October 2014

above the law logo.JPGTime flies. It’s hard to believe, but Above the Law turns two this summer. We started writing for ATL in July 2006, and the site went live in August 2006.
We’re happy to report that things are going swimmingly — so swimmingly, in fact, that we’d like to (and need to) hire another full-time writer. Law firms are firing, but ATL is hiring. This gig may not pay $160K, but we guarantee it’s more fun than document review or due diligence.
This is a full-time position. The pay is quite competitive for a media/journalism job, and standard benefits — health insurance, a 401(k), abuse from anonymous commenters — are included. If you’re looking to transition from law into the writing life, this is an excellent opportunity.
If you’d like to apply, please email us (subject line: “New Writer Application”). Please describe yourself and your background, and explain why you’d be a great addition to ATL. If you have a particular vision for the site or ideas for new features, do share. Feel free to include a résumé, a writing sample, a link to your own blog (if you have one), or any other information you think might be relevant to evaluation of your application.
We will take applications through Friday, June 6 (and will probably throw in another plug for this next week). Thanks for your interest; we look forward to hearing from you.

bored no work law firm Above the Law blog.jpgBack in December, we conducted a survey focusing on how busy those of you who work for large law firms were. The results were somewhat comforting. A majority of you said work at your firms was not slow, and 78 percent of you said you weren’t afraid of losing your job.
That was about seven months ago. Have times changed? In addition to all the recent law-firm layoffs, here is some anecdotal evidence that they have:

Given the hard economic times, you guys should do a story about associates that have no work. And I’m not talking about light billable hours, but NO WORK.

I work for [a large firm] and I’m currently relegated to surfing the internet, reading ATL, and looking for new incarnations of ceiling cat. I’ve begged and pleaded with partners to give me work, but to no avail.

I’d be curious what other associates around the country who are slow are doing to drum up work or, better yet, kill time.

Have any suggestions for this frustrated reader? This person already knows about legal blogs as a procrastination aid. Given the uncertain economy, online shopping binges probably aren’t smart. IM’ing with friends at other firms is fun, but not everyone has that option.
If you know of other ways to pass the non-billable time — and please, safe-for-work proposals only — feel free to share them in the comments. Thanks.

DLA Piper logo Above the Law blog.jpgThese aren’t the best of times for Biglaw, in case you hadn’t noticed. The most recent evidence: staff and lawyer layoffs at Sonnenschein, news that we broke last night (and might write more about, so feel free to email us with info).
But here is a tiny sliver of good news. In response to our open call for information about delayed start dates for incoming associates, which some law firms have been using to reduce expenses, we received very little.
First, we learned that DLA Piper has instituted a nationwide start date of October 1. This isn’t terribly exciting, since October 1 isn’t that late. Other firms that have announced delayed start dates have gone for late October or even January.
The change also doesn’t appear to be economically motivated. From DLA spokesperson Jason Costa:

The changes were made to provide a uniform start date across all our offices. The new collective date allows us to have a uniform orientation process. We think it will also be good for the associates, since the shared start date will probably lead to a tighter knit class.

Our tipsters mentioned the availability of pay advances if needed, which Costa confirmed: “We are more than happy to give pay advances to any incoming associates who had planned to start earlier than October, and who may need the extra cash.”
Second, we received more details about Pillsbury Winthrop, which previously said it was spacing out start dates “over several months.”
Read the rest, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “An Update on Start Dates: DLA Piper, Pillsbury Winthrop”

tarot card.jpgWe heard through the grapevine that Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit gave ATL a shout out during a Federalist Society lunch earlier this month. According to our tipsters, “his biggest advice to any summer associates in the audience was ‘don’t show up on David Lat’s blog, Above the Law.'”

Well, the first summer associate tale of 2008 has made its way into our tips inbox from Atlanta. A summer associate at Alston & Bird decided to share his quirky sense of humor and alter ego with the rest of his summer class. Our tipster explains:

[This e-mail] was sent by an Alston & Bird summer… (as his cross-dressing alter-ego Divljan Shatterhand Steele) to the entire Atlanta summer class. The email, besides being super weird, is pretty innocuous. However, the pictures on his Facebook account could give him some serious trouble — besides the multiple pictures of him dressed in drag as his alter-ego, there is a picture of a pie with a gummy-bear swastika…

Needless to say, the email has already been widely circulated. A&B has a progressive reputation, but this might be a bit much. Given the current state of the market, Alston might be regretting hiring such a huge summer class (look at the recipient list, which likely only includes the summers who are working the first half) in Atlanta. This guy isn’t doing himself any favors.

