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Courts & legal news weekly roundup 

Welcome to the weekly roundup of the latest news from the courts and the legal industry. Each week, we bring you a quick summary of significant developments, new trends, and interesting articles. 

This week’s highlights 

  • ABA report shows slow progress in diversifying the legal profession 
  • President asks Congress to extend COVID-19 eviction ban set to expire this week 
  • Spread of delta variant prompts law firms to rethink office reopening plans 
  • Remote bar examinees report technical chaos and “overwhelming stress” 
  • Amid heightened cybersecurity threat, law firms seek to attract fresh cyber talent 

ABA report shows slow progress in diversifying the legal profession 

“Women and minorities made only minimal gains in joining law firm ranks over the past decade, American Bar Association data released Thursday shows.” (Bloomberg Law) 

The American Bar Association’s (ABA) third annual profile of the profession revealed slow progress diversifying the profession over the past decade.  

The percentage of women lawyers increased to 37% in 2021, from 33% in 2011. Black and Native American representation in the legal profession declined slightly, while the number of Hispanic and Asian increased by less than 1%. 

The report compiles data from state bar associations, federal agencies, and lawyer interest groups. In addition to demographic data, it includes chapters on how COVID-19 and remote work have affected lawyers. The full report is available on the ABA website. 

President asks Congress to extend COVID-19 eviction ban set to expire this week 

“President Biden called on Congress to act “without delay” to extend the eviction moratorium. Top White House aides fretted the administration could not act on its own as a result of a recent, adverse Supreme Court ruling.” (Washington Post) 

President Biden and Congressional Democrats were scrambling this week to find a way to extend a federal eviction moratorium from expiring on July 31. The White House insisted that, following a recent Supreme Court ruling, it could not act unilaterally.  

Last month the Supreme Court left the CDC’s moratorium on evictions intact by a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the court’s three liberal justices. But Kavanaugh also noted that he agreed that the CDC had overstepped its authority and argued that it could not be extended again without an act of Congress. 

Spread of delta variant prompts law firms to rethink office reopening plans 

“Delta Variant, Vaccine Slowdown Become Central Talking Points in Law Firm Office Return Plans. The cautious optimism that came with the beginning of summer has abated and firms are once again making adjustments based on a moving target.” (National Law Journal) 

Just a few months after many Big Law firms announced office return policies, many are now rethinking based on lower than anticipated vaccination rates and the increasing prevalence of the highly transmissible delta variant.  

Some firms, including Paul Weiss, have announced that unvaccinated individuals will not be permitted inside offices. Others said that in-office mask mandates would remain in place until at least the fall. Law firm leaders have appeared anxious to get lawyers back in the office over the past few months. 

Remote bar examinees report technical chaos and “overwhelming stress” 

“Law school graduates taking the remote bar exam Tuesday and Wednesday are reporting technical failures, blank screens, tears and overwhelming stress.” (The Recorder) 

The National Conference of Bar Examiners was forced to acknowledge problems with their online examination software this week following widespread complaints.  

“I am not an emotional person at all, but ExamSoft’s software going black and turning off the camera during the bar exam a short while ago had me in tears,” Brooklyn Law School graduate MacKenzie Olson said in a Twitter post Tuesday afternoon. 

The National Conference of Bar Examiners—the group that designed the test— acknowledged the problems Tuesday and hinted help would be on the way. 

Amid heightened cybersecurity threat, law firms seek to attract fresh cyber talent 

“Law firms are moving aggressively to recruit new privacy and cybersecurity talent as markets across the country see an uptick in client needs focused around technology matters.” (Bloomberg Law) 

Privacy law and cybersecurity practices are looking to be the year’s hottest practice area with mid-size and large law firms looking to recruit and retain lawyers with expertise in the area. Firms are reportedly offering bonuses and accelerated leadership opportunities in a bid to attract talent. 

The flurry of hiring activity comes after several high-profile cybersecurity incidents and a renewed focus on cybersecurity by the federal government. Both factors have prompted a heightened sense of risk at many large companies. 

Author

  • Richard is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at InfoTrack. He has worked with law firms for more than a decade to advise on adapting to regulatory and technological change. He writes about the courts, civil procedure, and developing trends that may affect law firm operations.