October 2014

Salary Cuts.jpgLast week, we told you that Sonnenschein would be cutting its associate’s salaries. At the time, Sonnenschein pointed out the hit to first year salaries:

Our first year Associate base salary under the new approach will be set at $145,000 in most of the cities in which we operate, and the salary levels for the balance of our Associate classes vary by year and geography consistent with our standard practice.

What does “consistent with our standard practice” mean? Above the Law has received word on what the salary cuts will look like for the rest of Sonnenschein’s associates. Tipsters report:

* 2002 and above = 15%
* 2004 = 15%
* 2005 = 14%
* 2006 = 14%
* 2008 = 10%

Did anybody expect Sonnenschein to ask its more senior associates to take a larger pay cut than its junior associates?
More news from the firm after the jump.

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SCOTUS speculation small.jpgYours truly is covering the White House press conference, over on Twitter.
For more detailed discussion of the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, see our prior post.
Earlier: Breaking: Obama To Nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor (2d Cir.) to Supreme Court

lunchbox lunch box.jpg* Silence from the SCOTUS justices is a good sign for your case. [New York Times]
* A South Carolina judge has issued a TRO protecting Craigslist from criminal prosecution by the state’s Attorney General. Let the whorish ads continue. [ZDNet]
* Ready your rainbow posters. The California’s Supreme Court will rule on Prop 8 today. [Wall Street Journal]
* More experts weigh in on the future of Biglaw. [Philadelphia Business Journal]
* GM’s bankruptcy is bankrupting the ranks of bankruptcy attorneys. [New York Times]
* We’ve heard of parents forcing kids to make inventive use of empty bottles during road trips, but this is the first time we’ve heard of a teacher forcing a student to juice up a lunchbox. [Courthouse News Service]
* The biggest news of the morning is Sonia Sotomayor’s proposed move to One First Street. See our early morning post for more on this. [Above The Law]

sonia sotomayor above the law.jpgAs we once wrote about Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the Second Circuit, paraphrasing the lyrics of another high-powered Latina who made it from the South Bronx to the pinnacle of fabulosity and fame, “Don’t be fooled by the robes that she’s got; she’s still Sonia from the block.” Despite her high station as a federal appeals court judge, the down-to-earth Sotomayor has her clerks over to her apartment, for card games and drinks.
It now looks like “Sonia from the Block” might be taking up residence on a new block — One First Street, in Washington. From The Caucus:

President Obama has chosen Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the Federal Appeals Court as his nominee for the Supreme Court, officials said on Tuesday, and has scheduled an announcement for 10:15 a.m. at the White House.

Ms. Sotomayor, 54, will be the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court if her nomination is approved by the Senate.

The president reached his decision over the long Memorial Day weekend, aides said, but it was not disclosed until Tuesday morning when he informed his advisers of his choice less than three hours before the announcement was scheduled to take place.

The president narrowed his list to four, according to people close to the selection process, including Federal Appeals Judge Diane P. Wood of Chicago, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

Congratulations to Judge Sotomayor. She will be a tough nominee for Republicans to defeat, due to her compelling personal story. To read about that story — which took her from the housing projects of the South Bronx to Princeton, Yale Law School, the legendary New York D.A.’s office, private practice, the S.D.N.Y. trial bench, and the Second Circuit — see the New York Times profile or her Wikipedia entry. It also won’t hurt her confirmation prospects that she (1) would be the first Hispanic justice and (2) was appointed to the district court by the first President Bush (even though she was really the pick of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, not the Bush White House).
Will SS thank Jeffrey Rosen in her nomination acceptance speech? Professor Rosen, with his attack piece on her, sparked a backlash — in the blogosphere, from Latinos, and in liberal circles more generally — that may have helped her nomination in the end.
There’s extensive discussion of the Sotomayor nomination over at SCOTUSblog, where Tom Goldstein was analyzing the nomination dynamics as early as 7:30 this morning. Goldstein is of the view that her confirmation is almost certain, absent any major surprises, and we tend to agree. The potential roadblocks — her involvement in the controversial Ricci v. DeStefano affirmative action case, her unfortunate quip about courts making policy — just aren’t big enough to stop her (and her history-making nomination).
(According to SCOTUSblog, the AP publicly reported the news of her nomination first. But in this day and age, in which news spreads almost instantaneously, scoops tend not to last for longer than a few minutes.)
This should be an interesting confirmation. Stay tuned.
Obama Chooses Sotomayor for Supreme Court Nominee [The Caucus / New York Times]
The Dynamic of the Nomination of Sonia Sotomayor [SCOTUSblog]
Sonia Sotomayor [Wikipedia]
On a Supreme Court Prospect’s Résumé: ‘Baseball Savior’ [New York Times]

Law Shucks layoffs layoff tracker.jpg[Ed. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks. Law Shucks has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.]

No! So close! We had this whole piece written on the optimistic assumption that this would be the first full week without a layoff since the end of 2008.

Then Ropes & Gray went and ruined it for everyone.

The slowdown of law firm layoffs reflects the trend in the broader economy. Initial jobless claims were down 12,000 for the week ending May 16, to 631,000. Continuing claims increased by 75,000, the net of the 637,000 claims from last week. That was the 16th straight week of a net increase in unemployment, bringing the rate to 8.9%, a 25-year high. The level is expected to peak over 10% in the next year, and take five more years to drop down to 5%.

So even though the grand total for calendar 2008 broke the 10,000 layoff mark last week, the rate has dropped off dramatically. It was only on April 13, 2009 that the total from the current wave (counting from Cadwalader in January, 2008) broke 10,000. Despite the recent slowdown, it took just over a month to have as many people laid off from law firms as were laid off in all of 2008.

