Year in Review

Top 10 stories of 2020

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When we look back at our most-read stories every year, there is usually a pretty eclectic mix. Our readers tend to like unusual headlines, lawyer discipline stories and legal education news. (Last year's top story, for example, was "Brendan Dassey's meowing former lawyer is suspended from the bench.")

But this year’s most-read stories on were fittingly more serious. The 2020 elections, economy and pandemic dominated our year. In mid-March, the ABA Journal closed its Chicago office and all employees began working remotely, churning out stories about the impact that COVID-19 was having on the legal community and the country’s legal needs. These were the articles that had the most traffic:

1. 10 law schools are out of compliance with bar passage standard, ABA legal ed section says

“Ten law schools are out of compliance with an ABA accreditation standard that requires a bar passage rate of at least 75% within two years.”

2. Trump and his 3,500 suits: Prosecutor and author reveals in interview his portrait of ‘Plaintiff in Chief’

“While Donald Trump had no experience in working in government or in public service when he became president of the United States, he brought an astounding history of involvement in thousands of lawsuits to the nation’s highest office. Former federal prosecutor and author James D. Zirin illuminates more than 45 years of Trump’s legal disputes in his new book, Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits, published in September 2019.”

3. Which SCOTUS justices are registered Democrats or Republicans? Fix the Court investigates

“Several Supreme Court justices are registered members of political parties, raising questions about appearances at a time when the justices’ associations are under scrutiny, according to the nonpartisan judicial watchdog group Fix the Court.”

4. Law grad wins discharge of his student debt in opinion criticizing ‘punitive standards’

“In what is being described as a “stunning” decision, a bankruptcy judge has ruled that a 2004 graduate of Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law School may erase more than $220,000 in student loan debt.”

5. History shows how SCOTUS nominations play out in election years

“A Republican president with two U.S. Supreme Court nominations under his belt was seeking a second term and had uncertain prospects just weeks before the election. A vacancy on the court unexpectedly arose. Suddenly, political calculations were a major factor as the president weighed contenders for the lifetime appointment.”

6. Can companies be held liable when their employees fall ill with the coronavirus?

“In an effort to combat COVID-19, companies across the country have shuttered operations, required employees to work remotely and limited services and business hours. As these companies—and the ones that haven’t been as quick to take action—face an uncertain financial future, they also face the possibility that their workers will contract the coronavirus and hold them accountable for not putting proper protections in place.”

7. What alternatives to the July bar exam are being considered in light of COVID-19?

“Given that COVID-19 restrictions prohibit large gatherings for the foreseeable future, administration of the July 2020 bar exam seems unlikely, according to a working paper released Sunday by a group of legal academics. It calls for states to consider diploma privilege for 2020 law school graduates, as well as supervised practice.”

8. BigLaw pay cuts and layoffs are likely to multiply, experts say; which firms are doing it?

“Large and midsize law firms responded to economic pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic this week with pay cuts, layoffs and lower partner payouts. And it’s not over yet, observers say.”

9. The high demand for lawyers amid the coronavirus pandemic

“From advising employers how to respond when an employee tests positive for coronavirus to counseling employees afraid of catching it at the office, lawyers are working around the clock to help clients navigate the uncharted legal waters sparked by the rapidly spreading COVID-19.”

10. US News releases its 2021 law school rankings

“Once again, the top three law schools are at Yale University, Stanford University and Harvard University, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 rankings.”

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