April 2009

scalia come and find me above the law.jpgLast week, we wrote about the Fordham law professor who assigned his information privacy law class to compile a dossier on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The professor had chosen Scalia as the target for privacy invasion because of the Justice’s remarks at a January conference organized by the Institute of American and Talmudic Law. Scalia’s views on the privacy of personal information online are summed up nicely by this quote:

“Every single datum about my life is private? That’s silly,” Scalia [said].

(And his views are summed up at greater length here by privacy expert and GW Law Professor Dan Solove.)

Professor Joel Reidenberg and his class now have a 15-page dossier on Scalia, including his home address, the value of his home, his home phone number, the movies he likes, his food preferences, his wife’s personal e-mail address, and “photos of his lovely grandchildren.”

We checked in with the Justice to see how he felt about his online information being aggregated and mined by the professor and his 15 students.

Scalia was far from pleased (though we were pleased that a Supreme Court Justice would honor Above The Law with a response). Check out his reply to us, after the jump.

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maersk alabama lawsuit.jpg* From pirate-fighting hero to litigant in under a month. One of the crew members of the Maersk Alabama has filed a $75,000 lawsuit for his disabling injuries because the ship company knowingly sent him into “pirate-infested waters.” [Courthouse News Service]

* Nationwide Layoff Watch: Atlanta-based firm Kilpatrick Stockton lays off 24 lawyers and pushes back start dates for new associates to April 2010. Look out for a new start date round-up later today. [Fulton County Daily Report]

* Former Lawyer of the Day Loren Friedman, who doctored his University of Chicago Law grades to land a Sidley Austin SA gig, has had his law license suspended for three years. Some want his head, or at least his disbarment. But Friedman may not even care. Having a knack for the fine art of doctoring the truth, he’s now enrolled in business school. [Chicago Tribune]

* The Astor trial is in full swing in New York. The big question in the trial is where Brooke Astor wanted her millions to go. To charity? To her son? To her estate lawyer? Probably not the last. [New York Times]

* Federal prosecutors acting badly in an asbestos case got a verbal beat-down from Montana Judge Donald Molloy and may cause the case against a chemical company to be thrown out. [United Press International]

* The DOJ searches for the term “antitrust law violations” in the Google book-search settlements with authors and publishers. [Wall Street Journal (subscription)]

* If you take a sick day, don’t fall for the old “Facebook friend request from the managing partner” trick. [Maximum PC]

Cleary Gottlieb logo.jpgEveryone is writing about how summer associate programs will be lean and mean this year due to law firm cutbacks in the recession. The summer associate classes will be smaller. The summers will be shorter. The perks will be less lavish. The long summer associate lunches will be few and far between. And on and on.

Well, Cleary Gottlieb got the memo… and has posted a memo to the firm intranet letting their attorneys know just what to expect from the summer associate program this year. One source there said:

Cleary released some very bizarre summer associate rules. Can’t tell if they’re joking.

Here is a sampling, from the “2009 Summer Associate Lunch Policy” portion of the memo, neatly incorporating our suggestion to McWine and McDine SAs.

summer associate lunch policy cleary.JPG

The full memo, a response from the firm, and special discounts to look out for this summer, after the jump.

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John Grisham The Associate.JPG* Anybody want to give John Grisham a hand? [West]

* Impeachment, Texas-style. [Grits for Breakfast]

* It is it legal to fire dirty lawyers? Probably. [Professor Bainbridge]

* Having momentarily dealt with fleeting expletives, SCOTUS could move quickly to address fleeting nudity. I propose this deal: the baby boomers can continue their astonishing string of selling out every single principle they ever claimed to have (R.I.P George Carlin) and keep their precious network television. Meanwhile, Gen X and the Millennials can have the internet. Oh, we’re already doing that? Cool. [SCOTUSblog]

* Marquette is hosting a national sports law writing competition. Topics will undoubtedly include how Obama’s relaxing of Cuban travel restrictions can help the Yankees’ farm system, how to hijack basketball teams from successful markets, and a cap and trade system that will help Drew Rosenhaus keep his hair without causing global warming. The winner gets to be the new NHL commissioner. [Sports Agent Blog]

