October 2014

Tilda Swinton Karen Crowder Ally McBeal Calista Flockhart.jpgThat’s the title of our latest column for the New York Observer, which reflects upon recent television and film portrayals of women litigators.
It touches upon some of the same themes highlighted in Amy Kolz’s excellent American Lawyer article from last year, but it’s more focused on fictional female litigators, as opposed to real-life ones. Here’s how it starts:

Whatever happened to Ally McBeal? If recent movies and television shows are any guide, the life of a female lawyer has gotten a lot less pleasant since the carefree, charmingly neurotic days of dancing babies and bathroom kisses. But today’s portrayals may be more accurate, and certainly more critically acclaimed.

Last January, Glenn Close won a Golden Globe for her compelling performance as Patty Hewes, a fearsome and wildly successful plaintiff’s lawyer, on the addictive TV show Damages. The following month, Tilda Swinton snagged an Oscar for stepping into the pumps of Karen Crowder, a hard-charging in-house litigator, in Michael Clayton.

In March, Julianna Margulies (of ER) returned to television as aggressive defense lawyer Elizabeth Canterbury, the title character of Canterbury’s Law. Even Katey Sagal, who embodied the famously vulgar Peggy Bundy on Married With Children, reincarnated herself this year as Marci Klein, the sleek, powerful, and ruthless founding partner of the law firm on Eli Stone.

You can read the full column over here.
Farewell, Ally McBeal; Enter the Litigatrix [New York Observer]

Legal Pad (a Cal Law blog) has a link to this amazing complaint [PDF] filed by paralegal Jason Herrera against Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

Herrera’s complaint — “for discrimination, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and fraud” — reads like a reality TV show pitch about the lives of paralegals. Herrera has been a paralegal in Weil’s Silicon Valley office since 2004. In his complaint, he talks about:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: As the Paralegal World Turns…”

laptop small pink girl woman Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPGThat’s a question that our friends at the ABA Journal are planning to tackle in a forthcoming article. Perhaps you can help?
Some background, from reporter Richard Acello:

We’re looking to do a story on law firms’ tech savvy or lack thereof. At a recent technology conference, some IT people complained about how their technological requirements were just not accepted by the older partners. But the young lawyers, used to more advanced technology, had no problem adapting when changes were made.

We’re looking for some examples from associates, as well as suggestions for new associates who come in and are appalled at how backward the tech is at their law firms. Yes, we will allow anonymity.

You can email Rich Acello, the writer on the story, at richace at cox dot net. Also feel free to comment on this post if you have some thoughts on law firms and how “with it” they are when it comes to tech.


Holland Knight staff layoffs secretary secretarial firings.jpgThe bad news continues to roll in. Becker & Poliakoff, which just announced across-the-board pay cuts for its lawyers, isn’t the only Florida firm that’s hurting.
From a report by Julie Kay, for the upcoming issue of the National Law Journal:

In another sign of the hard times facing the legal industry, particularly in real-estate heavy South Florida, two local law firms — Holland & Knight and Shutts & Bowen — have laid off non-lawyer staffers.

On a day that could be dubbed Black Friday in South Florida legal circles, Tampa-based Holland & Knight, one of Florida’s largest and most venerable firms with 1,150 lawyers, laid off 70 staffers Friday, including legal secretaries, IT and accounting staff. No lawyers were laid off.

The layoffs of about four employees in each of Holland’s 17 offices represented 5% of Holland’s non-lawyer workforce.

Shutts & Bowen, a 200-lawyer, Miami-based firm, Friday laid off nine people, all entry level file clerks or paralegal clerks. No lawyers or legal secretaries were affected.

Holland & Knight spokeswoman Susan Bass told the Daily Business Review that the firm “had some redundancies and inefficiencies.” Seventy staffers is a whole lot of redundancies.
Read more — about prior layoffs at H&K, and the situation over at Greenberg Traurig — below the fold.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: More South Florida Suffering”

Bad Report Card.jpgAh, those inscrutable transcripts from the University of Chicago Law School — gotta love ‘em. They’re chock full of numbers, but they don’t use the standard “As = 90s, Bs = 80s” scale. For example, if your grades are all in the 80s, you’re a rock star.
Nobody can make heads or tails of the U. Chicago transcripts. So what’s wrong with a little “tweaking” here and there? From the ABA Journal (via TaxProf Blog):

A lawyer who attended the University of Chicago Law School has been accused in an ethics complaint of lying about his grades when he applied for a summer position at Sidley Austin.

Loren Elliotte Friedman is accused in a complaint filed May 6 by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. He was listed as an associate at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle in New York on the firm’s website earlier Tuesday, but his name was removed by the afternoon.

Joseph Pizzurro, managing partner of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, told ABAJournal.com that Friedman, a bankruptcy associate, disclosed the bar complaint to the law firm on Friday and submitted his resignation.

The complaint says Friedman altered transcripts of his law school grades in 20 classes to reflect better grades than he received. Friedman worked at Sidley Austin the summer of 2002, and the firm extended an employment offer for him to begin work as an associate in 2003.

