October 2014

tammy and victor jih.jpgStarting February 15th, you’ll be able to spend your Sunday nights watching hottie Biglaw siblings Victor and Tammy Jih go global as they compete for $1 million in the Amazing Race.

As noted yesterday, Victor Jih, 35, is a partner at O’Melveny and Myers, while Tammy Jih, 26, is an associate at Quinn Emanuel. We had a three-way with them yesterday, and asked about trading Biglaw for reality TV, how they got on the show, spending 4 weeks Blackberry-less, and whether Victor really thinks Africa is a country.

Victor may be the senior Biglaw member of the family, but Tammy always jumps in first to answer questions. Check out the interview, after the jump.

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Morgan Lewis.JPGWe are now receiving reports that Morgan, Lewis & Bockius fired a large number of associates. A firm spokesperson tells us:

Attorneys depart law firms for any number of reasons. The number leaving this year is consistent with prior year departures. It is inappropriate for us to comment on individual personnel decisions. However, reports of a firm wide layoff are incorrect.

But tipsters at the firm have gotten a different impression about what is happening at Morgan Lewis:

I believe the total number will be around 50 attorneys. I do not know the number of staff members but I did see at least two secretaries crying on the way out.

Other tipsters also say that 50 or so associates and an undetermined number of staffers will be let go. Then again, our sources also suggest that the 50 have been concentrated in the corporate department, so maybe the layoffs aren’t “firm wide.”

Severance information and other Morgan Lewis notes after the jump.

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is-wurkin-hird-lukin-4-luv.jpgLast January, we did an ATL / Lateral Link survey on how often you cancelled your social plans because of work.

Notably, we found that “[a]round forty percent of associates missed dates,” usually because a partner asked them to finish something at the last minute.

But now that the economy has collapsed slowed down, some employees are beginning to get their lives back. Yesterday, even as Kash was updating us on an avalanche of salary freezes in Big Law, Gizmodo was praising at least one company that’s trying to heat things up overseas:

This just in: Canon is the world’s greatest camera manufacturer. And it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with their actual cameras.

In response to Japan’s aging population and Japanese couples’ propensity to have too few children to maintain the country’s population, Canon called off the traditional 12-hour workday twice a week, encouraging their employees to go home early and make mini Canon employees of their own.

CNN chimed in that, even though this (pro)creative office perk meant missing out on overtime twice a week, employees were psyched:

“It’s great that we can go home early and not feel ashamed,” said employee Miwa Iwasaki.

To my knowledge, Big Law has not yet adopted a go-home-and-make-babies policy (although parental leave policies have certainly improved). But Lateral Link CEO Michael Allen tells me that “several firms encourage interoffice dating, and wrt marriage actually give a bonus, i.e., like $10,000 if you marry within the firm.”

If that’s true, then it definitely adds a different flavor to some of the questions Marin’s been taking lately on inter-office romance, like this one last fall:

I’ve just been staffed on a relatively long term project with another associate. She and I went on one date a few months ago and hooked up, but that was it because she is batsh*t crazy. Since then she’s sent me a bunch of “let’s get lunch” emails and has “coincidentally” appeared at happy hour drinks when I’m out with people from the firm. I think this person is unstable and I don’t want to put myself in a position to be sabotaged by her. But I don’t want to appear like I’m rejecting work or that I’m not a “team player.” I also don’t want to make it known that I dated a co-worker. Any advice?

So, today let’s update last January’s survey to ask not only whether you were able to be social and be a lawyer at the same time, but also find out whether your firms (or you) support inter-office productivity, as it were.

Take the survey after the jump.

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[Ed Note: Do you have a question for next week? Send it in to advice@abovethelaw.com]

pls hndle copy 2.jpgATL –

I’m a corporate attorney, dealing with an unhappy circumstance. I’ve worked in corporate law for ~2 yrs. Due to the slowdown in corporate, I was shifted to do banking litigation. It keeps me busy, a little more job security, etc., billing 200 hrs/mo, but I want to do corporate. Should I accept another position with another firm doing banking/bankruptcy because it’s a job – even though I hate it? Try to hope that corporate picks up? How easy would it be to switch back from banking/bankruptcy law to corporate when the economy recovers again?