* Another lawyer loses his credentials for failure to pay back student loans. I’ll be sending him my student loan bailout agitation package in the mail. [Legal Writing Prof Blog]

* The end of Ridiculum. [Ridiculum]

Salary Cuts.jpgA month and a half ago, Husch Blackwell laid off a number of employees. At the time, Husch Blackwell’s chairman Dave Fenley refused to use the term “layoffs.” Instead, he said:

He said that Husch Blackwell was “going gangbusters” in certain areas and was meeting its numbers this year, “which is pleasantly surprising.”

Later, Fenley admitted that the gangbusters comment was “boneheaded,” but he also said:

These [layoffs] would’ve occurred “regardless of the economy” but the “economy reminded us” that it needed to be done.

But the latest news out of Husch is hard to reconcile with a firm doing well despite the difficult economy. Details after the jump.

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Notes from the Breadline Roxana St Thomas.jpgEd. note: Welcome to the latest installment of “Notes from the Breadline,” a 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]), follow her on Twitter, or find her on Facebook.

One day after work — or, in my case, after the block of time during which most people work — I take the subway uptown to meet my friend Gillian. Gillian lives near Central Park, so we are taking advantage of one of the first warm days of spring by going for a long walk.

When I emerge from the subway, Gillian is pacing on the street corner and talking on the phone. “It’s terrible,” I hear her saying. “I spoke to her, and she sounded pretty upset. I still can’t figure out why her.” She makes the universal symbol for “I’m talking to someone who won’t wrap it up.” “No,” I hear her say, “I thought she was great.”

Gillian fills me in when she gets off the phone. Her company, a tiny consulting firm, has laid off several people. Gillian was told about one of the people, with whom she was working on a project, and she was not surprised that the company was letting her go; Gillian thought that the woman was generally difficult to work with, and had not gotten good performance reviews. But the decision to lay off another employee — the woman she was talking about on the phone — had taken Gillian and her colleagues by surprise. “She was so good at her job,” Gillian laments, sounding stunned, “and the clients were crazy about her. I can’t figure out why they chose her.” Moreover, Gillian adds, the woman is a single mother. “I don’t know what she’s going to do,” she says, “or what to say to her.”

She turns to me. “What do you think would be helpful?” she asks. “What’s the right thing to do in this situation?”

Roxana continues her stroll through unemployment, after the jump.

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Georgetown Law logo.jpgGeorgetown is the latest top school to try to come up with innovative ways to help its graduates deal with the global economic crisis. The headline news is that GULC will be offering an extended health care plan to graduates who need it. At least for a little while:

Health insurance. If you currently carry the University’s student Premier Plan, you will be covered under the current policy until midnight on August 14, 2009. All students covered under this plan will then be eligible to enroll for a six month extension through February 14, 2010; shorter or longer extensions are not available. Contact the Student Health Insurance Office at https://www4.georgetown.edu/uis/keybridge/keyform/form.cfm?FormID=2954 for further information about coverage, cost, and registration. While the Law Center does not endorse any insurance plan other than our own Premier Plan, there are other options that you might wish to explore. Dean of Students Mitch Bailin will be sending to you this week detailed information about options available through the ABA Law Student Division and www.studentcare.com, as well as more information about extending coverage through the student Premier Plan.

An extension to February 14th should help people with January start dates.

After the jump, we see that Georgetown is doing a whole host of things to try to help its new graduates.

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Specter Switches parties.jpgArlen Specter (R-PA), is switching parties. Politico reports:

Republican Sen. Arlen Specter is switching parties so he can run in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary, abandoning his party because he does not want to be “judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate.”

Specter is the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee (chaired by Patrick Leahy).

It will be interesting to see who replaces him as the Republican leader against future Obama judicial nominations. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) used to chair the committee. John Kyl (R-AZ) has been making a lot of news. Chuck Grassley recently became famous for his stance on banker suicide. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) might be a little young for the post.

