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Weighing the value of LL.M. (access required)

LL.M. = Lawyers Losing Money. That's a running joke in the online legal world these days, where bloggers and practitioners puzzle over whether a master of laws degree yields valuable returns for recipients or simply plunges them into another year's worth of law school debt. It's not an easy question to answer. On one hand, the demand is certainly there. The number of LL.M.s granted by American Bar Association-approved schools grew by 65 percent between 1999 and 2009, according to a September article in the National Law Journal. North Carolina schools are trending upwards, too.

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No Woodson claim for teen shredded in machinery (access required)

Woodson claims are notoriously difficult to win. Just ask Cornelius lawyer Christopher Mauriello (pictured). On Tuesday, the N.C. Court of Appeals rejected a Woodson claim put forth by Mauriello's client, the brother of a teenager who was killed while loading wooden pallets into a shredding machine where safety guards had been removed to increase productivity. "If this is not a Woodson claim, I don't know what is," Mauriello said. "The only way to have a Woodson claim is to have a client named Woodson who gets caught in a trench collapse."

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Study provides unique peek into lawyer job satisfaction (access required)

How do you feel about your job today? How about yesterday? Last year? Surveys on lawyer job satisfaction tend to be snapshots of a particular moment. But a new study looks at one group of 360 lawyers, starting with the date they entered the University of Virginia law school in 1987, and catching up with them again 20 years later. A longitudinal study of law graduates 20 years after they entered school has never been done before, according to Professor John Monahan, a psychologist and law school faculty member.

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Panel upholds Cary’s rejection of variance for development (access required)

The nixing of a Charlotte-based developer's plan to develop a 108-acre tract in Cary's Alston Activity Center has been upheld by the Court of Appeals after the panel affirmed the denial of a variance request. The developer, Cary Creek Limited Partnership, asked the town of Cary in 2006 for a variance from an ordinance establishing 50- and 100-foot buffer zones around perennial and intermittent streams. The developer wanted to fill in two intermittent streams that are "drainage areas that flow only during wet seasons," according to the opinion. The town denied the developer's request for a variance. A Wake County superior court judge upheld the town's ruling, and the developer appealed.

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Candidates for Wynn’s old seat face off in Greensboro (access required)

The first few candidates for the N.C. Court of Appeals got five minutes to plead their case before members of the N.C. Association of Defense Attorneys in Greensboro Oct. 1. But the candidates for the seat now held by Judge Cressie Thigpen Jr. got only three minutes each. It's not that they're any less important. But it's part of the deal when you're running in a race with 13 other people. And the forum held by the NCADA as part of its fall seminar may have been the first time a judicial candidate asked to be second choice. "If you don't make me first choice, I hope I'll rate No. 2," said Daniel Garner, counsel to the N.C. Commissioner of Banks. "Or No. 3," he added.

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Turf War: Client scarcity fuels battle between rural, urban lawyers (access required)

Smithfield attorneys watch as lawyers from Raleigh walk into the Johnston County Courthouse with dozens of traffic-ticket shucks in their hands. In Union County, attorneys are feeling the squeeze as law firms in Charlotte take on more personal-injury cases. And in Pender County, the local bar is trying to change the rules for the indigent-defender list to keep Wilmington-based lawyers from signing up. Turf battles among attorneys are nothing new. But with today's financial pressures, some lawyers in urban areas may be quicker to look for business in outlying counties, according to interviews with attorneys across the state.

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LegalZoom: Scourge or partner? Depends whom you ask (access required)

Gregory Herman-Giddens was at the annual meeting of the Chatham County Chamber of Commerce when a young woman approached him. "She said she had a 2-year-old daughter and a second child on the way," Herman-Giddens said. "She said she needed to get a will done and was thinking of doing it online. She asked me what I thought about that." The Chapel Hill estate-planning attorney admitted that he was biased. "But when you think of what your family is worth to you and the money you spend to make sure your children are well-cared-for, yet you choose the very cheapest method of providing for the future financial protection of your children instead of spending a few hundred dollars and going to an expert, that is shortsighted," he said.

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Why you need to switch to digital client files now (access required)

"Here's a question that's posed to me from time to time: 'What do you see as the biggest technological issue facing law firms?' My answer: the stubborn insistence of so many lawyers in clinging to paper client files. In my opinion, every single lawyer needs to commit to using digital files. I know the list of excuses by heart. Well, at the risk of offending some, you need to get over it," guest columnist Jim Calloway writes.

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Prison guard gets comp benefits after ‘shanking’ threat (access required)

Nathaniel Rainey was at a restaurant watching a football game when he received a phone call from a coworker. "Well," the coworker said, "when you come in you need to be very careful because we heard some inmates were planning on shanking you." Rainey immediately left the restaurant and had a panic attack in his car. After the N.C. Department of Correction denied his workers' compensation claim, a deputy commissioner awarded Rainey medical and disability benefits. The commission has upheld the award.

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