The bizarre e-mail, involving tarot cards and multiple personalities, is available after the jump. If you’ve been wondering about the history of neckties, you’ll definitely want to check it out.

We have redacted the SA’s name and ask that you not identify the person in the comments. Feel free to refer to him as “Divljan” only. Thanks.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Summer Associate of the Day: Alter Ego ‘Divljan Shatterhand Steele’”

American Red Cross.jpgSome people question whether large law firms do enough to make the world a better place. These people wonder: Are Biglaw partners letting Third World babies die, just so they can enjoy their Ferraris?
Or is the “Baby vs. Ferrari” choice a false dichotomy? Here’s another way of looking at it. Lawyers at large law firms, by providing top-notch legal services to large corporations — corporations owned not just by fat cats but also by ordinary Americans, through mutual funds and similar investment vehicles — create value that otherwise would not exist. Some of this surplus value makes its way into the pockets of partners (and their Ferrari dealers). But some of it makes its way to charitable causes (as well as federal and state government coffers, in the form of tax revenue).
Last week we commended the firms of Dewey & LeBoeuf and Heller Ehrman for their generous donations in support of China earthquake relief efforts. And it seems that supporting relief organizations, just like raising associate salaries, may be contagious within Biglaw.
Several other leading law firms have donated to support China earthquake relief efforts (and a number of these firms, including Orrick and Weil, acted within a few hours of last week’s ATL post). Here are some that we know of:

1. Allen & Overy: $80,000 contribution + matching donations.
2. Kirkland & Ellis: $100,000 contribution + matching donations.
3. McDermott Will & Emery: $10,000 contribution.
4. Morrison & Foerster
5. Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe: matching donations, up to $100,000.
6. Sullivan & Cromwell: $100,000 contribution.
7. Weil Gotshal & Manges: $50,000 contribution.

We commend the foregoing firms and their employees for their generosity. If your firm has taken action and isn’t mentioned above, feel free to post a shout-out in the comments.
For those of you who are curious — perhaps your firm would like to start a similar initiative, and you’d like to lift some language for the announcement — the Orrick and Weil memos appear after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Humanitarian Crises in Asia: Law Firms Respond”

Legal%20Eagle%20Wedding%20Watch%20NYT%20wedding%20announcements%20Above%20the%20Law.jpgCongratulations to Keira Driansky and David Simon, chosen by ATL readers over Kristy Hong and Jonas Blank III as April’s Legal Eagle Couple of the Month.
Now for the next set of entrants, and it’s a crowded field. We think this week’s column sets a record for total number of Ivy League JDs. Here’s our latest crop of outstanding newlyweds:

1. Deborah Adler and Brian Sutherland
2. Rachel Hannaford and Justin Lerer
3. Zoe Segal-Reichlin and Daniel Garodnick
4. Alison Franklin and Shane Milam

Read up on their pedigrees and passions, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legal Eagle Wedding Watch 5.4 – 5.11: Penn-y Wise”

Affirmed race horse racehorse.JPGAlmost 2,000 votes were cast in the first round of our poll for the best legally-themed race horse name. We’ve winnowed the full field of 20 horses down to the top ten.
Now we’re in the final round. The polls will remain open through the Memorial Day weekend. Let the race begin!

Earlier: Legally-Themed Racehorse Names: And They’re Off! (Part 1)
Legally-Themed Racehorse Names? Your Nominations, Please