The complaint also alleges that Friedman failed to reveal he flunked out of medical school in his application to law school, and that he failed to disclose the altered law school transcripts in his bar application.

It looks like medicine, and now law, haven’t worked out for Loren Friedman. What’s next?
Maybe betting on horse races? The Legal Profession Blog has dubbed his three alleged omissions a “trifecta.”
More details, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day: Loren Elliotte Friedman”

funny-pictures-cat-loves-food.jpgLast week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on trimming summer associate programs is still open, but we’ve already been getting some interesting debate in the comments.
For law students, trimming the summer programs — or at least the summer salaries — would be a critical financial blow:

[L]aw School tuition is fucking EXPENSIVE. I take out 55k per year in loans here at CLS (45k of which goes to tuition + fees). Luckily, I have no undergrad debt. The financial aid office suggests that the average student take out 64k per year in loans. In sum, you misers need to talk to school adminstrations before cutting pay.

But once they’ve achieved permanent (or not so permanent) employment status, some associates would prefer to see a slimmer summer experience:

It’s not right that in a market where good associates are being kicked to the curb for economic reasons we’re throwing buckets of money at a bunch of kids who don’t know anything and just teaching them how to be (more) entitled. Shorten the summer and pay them a salary that has some correlation to what they’re worth – they are mere interns.

Other associates, however, are still in favor of lunch:

I thought ATL was on our side. The open budgets and free lunches are a perk to associates too.

And one tipster wonders just how free those lunches are from firm to firm:

Might be a good time next week or two weeks from now to do a post about summer lunch budgets. I just heard on the grapevine that we’re having $25/person limits, with anything over it coming out of the associate’s pockets. I know some other firms have a $30 or $50 limit.

So, today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey focuses on both lunch and morale. How much can you spend on lunch with the summer associates, how often do you do lunch, and would associates at your firm be upset if the summer program went away?
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this survey.

Vines.jpgJudge Carlton Vines presides over traffic violations and DUIs in Chattooga County, Georgia. It’s a tiny county with a population of just over 25,000. The local newspaper, The Summerville News, has an ongoing investigative series examining the county’s drunk-driving phenomenon and growing number of DUI arrests.
Unfortunately, Judge Vines has become a part of the phenomenon. He was arrested in November of last year for driving drunk and leaving the scene of an accident after swerving into another car. The coppers just released the dash-cam video from the arrest. The man was trashed, slurring, and stumbling… though still cogent enough to refuse the breathalyzer.

From WBS TV:

Vines pleaded guilty to DUI charges in April. He has since spent three nights in jail, paid fines, done community service and was on house arrest.

On the tape, Vines can be heard admitting he has had “over the limit.” At one point on the tape, an officer asks, “Do you remember the wreck you were involved in?” Vines can be heard responding, “I’m not going to admit or deny it but I will take responsibility.”

A nolo plea — or just good drunken logic? Vines is under voluntary suspension, and the Georgia State Judicial Commission gets to decide whether he returns to the bench.
Judge Vines makes some bizarre comment about sharecropping at the end of the YouTube video. Can someone from rural Georgia please explain?
Caught On Tape: Georgia Judge Arrested For DUI [WSB TV]
Drunk Judge Arrested [YouTube.com]

* Justice Department report details FBI objections to interrogation techniques used on terror suspects. [Legalities / ABC News; McClatchy]
* Jurors get a bit too much evidence in R. Kelly trial. [CNN]
* Officers in Sean Bell case face NYPD charges of misusing firearms. [New York Times]
* Florida woman gets seven years for enslavement. [CNN]
* Clinton takes Kentucky, but Obama grabs Oregon and the majority of pledged delegates. [MSNBC; New York Times]
* Should Obama promise Hillary a SCOTUS nomination? [Washington Post]

Bingham McCutchen Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgThis isn’t as sexy as lawyer layoffs and associate pay cuts. But today has been a bit slow on the news front, so we’ll take what we can get. From Legal Pad:

Bingham McCutchen just confirmed to us that it laid off staff last week in at least two Bay Area offices — 12 in San Francisco and five in Silicon Valley.

San Francisco Managing Partner Geoffrey Howard said the S.F. layoffs constituted between 5 and 10 percent of the staff there and affected three departments: support services (e.g. copy/fax, mail room, catering, etc.), accounting and records.

They laid off people in catering? One might expect Bingham to pay increased attention to food and beverage, in the wake of Roofiegate.
Bingham Lays Off Bay Area Staff [Legal Pad]

R Kelly child pornography kiddie porn ATL.jpg* A summary of jury selection in the R. Kelly kiddie porn case: “I haven’t heard of jurors this stupid since the O.J. trial.” [Supreme Dicta]
* Really, there’s no cause for alarm. ATL comes in peace. [Tex Parte Blog]
* Cisco GC Mark Chandler feels the heat on Capitol Hill. [Washington Briefs]
* Recent Fantasy Baseball rulings by the Honorable Marc Edelman, ATL’s resident sports columnist. [SportsJudge Blog]
* For those of you who deal with the Malaysian judiciary (all three of you), take note: “[B]usiness as usual in Malaysia is no longer acceptable.” [Wall Street Journal Asia (subscription)]

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