens Weiss on the current staff might recall those days.

I simply write to congratulate you and the staff. It is not easy taking such a step. Heart-stopping at times, in fact. You will have complaints. Don’t ignore them; some will have validity. But also move on knowing that the redesign breathes fresh life into the Journal.

Soon after our redesign, we misspelled “plaintiff” on the cover (“plantiff”). We then received my favorite letter to the editor of all time: Dear Journal: I would like to file a complant. Things happen, but worse than any complaint you will receive is doing nothing at all. The time was ripe for a refresh, and you did well.

Don Oppenheim
Berkeley, California

Law by the numbers

In the article “Inside the Legal Profession” September-October, page 39, the figures you report are misleading. You state average (mean) lawyer earnings of $144,230 in 2018. However, income distributions do not follow a normal distribution where the mean and the median are the same. Income distributions are skewed to the right, meaning average (mean) incomes are much higher than median incomes.

The report you cite states median earnings were $120,910. Median incomes are much more representative of what the typical lawyer earns than mean (average) incomes. In this case, the mean or average is 19% higher than the median, and in total dollars, the difference is $23,000; quite a contrast.

Néstor Enrique Cruz
Falls Church, Virginia

Mock trial experience

Reading “Trial Runs,” September-October, page 24, about Kirkland & Ellis’ providing a substitute for the vanishing trial with its mock trial program, calls to mind the innovative program Davis Polk implemented in the 1960s. As a young associate, I was seconded to the criminal branch of the Legal Aid Society in Foley Square to try misdemeanors and felonies in New York state court for what was intended to be three months. The program was developed by Bob Fiske, who later would become the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and the first Whitewater independent counsel. Because he thought I had a productive three-month stint, I was able to continue with Legal Aid for a number of additional months with the firm paying my regular compensation. Not long after I returned to Davis Polk, I was given almost two months’ leave with full pay to try a lengthy felony case. Although the [Kirkland Institute for Trial Advocacy] program is certainly better than having no real trials, it pales compared to the actual trial experience that a number of Davis Polk associates, including me, were able to get through the Legal Aid Society in Manhattan.

Bill Levit

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