October 2014

parent trap.jpg*The bailout plan was hammered out this weekend, and will be voted on this week. Lawmakers will give Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson a bunch of money to clean up the mess that is our economy. Hopefully, Pennsylvania Avenue fares better than Wall Street. [Washington Post]

*No criminal charges expected in DOJ attorney firings. [New York Times]

*Williams & Connolly’s $180k starting salary announcement last year is the last increase we should expect to hear about for quite a while. Pay will stay stagnant… but hours are a different matter. [Legal Times]

*It’s the Italian legal version of The Parent Trap. A part-time judge in Milan had her non-lawyer twin sister step in to advise clients. [Reuters]

*Lawyer going after Wal-Mart in Massachusetts over missed meal breaks wakes the state up by telling it the megastore owes $600 million in back fines for the lunch-denying practice. [Boston Herald]

*Good news for celebs with legal problems. [New York Times]

*Model sues magazine because he wants to be a “dapper college man” and not a gay pin-up boy. [Daily News]

* Shana tova. Happy Rosh Hashanah.

court_front_med.jpgWhile everyone spent the weekend talking about who bested whom in the McCain-Obama match-up, the New York Times magazine turned away from all that to focus on the really important policy makers in Washington: the Supreme Court. SCOTUS played cover model for Sunday’s NYT magazine, with HLS prof Noah Feldman’s lengthy piece, When Judges Make Foreign Policy.

We love the Star Wars-esque article preview: “When the next justice is appointed, our place in the world may well hang in the balance.” In case you didn’t get the magazine this weekend, and don’t feel like clicking through ten pages online to read it, we’ve got a rundown for you.

Feldman writes that the justices have become “the oracles of our national identity.” We like this analogy. The Greek oracles wore white. The Justices wear black. Advice seekers went to temples to consult Greek oracles. People go to the white gleaming temple at One First Street to address the Justices. The Greeks had hallucinogenic fumes rising from the earth, enhancing their prophetic powers. The Justices have caffeine and the sweet, sweet smell of the pages of the Constitution. But we digress.

Feldman says the defining issue of our time is globalization, and that SCOTUS wields incredible power as it establishes the place of the U.S. in the world through its rulings on international law. Listen up, law school folk, perhaps that international law class is not such a waste of time after all. Conservatives and liberals feel differently, of course, about how the Constitution applies internationally:

In recent years, two prominent schools of thought have emerged… One view, closely associated with the Bush administration, begins with the observation that law, in the age of modern liberal democracy, derives its legitimacy from being enacted by elected representatives of the people. From this standpoint, the Constitution is seen as facing inward, toward the Americans who made it, toward their rights and their security. For the most part, that is, the rights the Constitution provides are for citizens and provided only within the borders of the country…

A competing view, championed mostly by liberals, defines the rule of law differently: law is conceived not as a quintessentially national phenomenon but rather as a global ideal. The liberal position readily concedes that the Constitution specifies the law for the United States but stresses that a fuller, more complete conception of law demands that American law be pictured alongside international law and other (legitimate) national constitutions.

Feldman argues that new appointees for SCOTUS spots that are sure to open should be evaluated based on their thinking about the Court’s role in shaping American foreign policy. The SCOTUS newbies will determine whether the Constitution will be a shield, or will be a blanket shared around the global campfire while everyone sings Kumbaya.

More on this after the jump.

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Kannon Shanmugam Kannon K Shanmugam AboveTheLaw Above the Law.jpgAs the old saying goes, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a lawyer to be hired as a lateral partner at Williams & Connolly.” The last lateral partner to be hired by the super-elite litigation shop, which people and corporations turn to when they’re in the deepest of doo-doo, was Gerald Feffer, brought into the fold over two decades ago.

So this latest move is fairly big news. Appellate superstar Kannon Shanmugam, one of Washington’s top 40 lawyers under 40 (see #21), is leaving the Solicitor General’s office, where he has served for the past four years as an Assistant to the Solicitor General. He’ll be joining Williams & Connolly — as a partner.

“It’s very hard to leave the Justice Department, but I’m excited about the challenge of helping to build the appellate practice at Williams & Connolly,” Shanmugam told us. “It’s arguably the best firm for litigation in the country, but what ultimately attracted me to the firm is its distinctive culture.”

“We are thrilled to have Kannon join us,” said Robert Barnett, a member of the firm’s Executive Committee (and author rep to the stars — he’s negotiated book deals for the Clintons, Barack Obama, Bob Woodward, Lynne Cheney, and Alan Greenspan, among others). “He’s our first lateral partner in 22 years, which is indicative of how rarely we have lateral partners join us.”

