February 2009

Roland Burris ATL Lawyer of the Day.jpg* Illinois Sen. Roland Burris is under fire for more extensive contact with the Blagojeviches than previously admitted. He says he wasn’t trying to pay for the seat, but he did offer to throw a few fundraisers. Luckily, he’s not a good fundraiser. [New York Times]

* Status update from Facebook, “We messed up.” [CNet]

* Privacy advocates got Facebook to back down. But they lost against The Google. The Borings of Pennsylvania lost their invasion of privacy case against Google Street View. [CNet]

* Jones Day is not a fan of hyperlinking. [On Point News]

* Courtroom police officers are furious at Philadelphia Judge Craig M. Washington for removing photos of a slain officer from his courtroom. We hope he is not in need of protection in the courtroom any time soon. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* We haven’t heard from Don Johnson since his attempt to play a lawyer in the failed WB show Just Legal. Johnson is returning to the real life world of law this week, suing for tens of millions in profits from 1990s “Nash Bridges.” [Reuters]

tandem.jpg* America can call off its search for Lance Armstrong’s stolen bike. I think we’ve found the culprit. [TaxProf Blog]

* For the avoidance of doubt, please see enclosed link (“Enclosure A”). [Courtoons]

* Jim Newell, blogger, thinks that lawyers in D.C. are not losing their jobs fast enough. Jim Newell may soon learn the downside to publishing under his real name. [NBC Washington]

* Residents of Miami high rise condo Buckley Towers won a $20 million verdict against an insurance company for damage sustained during Hurricane Wilma. With that kind of money in the mattresses, next week’s canasta tournament promises to be a nail biter. [South Florida Business Journal]

* Profits per partner are… wait for it… wait for it… DOWN at Simpson Thacher and Paul Hastings. And yet they still make more money than you. ZING. [The Lawyer]

* More on Michael Mukasey’s move. [Am Law Daily]

lumbergh.jpgMany moons ago, when I was a law student, I took Divorce Law based solely on the fact that the professor, who was a New York practitioner, brought in one of his celebrity clients to answer questions on the last day of class. My year, the professor rolled up with James Gandolfini, who, when asked how he could possibly justify going from The Sopranos to Surviving Christmas, intimated that a man had to pay his bills and that — sneaking a glance at the professor, corpulent and clad in horn-rimmed glasses, suspenders and an exquisitely form-fitting monogrammed Bill Lumbergh shirt — divorce is costly.

So how much are we talking about?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Divorce Lawyers: Washingtonian Ranks the Best of the Worst”

Michael Mukasey small Chief Judge Michael B Mukasey SDNY Above the Law blog.jpgThe revolving door between government and private practice is in full swing. This morning brought the news that Judith Kaye, former chief judge of New York State, has joined Skadden Arps as counsel.

And this afternoon brings more news: Michael Mukasey, fresh off his stint as U.S. Attorney General, will be joining the partnership of Debevoise & Plimpton. Before his service as AG, Mukasey was a partner at Patterson Belknap (and was a Patterson associate before becoming a federal judge in the S.D.N.Y.).

Why didn’t Mukasey return to Patterson? Perhaps Debevoise offered more dough. Fueled by a series of large internal investigations, including the international Siemens matter, the firm has seen its partner profits skyrocket in recent years. In 2007, profits per partner at Debevoise hit $2.3 million.

Says a Debevoise tipster: “Now I get to find out if waterboarding is torture.”

Update (3:05 PM): The Debevoise press release is now available here.

Update (4 PM): Mukasey gave a short interview to the WSJ Law Blog, in which he explained his decision to join Debevoise: “It’s particularly strong in litigation and in conducting major corporate investigations and preparing reports to boards. Also, it has many former government lawyers, including Mary Jo [White].”

Update (5:30 PM): More praise from Mukasey for Debevoise, over at Am Law Daily.

Michael B. Mukasey to Join Debevoise & Plimpton (press release)

A Law Blog Q&A With Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey [WSJ Law Blog]

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye Joins Skadden, Arps (press release)

Former NYS Chief Judge Judith Kaye Joins Skadden [Am Law Daily]

Notes from the Breadline Roxana St Thomas.jpgEd. note: Welcome to the latest installment of “Notes from the Breadline,” a new column by a laid-off lawyer in New York. Prior columns are collected here. You can reach Roxana St. Thomas by email, at [email protected], or find her on Facebook.

