Don’t worry, commenters. We have every intention of giving the recent controversy arising out of layoffs at Paul Hastings the wall-to-wall coverage it deserves.
We’re preparing a more detailed report on associate layoffs and the general state of affairs at PH. If you have information to contribute, please email us (subject line: “Paul Hastings”). We’ve been following the comments (750 and counting) on the post, but we prefer email, due to the greater accountability and opportunity for follow-up. (We keep our email tipsters anonymous, of course.)
Our Paul Hastings scoop has reverberated throughout the blogosphere. A sampling of reactions (excerpts; click on each link to read more):
1. Jezebel. From Moe Tkacik:
[A] female lawyer was laid off by the big law firm Paul Hastings days after suffering a miscarriage because they didn’t want her to get pregnant again. This sort of s**t happens all the time in a lot of industries, of course, but in a firm whose specialty is employment law it’s kind of outrageous….
“If this response seems particularly emotional, perhaps an associate’s emotional vulnerability after a recent miscarriage is a factor you should consider the next time you fire or lay someone off,” she writes.
Also, it really isn’t that emotional in light of the fact that a male employee of the firm killed himself and his ex-girlfriend, a Paul Hastings secretary, at the firm’s Atlanta office.
Excellent observations — the past few weeks have been rough for Paul Hastings. And it is somewhat ironic that PH — a leading employment-law firm, counsel to Sullivan & Cromwell in the Aaron Charney discrimination litigation — now finds itself in hot water over how it treats its own employees.
2. Instapundit. From the ever-pithy Professor Glenn Reynolds:
It’s David Lat’s World, and BigLaw Partners Are Just Living In It: Remember the old days when law firms worried about getting sued if they fired an attorney? These days, I would think the greater fear is that the firing will get ugly and end up featured on Above the Law.
Thanks to Professor Kerr for the kind words.
Read more, below the fold.
Cameras in the courtroom at the U.S. Supreme Court? Over Justice Souter’s dead body.
So you’ll have to settle for fictional depictions on television. From a very interesting report by Tony Mauro, for the Legal Times:
Nearly a decade ago, when his show “Ally McBeal” was at its peak, lawyer-turned-Hollywood-producer David E. Kelley was invited to dinner at the home of then-Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
There, Kelley recalls, he got to chat with four or five justices along with other D.C. luminaries.
But now, Kelley says in an exclusive interview with Legal Times, “I’ve probably disqualified myself” from any justice’s invitation list for a return visit.
That’s because of an April 22 episode of Kelley’s current hit show “Boston Legal,” which included one of the most vociferous popular-culture critiques of the current conservative Supreme Court since John Roberts Jr. became chief justice in 2005.
The anti-Roberts Court screed, improbably enough, is delivered to the justices to their faces during the episode titled “The Court Supreme.” Co-star James Spader, who plays Boston lawyer Alan Shore, lights into the Court as he argues before look-alike justices on behalf of a Louisiana child rapist facing the death penalty. The episode aired just six days after the real Court heard arguments in Kennedy v. Louisiana, an actual child rape/death penalty case.
A sample of the rhetoric: Shore attacks the “overtly and shamelessly pro-business” Court, and takes a sharp detour from the rape case to slam Justice Antonin Scalia for his seemingly likely support for Exxon Mobil in the case -also argued recently-involving punitive damages awarded after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Don’t try this at home, kids — or in real life. The nine current justices are, for the most part, a good-humored group. But they probably wouldn’t appreciate being called “overtly and shamelessly pro-business” — at least not in open court.
* “Classes My Top-Tier Law School Should Have Offered as Warnings About the Profession.” Our favorite: “Forwarding E-mails: Theory and Practice.” [McSweeney's]
* An $8 million windfall for WVU Law School, courtesy of unclaimed class-action settlement money. [Charleston Gazette]
* Jessica Utovich, the scheduler / paramour of Ohio attorney general Marc Dann, in an email to her boss: “I try my hardest to make sure you are taken care of.” Maybe she shouldn’t have tried so hard. [Daily Briefing / Columbus Dispatch]
* When you try to give your client basic grooming tips, and he responds by calling you “the Lucky Charms leprechaun,” it’s time to start looking for a new line of work. [Miami Herald]
This is, like, WOW. We don’t quite know what to say.
This departure memo, sent by an associate leaving the San Francisco office of Paul Hastings, is extraordinary. It also confirms the rumors — which have swirled about for quite some time, but without confirmation until now — of associate layoffs at PH.
We’re reaching out for comment to the associate in question and to Paul Hastings. But we wanted to put this up ASAP, to break the story first.
Farewell email below (with a handful of minor typos corrected). “Transition Agreement and General Release,” after the jump.
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2008 10:14 AM
Subject: My departure
The circumstances surrounding my departure from Paul Hastings have been deeply disappointing. It is one thing to ignore an email sent as a colleague is waiting to have her uterus scraped after a miscarriage, but it is wholly another level of heartlessness to lay her off six days after that. [Partner X] is the only one who expressed any sympathy after my miscarriage, and I am grateful to him for that.