Asian language translation Asia language speakers ATL.jpgIn the last three installments of the Asia Chronicles, we’ve written about the perks and the (possible) disadvantages of working as a lawyer in Asia. We have been trying to give you a better idea of what it’s like to work over here and to help you decide if moving to Asia might be an option that you would like to explore.
But many of you have contacted us saying that you need to hear no more, you’re already convinced. You want to know what kind of skills American firms in Asia are looking for, and how to go about finding a job in this part of the world.
The most common question we get on this topic is about language ability: “How much of a difference will language skills, or lack thereof, make in the marketability of a job candidate?” As lawyers, none of you should be surprised that we can only answer this question with more questions:
1. How high is your language level, really?
We’ve seen a lot of job seekers come into our offices with resumes that describe their language skills as “proficient” or even “fluent,” but when we ask them even a basic question in that language, they often struggle to answer. In general, a few years of college language classes does not a fluent speaker make, and even people who have spent significant time immersed in a language environment rarely have learned the legal and business terminology that would be needed for common tasks such as reading due diligence documents, participating in a drafting session, or negotiating a comfort letter. Unless you are a native or legitimately fluent speaker, your language skills will honestly not be of much use to a law firm, and therefore will not balance out deficiencies in the core strengths of a candidate, such as graduating from a top-ranked law school with high grades or having valuable work experience.
That said, a glance at the attorney roster of many selective law firms in Asia reveals some lawyers with lower than average credentials but strong language and culture experience (time spent in the U.S. State Department is a common theme) that seems to have gotten them hired. However, having some lesser level of language ability could make a marginal difference with an otherwise qualified candidate because it may help convince a law firm that you are interested in and capable of living in a certain country and interacting well with people from that culture.
2. Do you really want to be hired based on your language ability?
One of the first hard truths that we learned after spending some time working in Asia is that having language skills might not always be something you want to advertise. We’ve seen many native and fluent speakers relegated to countless hours of foreign language documentary due diligence or translation because no one else in the office was capable of doing it. One of our colleagues has even been keeping her language ability a secret so that she can avoid being staffed on such mind-numbing projects. Lawyers who can speak and understand but cannot read or write (or at least pretend they can’t) have the advantage of being able to participate in the comparatively more interesting client meetings and negotiation while avoiding less enjoyable tasks.
Read more, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: Walking the Walk, Talking the Talk”

* One helluva sexual harassment suit. Runner-up Lawsuit of the Day? [Jezebel]
* Jerry Springer’s Northwestern commencement speech. Also: Is tax law professor Paul Caron friends with Pete Wentz? [TaxProf Blog]
* The hidden talents of law students: hog wrestling? [Tex Parte]

Harvard Law Review Andrew Crespo Above the Law blog.jpgIn January, after the Harvard Law Review published a rather embarrassing, bleeding-heart Case Comment, we wrote:

Last year, we ran a popular series of posts on the Harvard Law Review. The gist of the coverage was that the Review’s new, left-leaning leadership “is running the journal into the ground with a cabal of radical ideologues, making the outgoing editors nervous about the future reputation of the journal.”

We got some flak for our HLR coverage. But in view of what the Review is publishing these days, as discussed extensively in the blogosphere — see, e.g., the Volokh Conspiracy and PrawfsBlawg — we can’t help gloating. Just a little.

Or a lot. A tipster draws our attention to a Note that was just published in the latest issue of the HLR:

I think you should break this story. It is a guaranteed comment clusterf**k.

This Note (PDF) basically says that anyone who doesn’t go in to public interest work is immoral and is killing babies in third world countries (most of this analysis is in section 4 of the article). I think it just came out in electronic form today, so you should get a jump on anyone.

Our correspondent’s summary is shockingly accurate. Check out the article for yourself by clicking here (PDF).
As it turns out, we’re not the first to take note of the Note. We believe that would be Professor Paul Horwitz, over at PrawfsBlawg. After alluding to the notorious Case Comment from several months ago, Professor Horwitz writes:

I am reading the latest issue of the Harvard Law Review [which contains] a Note titled, after an inscription on a statue in Cambridge Common, “Never Again Should a People Starve in a World of Plenty.” It’s unusually thinly sourced for a Harvard Law Review Note — not that I’m encouraging people to use more footnotes! And it has a certain voice (“There is injustice everywhere. The last place there should be injustice is in the justice system.”) and theme that . . . . well, I find myself wondering whether we have found our anonymous author once again.

I don’t mean to be unduly gossipy about this sort of thing; it’s worth a two-paragraph blog post and not more. And I am not knocking the observation that injustice is bad; heaven forfend. Just the same, I’m curious whether this is the same author.

We don’t share Professor Horwitz’s shyness. We’re happy to write more than two paragraphs about the Note (ha — we already have). And there’s no such thing as being “unduly gossipy” in our book.
So gossip away, in the comments. Do you think this Note was written by the same author as the prior Case Comment? Do you feel that the Harvard Law Review — once headed by Senator Barack Obama, its first black president — is tilting too far to the left?
Or, if you prefer, don’t gossip; engage substantively with the arguments in the Note. Clearly the author wants associates and partners in large law firms to sit up and take notice, to think about whether what they’re doing professionally is worthwhile — or even morally defensible.
We’re sure the anonymous author will be grateful to us for bringing his or her work to the attention of ATL’s many readers in Biglaw. Whoever you are: you’re welcome!

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Working in Biglaw = Killing Babies?”

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