There are moments in life that portend tectonic change. It is possible, even before you can tell whether you are facing a perennial shift or simply a fleeting adjustment, to know that something — or perhaps everything — is different. In movies and on television, these moments are usually accompanied by musical cues, dramatic camera angles, or the distinctive drumline of the song that will narrate the aftermath of such a transformation. In reality, nothing quite so obvious happens. Your dog dies, your relationship fails, you graduate from law school, pass the bar, get married, win a jury trial, fall in love… and you find yourself wondering why events of this magnitude don’t leave a visible mark, if only to spare you the banal task of describing something that feels so profound. Unless you are unfortunate enough to lose an eye or grow a horn, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.

As it turns out, being “terminated” abruptly on a bright winter morning is just such a moment. When it comes to getting laid off, there is a distinct “before” and “after” — and standing outside your office chain-smoking delays, but does not prevent, your arrival in the after.

After far too many cigarettes, I wander back upstairs, suddenly aware that everyone around me looks busy. They are on their way to make phone calls, or attend meetings, or engage in whatever it is that I am no longer needed for. I get off the elevator and go straight to the restroom, where I confirm that a bright red letter (perhaps an “L,” for “loser,” or maybe a “C,” for “canned”) has not appeared on my bosom. I look fired, I think, knowing as I do that firing probably does not leave a visible aura. Still, I feel like an impostor, or someone dressed in a particularly lame Halloween costume, and I am mildly surprised when my card key still unlocks the door. I am already a ghost in this office: rendered irrelevant, but bound to roam the halls alongside the functioning members of its tiny, carpeted world.

Before I can make it back to my desk, I am accosted by my friend Dave, a paralegal. He waves me into his office, where he is sitting anxiously on the edge of his seat, and tells me to close the door behind me. “I can’t fucking believe this,” he says, staring at his computer screen. I am certain that he is about to tell me that he has been “let go” as well, and my stomach clenches. Not Dave, too, I think. I happen to know that he has just finished purchasing a kegerator and a home entertainment center, and I have a terrible vision of both being hauled away by the repo man while Dave stands on his front stoop with an empty beer stein, sobbing.

My fear is short-lived; he is about to consummate a transaction on Hotwire, and if his research is accurate, he has scored a room in a “fucking amazing” four-star hotel for $192 a night. If he is wrong, he has just treated himself to three nights and four days in a “fucking shithole.” He grabs my arm nervously before he hits enter, holding his breath. It works; he will be staying in the hotel he wanted. He springs up and throws his arms in the air, as if he has just nailed a landing from the uneven bars, and I find myself caught in a surreal flurry of high-fiving and fist-pumping. Overwhelmed with relief, he regales me with a detailed account of his booking coup d’etat, promising to send me a link to a website he used. I feel myself slipping away as he talks, unable to comprehend the idea of a vacation. I wonder if we can talk about particle colliders or tulip bulbs; both would seem less strange right now.

When the conversation finally turns to work, however, I find myself unable to respond. “Did you get any assignments?” Dave asks, aware that I have had very little to do recently. “No,” I say slowly. “I think I’m going to get fired.”

Read more, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Notes from the Breadline: Strike Another Match, Go Start Anew”

lawyer depression depressed lawyers above the law.jpgYesterday, we asked you to take a poll about your happiness with the decision to become an attorney. Of the over 4000 poll takers (as of the time of this posting), approximately 60% said they were satisfied with the decision, but about 17% responded with “I hate my life.” On that note, did you know that lawyers lapse into serious psychic distress at a rate about double that of the general population?

The Cleveland Bar Association mentions this fact (among others) in its campaign to raise awareness about lots of disturbing trends among lawyers: depression, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual neuroses… (Okay, not that last one, but based on ATL comments, it may be a problem for some of our readers.)

Some of the ways in which you are all f***ed up, from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

  • About 10 percent of the U.S. population suffers from drug and alcohol addiction. But 18 to 20 percent of lawyers are alcoholics and drug addicts, says the ABA.
  • Lawyers are more depressed than dentists: “A 1990s study at Johns Hopkins University put the likelihood of depression among lawyers as first among 28 occupations studied, a rate 3.6 times higher than employed people overall.”
  • “Suicide is among the leading causes of premature death among lawyers. A 1992 report of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found the rate of suicide among male lawyers to be double that of men in general.”