Dear Switcheroo,

Sometimes in life we have do things we hate because it’s good for us. You’ve got a job – a JOB – in bankruptcy, but you’d prefer to do corporate. Great, well I’d rather work on my tan than work at all but I have to suck it up until I marry rich the economy picks up. And you need to suck it up too and do the work you’re given without a peep. Also, I have no idea why you’d consider switching firms to do the same bankruptcy work you’re doing now. That’s redundant.

Trying to go from bankruptcy back to corporate is called a “re-tool” in recruiter parlance, because you’d be going from being a Bankruptcy Tool to a Corporate Tool. And if Tool Academy has taught us anything, it’s that there are specific breeds of Tools with very little crossover (See supra, “Cold-Hearted Tool,” “Party Tool,” and “Greek Tool“). My lawyer dad (and probably your lawyer dad) said that a law degree would “opens doors “and would qualify me (or you) to do “anything.” While that may have been true during the glorious reign of the Medici, these days the terrifying truth is that a law degree qualifies you to work in law exclusively, and then only in the area of your primary practice: i.e., bankruptcy litigation.

When I’ve mentioned to recruiters that I would be open to “re-tooling” myself from ERISA Tool to Party Tool Bankruptcy Tool, they hung up on me quicker than I’d hang up on a telemarketer calling during The Bachelor. So yes – switching back to corporate may prove difficult. But lack of complete control over your career and elimination ceremonies are par for the course at a law firm.

Your friend,


Elie accepts his Tool Badge after the jump.

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law firm associate bonus watch 2008 biglaw bonuses.jpgMayer Brown already announced that New York bonuses would match the New York market. Last night, the firm announced its bonus structure for offices in Chicago, Palo Alto and Washington, D.C.

We are pleased to announce that the Firm’s bonus structure for work done in 2008 will be the same as it was for work done in 2007.


We couldn’t find last year’s Mayer Brown bonus memos for offices outside of New York. But based on what peer firms paid out last year, it certainly doesn’t look like associates will be getting more than their counterparts in New York.

Still, given that we are living in a time of salary freezes and layoffs, anything that resembles 2007 is probably a good thing.

Read the full Mayer Brown memo after the jump.

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cheerleading.jpg* Cheerleaders get respect, but lose the ability to sue. The Wisconsin Supreme Court rules that cheerleading is a contact sport, and so its participants can’t be sued for accidentally causing injuries. [CNN]

* Rod Blagojevich is participating in his impeachment trial by audio tape only. While the Illinois Senate listened to the recordings of the governor’s crass conversations, Blago continues to make the interview rounds in the hopes of winning the trial of public opinion. [New York Times]

* Last October, Connecticut Judge E. Curtissa Cofield got hauled in by the coppers for drunken driving and side-swiping a police car. She displays her displeasure with being arrested in the recently released police video. The state’s first black female judge hurled racial epithets at the troopers and blamed her ill mood on “Negro-itis.” [Hartford Courant]

* President Obama is getting his revenge on SCOTUS Chief John Roberts for that oath flub with his first White House legislation. On Thursday, Obama will reverse a recent Supreme Court ruling that had restricted the ability of women and other workers to sue for pay discrimination. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* A review of the latest Blackberry model. Gizmodo gives the Blackberry Curve 8900 a thumbs up. [Gizmodo]

* New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has subpoenaed former Merrill Lynch honcho John Thain. Cuomo wants to ask the question that is on all of our minds. What’s with those billions in bonuses you gave out before Merrill merged with Bank of America? [New York Daily News]

Latham Watkins LLP lw logo.jpgReaders, commenters, and tipsters have all demanded that we run a post addressing the “stealth layoffs” that might be taking place at Latham & Watkins.