The early money on the street is on Kyl. The Republican party seems to be listing right and Kyl has been out in front of that movement.

The back and forth on the Judiciary is important for lawyers (how much fun do you think Elena Kagan is having today), but obviously the bigger news is that Specter could be the 60th Senate vote for the soon-to-be filibuster proof Obama agenda.

The move stands to put the White House’s agenda on a fast track — and to renew hopes among organized labor for the Employee Free Choice Act.

The move also raises the stakes for the resolution of the Minnesota Senate race and may tempt Republicans to drag that fight on further.

Political expediency could be the name of the game for Specter. More details after the jump.

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Women lawyers pay.JPGOne would think that the current global economic crisis would be taking a toll on women’s issues. Work-life balance? Please, any associate not on track with their hours is a candidate for a layoff. Retention of women? Whatever, welcome to the world of forced attrition.

But is the prevailing view accurate? Patricia Gillette, an Orrick partner and founder of The Opt In Project, doesn’t think so. Today on AmLaw Daily, Gillette makes the argument that now is the perfect time for firms to address issues traditionally important to women:

There is another school of thought, the one that I subscribe to. It is this–the economic crisis provides law firms with opportunities they never before had. Those include: to step away from the salary and bonus programs that destroyed collegiality and prevented flexibility; to make structural and organizational changes long overdue; to kill the billable hour once and for all; to get ahead of the sea change that is coming to the legal profession.

Now is the time to take advantage of the immobility of partners and associates and the weakening bargaining position of law students, to make changes that may not be popular with everyone, but are long overdue. And these changes, in the long run, will benefit women and will answer the cries of all Gen Y lawyers for a kinder and gentler law firm life.

It seems to me that moving away from lockstep compensation necessarily leads to more subjective forms of salary advancement. The billable hour might be the bane of a lawyer’s existence, but it is at least based on objective criteria. Will putting salary decisions in the hands of intra-firm politics and relationship building really lead to a “kinder and gentler” law firm? Or will it lead to an “eat-what-you-kill” approach that many partners complain about when it comes to their compensation structure?

After the jump, Gillette outlines three big moves that could help women in law firms.

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dennis jansen university of minnesota shot.jpgIn yesterday’s open thread on #17 though #28 schools in the U.S. News rankings, we neglected to include a riff on the crime statistics in various schools’ cities. We did start thinking about it today, though, as it seems that bullets occasionally fly in the City of Lakes, home to the #20-ranked law school. And Dennis Jansen, a University of Minnesota 1L, was unlucky enough to catch one in the back this weekend.

Jansen keeps a blog called No. 634 tracking his law school adventures. Usually the posts are about fairly mundane topics, like his new dog Harley (a mastiff) and classes (“CrimLaw is a waste of time“). But yesterday, he posted something rather out of the ordinary. One of his fellow students sent it along to us, saying, “So I read this blog by a kid in my 1L crim law class… and THIS was definitely the most interesting post: Jansen gets shot.”

According to the post, Jansen was out on the wild streets of Minneapolis Sunday after going to a club when…

I’m walking across Hennepin with what felt like the entire hiphop room of the Gay 90′s, when I hear popping sounds.

People scream and start running.

I feel something hit my back.

I stop on the curb and call over to T.

Me: “I think I got hit.”

T: “Shut up, where?”

(I lift up the back of my shirt and point.)

T: “OH MY GOD, they got you! They shot you!”

Me: “It’s a gunshot?”

T: “YES! THEY GOT YOU! (then to the street) HE GOT SHOT!”

His first thoughts were not of his mortality but of class the next morning:

So it’s around 2:30 am on a Monday morning and I’m sitting downtown bleeding on the side of the street. Random people coming from clubs stopped as they saw the blood coming from my back. I had a pretty good idea that I was going to miss this morning’s civil procedure class…

And you thought you were having a rough finals week.

Jansen may give former honoree Alex Botsios (the Arizona 1L who wrestled his laptop away from an armed robber) a good running for ATL Law Student of all time. More after the jump, including a gratuitous, but not graphic, photo of the wound.

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