A business is a business, but it takes very little to convey some level of humanity to carry out even the most difficult business decisions. We are human beings first before we are partners or associates. Had you simply explained that the department is unable to sustain the number of associates in the office, I would have completely understood. Had you explained that the office had been directed to reduce the number of associates and I was chosen because of my high billable rate and low billable hours, I would have appreciated such directness, even though the consequences of blindly raising billable rates to an unsustainable degree is plainly predictable. What I do not understand is the attempt to blame the associate for not bringing in the business that should have been brought in by each of you and to hide your personal failures by attempting to tarnish my excellent performance record and looking to undermine my sense of self esteem.
The last few months have been surreal, at best. Just last year, I had celebrated my engagement and marriage with many of you. In fact, during the engagement party, the head of the department took my then-fiancée aside to express to him what a great attorney I am and what a great future I faced. Indeed, less than a week before this year’s bizarre performance review, I was again told by the same partner that my work is great and that the slow business in no way reflected on my performance. A week later, I was given a mediocre performance review and told that I should worry about whether I have a future at Paul Hastings. When I asked for specific examples of my alleged deficiencies, I received no response. When I asked for an explanation as to why I had been downgraded in so many performance categories when I received absolutely no criticism throughout the year and my prior year’s review was stellar, I was told that my prior year’s performance assessment may have been “over-inflated.” What a startling response.
After my miscarriage, I had discussed my concern with several associates that Paul Hastings may use that opportunity to lay me off quickly before I have a chance to get pregnant again. Those associates thought it unfathomable that a firm would be so callous and assured me that Paul Hastings isn’t that kind of a place. What a lesson this has been for them – and for me. I would not have anticipated that a partner would tell me one thing and completely renege on his words a week later. I would not have anticipated that a female partner (whom I had looked to as a role model) with children of her own would sit stone faced as I broke into tears just days after my miscarriage. Even a few words of sympathy or concern would have made a world of difference. What kind of people squander human relationships so easily?
If this response seems particularly emotional, perhaps an associate’s emotional vulnerability after a recent miscarriage is a factor you should consider the next time you fire or lay someone off. It shows startlingly poor judgment and management skills — and cowardice — on your parts. If you should ever have the misfortune of suddenly losing something or someone precious to you, I hope you don’t find similar heartlessness as I have.
As for your request for a release, non-disclosure, and non-disparagement agreement in return for three months’ pay, I reject it. Unlike you, I am not just a paid mouthpiece with no independent judgment. I will decide how and to whom to communicate how you have treated me. I find it ironic that you would try to buy the right not to be disparaged after behaving as you have. Your actions speak volumes, and you don’t need much help from me in damaging your reputation.
I attach the proposed release for any associate who may be interested in reviewing its details.
And that’s all she wrote. The release that Paul Hastings wanted this associate to sign, after the jump.
Update (5:10 PM): We have heard back from the associate in question, who had no additional comment.
Update (8:20 PM): Previously posted in the comments, but now we can bring it up to the main page. Here is Paul Hastings’s statement, from Eileen King, Global Director of Public Relations:
“We disagree with the person’s description of what occurred, but unfortunately we don’t comment on internal employment matters.”
Update (5/6/08): Blog reactions to this story are collected here. Additional discussion of pregnancy discrimination cases appears here. Lawyer layoffs at Paul Hastings are covered here.
Further Update (5/9/08): The author of the email, Shinyung Oh, has gone public and given an interview. See here.
If you’ve ever used software by Citrix to access your office computer remotely, you might find this case of interest. Julie Kay of the National Law Journal reports:
In a rare ruling, a South Florida federal judge has ordered a plaintiff and his law firm to jointly pay sanctions of $756,000 to Fort-Lauderdale-based Citrix Systems for failing to conduct a “reasonable pre-filing investigation” before filing suit.
The April 28 order by U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan is unusual in that it orders sanctions to be paid by both plaintiff Alexander Orenshteyn and his attorneys, David Fink and Timothy Johnson of Houston-based Fink & Johnson. Alexander S. Orenshteyn v. Citrix Systems, No. 02-60478-CV (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Fla.).
Three-quarters of a million is a sizable sanction. And in a bit of bad news for Messrs. Fink and Johnson, “Goodwin Procter will likely pursue the sanctions from the lawyers, as Orenshteyn filed for bankruptcy two years ago.”
As if working at a firm named Fink & Johnson wasn’t bad enough. Why not just name your firm Dootchbag & Schlong, and be done with it?
Last week, we offered you this courtroom scene photo (without context) and asked for caption submissions. Humor, unlike justice, is not blind. Here is our completely subjective list of the top ten finalists. You get to vote for the best one.
A. It was John’s first–and last–pro bono matter.
B. “You see, Your Honor, my client’s house was blown down without even so much as a Notice of Condemnation!”
C. Your honor, the fact that Kermit’s finger smells like bacon IS relevant.
D. Res Ipsa Porquitor
E. All rise for his honor, Judge Wolf.
F. In a shocking deviation from its preference for the electric chair, the defendant (right) was sentenced by the Texas court to a three-hour roasting at 350 degrees, Jack Daniels style.