Even if Ropes hadn’t rained on all the barbecues, there were still going to be a number of caveats and clarifications to the "no layoffs" analysis. We address those, and other cost-cutting measures, after the jump.

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Memorial Day 2009.jpgToday is Memorial Day. Please take some time to reflect upon the sacrifices of the brave men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.
We hope that you’re not in front of your computer and/or in the office on this holiday. But for those of you who are, here’s your Morning Docket.
* If you are stuck at work today, maybe you’re at Weil or Dewey or Jenner or Honigman, working on the GM bankruptcy. [Am Law Daily]
* With an announcement expected any day now, President Obama drops some hints about what he’s looking for in a Supreme Court justice. [Washington Post]
* One area where a new justice might make a difference: executive power. [New York Times]
* The Times has been profiling possible SCOTUS nominees [FN1], and ATL gets a veiled shout-out (“a legal blog”) in the profile of Justice Leah Ward Sears. [New York Times]
* A downside to judicial service: threats to judges and prosecutors are on the rise. [Washington Post]
* More legal trouble for ex-NBA star Jayson Williams. [AP]
* Alaska prosecutors to retired teacher: Please don’t feed the bears. [USA Today]
* Over on the other side of the pond, Kilpatrick killed its London office — back in March. [Am Law Daily]
* Elsewhere in the EU, Scientologists go on trial in France. [The Independent via Drudge]
[FN1] Here are the other SCOTUS profiles: Jennifer Granholm; Elena Kagan; Carlos Moreno; Janet Napolitano; Sonia Sotomayor; and Diane Wood.

skirt above the knee.jpgFashion is always a hot topic here at Above The Law. Last year, a partner at Winston & Strawn got females’ panties in a bunch by questioning the length of their skirts. In the fall, our post on suitable interview suits generated quite the long thread.
We seldom tire of talking about short shorts and see-through blouses, and we’re not the only ones. The judges and lawyers of the Seventh Circuit weighed in on fashion faux pas at a conference in Indianapolis this past week, reports the New York Times:

The topic was first raised by a United States district court judge, Joan H. Lefkow, of the Northern District of Illinois as the panel discussed good and bad trends in courtroom practice. Judge Lefkow said some women should dress more appropriately in court. According to an article in the National Law Journal and from the accounts of others in the room, she said one lawyer had shown up for a jury trial in a velour outfit that looked for all the world as if she was “on her way home from the gym.”
While the lawyer won her case, Judge Lefkow suggested to the judges and lawyers in the room that unseemly clothing in court was the kind of issue that should be the subject of quiet conversation in law firms.

What? Winning isn’t all that matters?
Judge Lefkow’s remarks led to some not-so quiet conversation during the rest of the panel. The judges voiced their disdain for loud ties, short skirts, and other titillating attire.
Read about their opinions, and share your own, after the jump.

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Fallingwater photo by Lat.jpg* This is the best argument in favor of Roe v. Wade. [True/Slant]
* And here is an argument against extending copyright protection to architecture and fashion design. [Concurring Opinions]
* Is stare decisis fo’ suckas? [Southern Appeal]
* Is Elena Kagan “a great friend of conservatives”? Maybe not, according to Wendy Long. [National Review Online]
* “The Millennials: Generation Enlightened or Generation Lazy?” [WSJ Law Blog]
* Talk about a “sin tax”: teen who auctioned off her virginity may owe thousands in unpaid taxes. [The Sun via TaxProf Blog]

champagne glasses small.jpgLast week, the “normal-seeming” couple won our reader poll in a romp over the buttoned-up, hyper-achieving competition. No danger of that this week! All three of these contestant couples give off major type-A vibes and are firmly locked in prestigious-degree-accumulation mode. And oh, how we love them.
Here are the contestants:

1. Alyssa Worsham and Bretton Dimick
2. Sada Jacobson and Brendan Bâby
3. Julie Ehrlich and Noam Elcott

Check out these couples’ credentials and photos, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legal Eagle Wedding Watch 5.17: Be My Bâby”

kirkland ellis logo.JPGLaw firms are dealing with the Great Recession in many different ways. As we’ve chronicled in these pages, layoffs and salary cuts are commonplace, practically clichéd.
Some firms are cutting costs more creatively. From a source at Kirkland & Ellis:

We just got a memo from K&E about a massive increase in our health care premiums. I’m not happy at all…. By my rough math, my deductible tripled, but the cost increased $100/month. So they’re screwing us two ways. Again, if my math is right.

From a second tipster:

This change effectively reduces associate salaries by approximately $1,000-$2,000 per year, although made under the guise of a change in the health care plan (perhaps in attempt to avoid blog coverage of salary cuts?).

K&E’s health care coverage was already pretty poor compared to other biglaw firms. This change makes their health care for associates (and other employees earning more than $90K) even worse. Also disturbing is that part of the justification for the change is to “bring the amount paid for health care coverage for associates closer to the amount paid by partners of the Firm…..”

My (albeit limited) understanding of health care coverage for partners in partnerships is that by its nature it is always different from the partnerships’ actual employees (i.e., associates)…. Additionally, we all know K&E partners make a ton of money (as evidenced by their high ppp, which have not been reduced). While associates at Kirkland are definitely well compensated, they work brutal hours for that money, and enacting a salary cut in the guise of bringing partners health care cost “in line” with associates seems greedy and ill-advised.

Full memo, in all of its hyper-technical glory, after the jump.

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