The firm has remained steadfast in its contention that no layoffs have happened at Latham & Watkins. They claim no dismissals for economic reasons, or anything out of the ordinary course of business. A firm spokesperson told ATL:

Consistent with our standard practice at the end of each year, we have completed our associate review process. We counsel our associates at the completion of our review process each year, and in those conferences discuss topics such as job performance, compensation and career tracks. Our decisions relating to associate departures were performance related and part of our usual year-end process, not part of an economic layoff.

But how many associate departures have there been? Based on information from our sources, the number of cuts is all over the map. ATL has received reports from tipsters in New York, Chicago, Silicon Valley, and L.A. that Latham has been conducting stealth layoffs. But because of the way they are being carried out, nobody knows just how many associates have been let go over the past few weeks.

Tipsters report that the process has every artifice of “performance review” cuts, but those same tipsters claim the cuts are economic based. Against the backdrop of the firm statement, after the jump we post some of the tipsters’ reports.

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John Thain.png* Creative destruction? If I was half the man I used to be, I’d take a flamethrower to this place. [Law and More]

* On Being a Black Lawyer’s Yolanda Yong tells us if we should expect anything “different” from the nation’s first African-American Attorney General. [Huffington Post]

* If you are desperate to hang onto your job, better client services can’t hurt. [What About Clients?]

* Should we withhold judgment on John Thain until all the facts come out? Where’s the fun in that? [PrawfsBlawg]

* I’m not even going to attempt to remember to pay my taxes this year, and dare Geithner to say anything about it. I’ve always wanted to see the inside of a real jail anyway. [TaxProf Blog]

Ed Norton Primal fear feces throwing client.jpgReally, it was only a matter of time before it came to this:

A mistrial was declared Monday when a home-invasion robbery suspect smeared human feces on his attorney’s face then threw more at the jury.

What are the chances that this is an Ed Norton in Primal Fear moment?

The prosecutor said the defendant was compliant after the outburst and was taken into custody without further incident.

Sounds promising.

But sadly, it was his own lawyer, not the prosecutor, that the defendant was going after.

More on that after the jump.

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John Grisham sat down with us this morning for an exclusive blog interview to discuss his new book, The Associate. The book’s main character, Kyle McAvoy, is a Biglaw associate with a mysterious past and intriguing future.

In his previous books, Grisham has explored emotional and ethical costs of practicing the law in various forms. But his latest book takes dead aim at the life, and lifestyle, of junior associates at top Manhattan law firms.

A lot of Kyle McAvoy’s Biglaw experience will ring true to most readers of Above the Law. We found out that Grisham’s depictions of Biglaw life are so accurate because typical associates told him the truth:

I found some wonderful blogs where associates post anonymously their stories. Beautiful stories….

But my best research was done by a research assistant that spent one year in the law…. He knew a ton of lawyers in the big law firms in New York. He told them up front what he was doing [researching for Grisham's new book] and that their stories would be kept anonymous, and they just unloaded on him…. Most of it went into the book.

The book contains scenes that are easily recognizable to most Biglaw associates, from the mind-numbing experience of document review, to the attorney who literally passes out due to exhaustion.

But we wanted to know if Grisham modeled the book’s central firm, Scully & Pershing, on any individual real-life firm. Grisham said that he unequivocally did not:

I was prepared to go to a big law firm and get inside and walk around and kick the tires. But I didn’t want to do that because I knew the portrayal would be unflattering and I didn’t want to embarrass any particular firm.

In fact, Grisham thought about changing the name of the fictional Scully to avoid any possibility of confusion with Skadden.

Why is the take on life in Biglaw so “unflattering”? Grisham explains that the wasted potential he explores in The Associate mirrors what he sees in the corridors of the nation’s top law firms.

More details, after the jump.

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An ATL Exclusive Interview With John Grisham About His Latest Book”

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