G. On trial for drugs and prostitution, Babe found himself following the path of Feldman, Haim, Diamond and so many other child actors who came before him.
H. Frat Stud (left) sits in disbelief as the court disregards his “Pigs in my high school used to commit serial murder all the time and then claim that they are incapable of prosecution under state criminal law because they are not human all the time, it was no big deal” defense.
I. Hold on counsel, let me guess … insanity defense?
J. Jim was horrified to learn that cocounsel had not read the section of Scalia and Garner’s new book on oral argument that he had highlighted – “dress appropriately and bear yourself with dignity.”
When you think of clerks of court, you probably think of those annoying people who bounce your filings because you used the wrong font size. They don’t seem like a fun bunch of people.
But Harvey Ruvin, Clerk of Courts for Miami-Dade County, is not your ordinary court clerk. How many clerks do you know who can rap?
Okay, “rapping” may be a generous characterization. Ruvin sounds less like a rapper and more like a stand-up comedian who superimposed his routine over some throbbing beats. “Climate change — what’s up with that?”
But we’re not rap aficionados, so judge for yourself. Our observant tipster points out: “Note at 1:49 in the video, in the ‘o’ in the Stop the Hatred sign, you’ll find a marijuana plant.”
P.S. And where, you’re wondering, did Harvey Ruvin go to law school? None other than the University of Miami School of Law — one of ATL’s favorite law schools.
John McCain doesn’t have the interesting gender or diversity points that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have, but he does have some immigrant cred. He was not born in one of the United States of America, and there are “at least three pending cases… challenging McCain’s right to be sworn in as president.”
The Senate is willing to consider him a “natural born citizen” — but the senators’ opinion doesn’t really matter. From the Washington Post:
The Senate has unanimously declared John McCain a natural-born citizen, eligible to be president of the United States.
That is the good news for the presumptive Republican nominee, who was born nearly 72 years ago in a military hospital in the Panama Canal Zone, then under U.S. jurisdiction. The bad news is that the nonbinding Senate resolution passed Wednesday night is simply an opinion that has little bearing on an arcane constitutional debate that has preoccupied legal scholars for many weeks.
That’s right. This decision may not be up to some lawyers turned politicians. It may go to the legal big boys. SCOTUS, baby.
Sarah H. Duggin, an associate law professor at Catholic University who has studied the “natural born” issue in detail, said the question is “not so simple.” While she said McCain would probably prevail in a determined legal challenge to his eligibility to be president, she added that the matter can be fully resolved only by a constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court decision.
We conducted a poll then asking whether you agreed with the statement, “John McCain is a ‘natural-born citizen’ entitled to serve as president.” Since we’re certain that all ATL readers are highly-educated legal scholars and thorough researchers, the 65 percent of you who agreed with the statement must be right. We’ll let SCOTUS know stat.
Today, we’re consolidating the three tables in one place, so that we can start filling in more blanks and squeezing out some nuances.
The table below now shows six things for each firm:
* which bar exam expenses the firm will reimburse (send us tips to fill in the blanks),
* whether the firm pays new associates a summer stipend or a signing bonus or graduation bonus (not counting clerkship bonuses, which are discussed elsewhere),
* whether the firm provides salary advances (i.e., loans) in any particular amounts,
* whether the firm provides any particular relocation benefits,
* whether the firm provides a pro-rated bonus (a “stub bonus”) for the period between your start date and the end of the year first year, and
* whether the firm will make you pay it all back if you leave. As a general rule, payback requirements will apply to everything but a stub bonus, and will include clerkship bonuses.
And now, that introduction aside, read on to see the aggregated table of bar reimbursements, stipends and bonuses, salary advances, moving expenses, stub bonuses, and payback requirements. Check it out, after the jump.
Dann was an ATL lawyer of the day honoree last month for running a dysfunctional office with staff accused of sexual harassment, DUIs, and ethics law violations. Oh, but there’s more.
On Friday, Dann held a press conference where he revealed his affair with a staffer. Two of his staff were fired and two resigned last week, including the 28-year-old scheduler with whom Dann had the affair. If sleeping with the boss doesn’t get you a raise and a promotion, what’s the point? From the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:
Dann announced the affair at a news conference Friday morning, after investigators released a report on the sexual harassment investigation. The former state senator who once worked in a small Youngstown law firm blamed his inexperience and said he was not equipped to take over a state agency with more than 1,400 employees, including 400 lawyers.
“I don’t know how many people here expected me to win the election, but I certainly was not among them. It was a surprise that I won,” he said.
Saying that you didn’t think you would actually win is the worst defense ever (and seems off-topic). Despite that, Dann says he plans to stay in office and clean up the mess. Good luck with that.
Dann had been slated to be Case Western Law School’s commencement speaker on May 18, but the dean e-mailed the school this morning to announce Dann’s withdrawal. Too bad. His speech could have been fun: “Hey kids, you too can use your Case Western degree to be a total f*#k-up, reward your friends with jobs, sleep with your scheduler, and tap state resources for personal use!”
Dann-related links, collected below. Dean Simson’s email, after the jump.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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