    If you weren’t depressed before, perhaps you are now. So why are lawyers so glum?

    Psychologists and counselors cite a number of reasons why lawyers are more prone than average to sink into despair. They are praised and highly paid for being aggressive, intellectual and emotionally detached.

    Other potential reasons for the despair, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Are There Tons of Depressed, Substance-Abusing Lawyers Out There?”

  • iphone.gifWith cancer cured and AIDS no longer a threat, America can finally turns its attention toward that final frontier of western civilization: iPhone fart applications. For those of you unfamilar with fart applications, they are downloadable programs that make “hilarious” farting noises on command, thereby rendering real farts completely obsolete.

    But where there’s gas, there’s a fire, and last Friday, the creators of iFart Mobile asked a Colorado federal court to rule that the phrase “pull my finger” was common parlance and therefore not protectible under trademark law.

    By way of background, iFart previously published a press release announcing that Apple had at long last agreed to carry the “innovative” application. The release stated, somewhat disparagingly, that for many months, iPhone users were denied this critical application, as prudish Apple did not want apps asking people to “pull my finger.” However, when the creators of Pull My Finger, another iPhone fart application, got, er, wind of this press release, they threatened suit for trademark infringement.

    There is perhaps no better use of the court’s time, or your time, for that matter, than reading iFart’s bag of hot air complaint. Highlights and the completely ludicrous document, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “iFart, You Fart: Is ‘Pull My Finger’ Trademarkable?”

    dean university of chicago saul levmore above the law.jpgHello, job seekers. There will soon be an opening at the University of Chicago Law School. Dean Saul Levmore circulated an e-mail to the school yesterday announcing his decision to step down. Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail (which is reprinted in full, after the jump):

    I have long said that eight years is about the longest a dean should serve, and I am now in that eighth year. Consequently, President Zimmer will soon ask a faculty committee at the Law School to begin the search process for a new Dean.

    Chicago joins a host of law schools currently searching for deans, as we noted recently in our post on Dean Harold Koh possibly leaving Yale. Dean Levmore says he plans to “resume life as a full-time member of the faculty” (of which his wife, Julie Roin, is a part).

    Dean Levmore’s departure is completely voluntary, according to one Chicago source with a favorable view of Levmore’s tenure. As for his successor, a few U of C alums we spoke with are hoping for a prominent conservative from the outside with strong Chicago ties (e.g., prior service on the faculty).

    Since we can’t predict the future, let’s take a moment to look back on some of Levmore’s past appearances on Above The Law:

  • He dumped wireless in the classroom.
  • He held onto U of C’s (rather confusing) grading system, resisting the pass-fail grade reform trend that swept through other top law schools.
  • Perhaps most importantly, back in 2006, he was a nominee for Law School Dean Hotties (noting that Dean Levmore “rocks the chrome dome,” and referring to him as “a solar-powered love machine”). Unfortunately, he came in second to last in the B Bracket.
  • What else do you consider to be part of the Levmore legacy at the University of Chicago? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “University of Chicago Law School Dean To Step Down”

    Lexis.jpgLexis employees who Shepardize “Lexis salaries” may now find a red stop sign attached to their search results. Last Tuesday, the powers that be at Lexis sent around a company-wide email announcing that 2009 salaries would be frozen at 2008 levels for all employees:

    In order to address what is shaping up to be a more challenging 2009, the senior LexisNexis management team, which includes the leaders of all business and functional units, has had to make some difficult decisions. These decisions include freezing salaries at 2008 levels across all of LexisNexis Group…Except for a promotion or when an increase is required by local law, no one in LexisNexis Group will receive an increase in 2009.

    Salary freezes these day are as common as HPV, but a tipster reports that Lexis’ freeze is actually surprising given an earlier announcement:

    This is after they announced on a company-wide call in December that there would be a 2% pool for raises.

    What’s Locke Lord Bisell got to do with it, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Freeze Watch: Lexis Parties Like It’s 2008″

    Last night, we briefly (and accidentally) posted a story regarding the rumored dissolution of Milwaukee-based law firm, Michael Best. The post was not intended to be published at that time; it was a draft that we were holding pending comment from the firm itself.

    This morning, we heard from the firm’s MP, David Krutz, who described rumors of dissolution as “absolutely false.” Krutz stated that he had sent a firm-wide email to Michael Best personnel denying ATL’s story. On the phone, he noted that the firm was poised for a strong year in 2009.

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