“Almost everyone at the firm is homegrown, coming up through the associate ranks and making partner,” explained Barnett to ATL. “Kannon, because of his exceptional qualities, is going to be a rare exception to that pattern. On a personal level, he’s a terrific individual. But we are also extremely respectful and welcoming of his legal skills.”

Word on the street is that Shanmugam received offers from about half a dozen other firms. “He was sought by many firms, and being as competitive as we are, we’re pleased to have won the Kannon sweepstakes,” said Bob Barnett.

Additional discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: Kannon Shanmugam to Williams & Connolly
W&C’s first lateral partner in 22 years

In the interest of completeness, here are a few quick postscripts to stories that we previously covered in these pages, but didn’t get around to mentioning during the craziness of last week. They come from the National Law Journal and/or the WSJ Law Blog.

Robert Somma Bankruptcy Judge Robert Somma Above the Law blog.jpg1. Judge Robert Somma: The cross-dressing former bankruptcy judge (at right), who resigned from the bench after a drunk driving arrest, has joined the bankruptcy practice of Posternak Blankstein & Lund, a midsize firm based in Boston, as senior counsel. [National Law Journal; WSJ Law Blog]

2. American Justice School of Law: This defunct Kentucky law school, which in 2007 was hit with a class action filed by some of its students, has filed for bankruptcy. [National Law Journal; WSJ Law Blog]

Alex Kozinski Chief Judge Alex Kozinski small.jpg3. L’Affaire Kozinski: The panel of federal judges from the Third Circuit investigating Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (at right) has retained Robert Heim, head of litigation at Dechert, to oversee the probe (which will be staffed by lawyers from Dechert and Morgan Lewis & Bockius). [National Law Journal; WSJ Law Blog]

4. University of Michigan’s Wolverine Scholars Program: Sarah Zearfoss, dean of admissions at UM Law, has defended the program against allegations that it’s an attempt to game the U.S. News rankings. She pointed out that the program is small, likely to result in the admission of just five to ten students (out of a class of 360), and that very few UM undergrads (about 200) would even be eligible for it. [WSJ Law Blog]

Heller Ehrman LLP Above the Law blog.JPGIt’s official: Heller Ehrman is dissolving. We have no desire to pile on, but major firms don’t close their doors everyday.

So, how does the dissolution process work exactly?

The first thing Heller is required to do by law is to give notice to all their employees under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN). Heller complied with this requirement this afternoon:

I regret to inform you that The Firm has adopted a plan of liquidation and will shut down substantially all of its operations on or about November 28, 2008. At the time of the shutdown, the employment of The Firm’s employees will be permanently terminated. Until then, please be aware that The Firm has work for you and expects you to report to work. Employees will be paid full salary and benefits until the shutdown. Where applicable, employees with accrued but unused vacation time may be scheduled for vacation prior to November 28.

You do not have displacement or bumping rights for other positions within The Firm. However, in order to conduct an orderly liquidation, The Firm may continue to employ a very limited number of employees after the date of the shutdown. If you wish to be considered for such work, please notify me by email; The Firm will let you know about past November 28 work within the next few days.

This letter constitutes notice to you pursuant to statute. As a terminated employee, you may be entitled to certain benefits, which will be the subject of a separate communication. The shutdown is being treated as a plant closing under relevant law, and includes the termination of employment of employees employed at 333 Bush Street, San Francisco, California 94104.

In the event you require additional information, please feel free to contact [redacted]

Additional analysis of Heller’s breakup, after the jump.

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obama mccain laugh it up fuzzball.JPG* The rise and fall of Heller Ehrman. [Adam Smith, Esq.]

* Homoerotic novelist > SEC attorney. [Legal Blog Watch]

* The best presidential debate is the one you give yourself. [f/k/a]

* Why should Wall Street tycoons be the only ones getting a bailout? [Every Day Should Be Saturday]

* What do lawyers and prostitutes have in common (other than taking-it-hard from older men for money)? They are both recession proof! [Slate]

1a Charlie Herschel David Lat.JPG
Lawyer turned Survivor contestant Charlie Herschel, right, with your above-signed writer (in the yellow Survivor do-rag).

As previously reported in these pages, Charlie Herschel — a 29-year-old, openly gay associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York — is a contestant on Survivor: Gabon, which had its two-hour season premiere last night. We’re pleased to report that Charlie is still in the running for the one million dollars. To read more about our handsome hero, including details of his friendship with fellow gay Clay Aiken, check out this interesting interview with Herschel in The Advocate.

Last night, we headed over to Professor Thom’s in the East Village, to attend a “Survivor” premiere party in Charlie’s honor. It was hosted by his employer, Weil Gotshal — which is doing well in the downturn, thanks in large part to its top-flight bankruptcy practice.

Correction: The party was not officially hosted by Weil, although many WGM attorneys were in attendance.

More discussion, plus a slideshow of party pics, after the jump.

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Harvard Law School seal logo.jpgWe just brought you news of Stanford Law School changing its grading system. Now Harvard Law School is following suit.

Dean Elena Kagan just sent this message out to the HLS student body:

To all students:

I am writing to let you know that the faculty decided yesterday to move to a grading system with fewer classifications than we have now. The new classifications, much as at Yale and Stanford, will be Honors-Pass-Low Pass-Fail. The faculty believes that this decision will promote pedagogical excellence and innovation and further strengthen the intellectual community in which we all live. The new system will apply to students entering HLS in fall 2009; yet to be determined is whether it also will apply to some or all classes of current students.

The faculty began consideration of this issue last year, and has consulted with groups of students, alumni, and other employers in the course of our discussions. Before making a decision on whether to implement the system now, for all or some of our current students, I want to make sure that any interested student has a chance to express his or her views. To provide this opportunity, I will hold a “town hall” meeting on Thursday, October 2 from 2:30 to 3:30 in Austin North. I look forward to seeing you some of you there.

Elena Kagan

Was there an epidemic of A’s that caused these sweeping changes at Harvard and Stanford?

Like Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer’s message back in May, Kagan’s message leaves open the question of what kind of honors HLS will be doling out. Don’t count on Harvard’s system being any less complicated then Stanford’s. Remember, Harvard is moving away from a ridiculous 15-point system that nobody understands anyway.

But the crucial question is whether this new system will be applied retroactively to the classes of 2009 and 2010. If I were in either of those classes, I’d stop worrying about the economy and show up for the debate, on October 2nd.

stanford law school logo.JPGUpdate: Harvard Law School also just announced changes to its grading system that will make it more like the Yale and Stanford systems. See here.

In May, we reported that the faculty of Stanford Law School voted to change their grading system. The school went from the traditional “A, B, C, Die” system to a Yale-esque pass/fail hybrid. From the May message of Dean Larry Kramer:

[T]he faculty voted to adopt a grade reform proposal which will change our grading system to an honors, pass, restricted credit, no credit system for all semesters/quarters. The new system includes a shared norm for the proportion of honors to be awarded in both exam and paper courses. No grading system is perfect, but the consensus is that the reform will have significant pedagogical benefits, including that it encourages greater flexibility and innovation in the classroom and in designing metrics for evaluating student work.

We noted then that the school was still working on the exact meaning of “honors.”

“Honors” has now been defined. “Watch that first step … it’s a doozy.” From Dean Kramer:

[W]e will no longer use or award Order of the Coif or “Graduation with Distinction,” honors we have in the past recognized and given out at or after graduation. Instead, prizes will be awarded in individual courses to recognize outstanding student performance. Tentatively called “book prizes” (after the fashion of some other schools that use this system), one book prize may be awarded for every 15 students, and this will be true in all classes, whether the basis of evaluation is an exam or a paper. In first-year required classes, 2 prizes will be available in small sections, and 4 in large sections. In advanced classes, professors have discretion about whether and how many prizes to award, though within the same maximum guideline of one per every 15 students (faculty may round up at 8). Discretion is meant to signal that faculty are recognizing genuinely outstanding performance, not just the event of receiving a high grade. Prizes will be registered on student transcripts when grades come out at the end of each term and you will be free to list them on your resumes. The policy is effective beginning this term….

[T]he faculty also concluded that we should award book prizes to students in the class of 2010 for their 1L classes last year, following the standard set forth above. (It will take some time for these retroactive prizes to be calculated and incorporated onto student transcripts.)

The full message is reprinted, and students weigh in, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Stanford Adopts ‘Retroactive’ Honors Policy:
Students Complain In Real Time”

champagne glasses small.jpgEven as the national economy teeters on the brink of collapse, Wall Street’s elite continue to flock to the altar. Click here, here, and here, and imagine what this month has been like for these people. Getting married is stressful enough; we can’t imagine doing it while at the center of a financial meltdown.

In other random New York observations, both of the city’s baseball stadiums will close their doors this fall. Last Sunday’s final game in Yankee Stadium was celebrated with a Sports Illustrated cover and wall-to-wall coverage on ESPN. This Sunday’s game could be the last in Shea Stadium, and the New York Times marks the occasion with a gripping piece on how pilots landing at La Guardia won’t be able to use the place as a landmark anymore.

Here are this week’s couples:

1. Jean Park and Albert Cho

2. Trinity Jackman and Joshua Harlan

3. Edward Pierce and Robert Saltzman

More about our finalists, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legal Eagle Wedding Watch 9.21: I’ll Meltdown With You”

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