October 2014

Michael Jackson thriller album cover.jpg* Many people are still reeling from the news of the death of Michael Jackson. [Rolling Stone]
* The scandal at the University of Illinois law school is bad, it’s really, really bad, you know it. Reports are now surfacing that the school admitted politically connected applicants in exchange for jobs for the law school’s graduates. [Chicago Tribune]
* Mark Sanford did use state funds to see his pretty young thing in Argentina. But he’s going to pay it back. Now he just needs some tender lovin’ care. [New York Times]
* Allen Stanford pleaded “not guilty” yesterday. Allen are you okay? Are you okay, Allen? You’ve been hit by, you’ve been struck by, a smooth criminal? [WSJ Law Blog]
* China disbars human rights lawyers. No message could have been any clearer. [ABA Journal]
* FDA, really bang up job on the Zicam thing. The way you make me feel … is unhealthy. [Bloomberg]

Michael Jackson king of pop dead died obituary.jpgLegendary entertainer Michael Jackson, aka the King of Pop, wasn’t a lawyer. But he certainly generated lots of work for them, thanks to his child molestation charges and financial woes. Not every pop culture icon has their own ATL category tag.
(Sure, MJ didn’t always pay his legal bills on time. But it’s the thought that counts.)
Michael Jackson was 50 at the time of his death. May he rest in peace.
Update: Read Marin’s thoughts on the Gloved One over at True/Slant (here and here).
Michael Jackson Has Beat It [True/Slant]
Michael Jackson Dies [TMZ.com]
Pop icon Michael Jackson is dead [Los Angeles Times]

twitter logo.jpg* Please God, whatever happens, don’t ever let me get fired via Twitter. [Legal Blog Watch]
* Be forewarned, if we simplify the law, it will be easier for “lay” people to understand the law, and pretty soon people won’t need as many lawyers. Do not repeat the mistakes of King James! What is good for society might not be good for our precious faith. [The Atlantic]
* Have you ever been captured by a Romanian terrorist while riding a Ferris wheel? No? Then you should read this account. [Miss Trials]
* Valet parking for students and faculty. [Legal Writing Prof Blog]
* Lastly I also suspect I feel a little vulnerable because this is ground I have never certainly never covered before — so if you have pearls of wisdom on how we figure all this out please let me know … In the meantime please sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips and an even deeper connection to your soul. I love you … sleep tight. M [The State]
* Michael Jackson … I can’t even say it. [True/Slant]

strip search.jpgSCOTUS ruled today that strip searching middle school students is not cool.
When Arizona school officials suspected an eighth-grade girl of harboring ibuprofen, they made her strip down to her bra and underwear, and then a nurse watched as she shook her bra and shook her underwear to prove there were no pills in her… on her person.
This sounds totally crazy on the Arizona officials’ part, but this girl was a suspicious character. She had been storing “several knives, lighters, a permanent marker, and a cigarette” in her day planner, according to the SCOTUS opinion [PDF]. That combined with Advil sounds like a rampage waiting to happen!
Lets take a look a those who concur, and those who dissent after the jump.

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If it wasn’t for places like Texas, we wouldn’t have lawyers like Nelson Skinner.
Nelson Skinner card.JPG
Regulators, mount up!

Salary Cuts.jpgAnother day, and another firm is retreating from the salaries of the past. Our sources report that Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney has decided to cut associate salaries between 5% and 10%.
The cuts will affect all class years.
Buchanan Ingersoll CEO Jack Barbour furnished Above the Law with this statement. Barbour suggests that the cuts are in part to due to Buchanan’s attempts to keep its billing rates competitive in this recession economy:

The firm generally has reduced associate compensation at a rate of between 5 and 10% per year. Certain associates may receive a higher or lesser reduction based on individual circumstances. This decision was not an easy one, but we feel that it is in the best interest of the firm and our clients to maintain the quality of service our clients have come to expect while keeping our rates at competitive levels.

The firm did not elaborate on what those individual circumstances might be.
Our sources believe the cuts will be based on hours, but you never know. Wouldn’t it be funny if the firm did it alphabetically. Nobody would be expecting that! It’s good to keep people on their toes.
It’s a little surprising that the firm cut salaries while summers are in the office, simply because the summers are only around for a short period of time. Buchanan scaled back this year’s summer program to seven weeks.
But if cutting salaries now saves jobs later, associates and summers might be all for it.
Earlier: Summer Cuts at Buchanan Ingersoll

Thumbnail image for John Ensign Senator John Ensign.jpgRemember the Ninth Circuit Curse? We wrote about it back in 2007, noting that “anyone who tries to mess with the Mighty Ninth eventually finds himself (or herself) in deep doo-doo.” Several politicians who have advocated splitting the Ninth Circuit — a sprawling court that can be challenging to administer, to be sure — have found themselves in some form of trouble or another. E.g., Senators Larry Craig, Ted Stevens, and Lisa Murkowski.
Now they’re joined by another. Although his sex scandal is being overshadowed by that of another Republican politician, Nevada Senator John Ensign (pictured) is watching his popularity plummet, after he admitted to an affair with an ex-staffer (who was once on the Ensign payroll, along with her husband). He may face an investigation into his conduct.
If anyone was going to fall victim to the Ninth Circuit Curse, it would be Senator Ensign. As noted on his website, “Senator Ensign has… taken the lead on legislation to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.” Not only did he push hard for splitting the circuit, but he actually testified in support of the split, at the time of the last big push for dividing the court.
The full tally of victims, after the jump.

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Perez Hilton punched.JPGLuckily, none of my critics have the guts to punch me in the face. But I suppose if one of my faceless, nameless tormentors did clock me upside the head — and lived to tell about it — my next move would be to file a really bitchy lawsuit. And then blog about it. Fun times!
It should go without saying that Perez Hilton has taken his alleged assault at the hands of the Black Eyed Peas to the next level. Here’s the introduction to his lawsuit against the Black Eyed Peas’ road manager, Polo Molina:
Perez v Polo 1.JPG
Of course, Perez uses the lawsuit to get another dig in at the Black Eyed Peas’ new album:
Perez v Polo 2.JPG
That the Black Eyed Peas’ new album kind of sucked is now a matter of the public record.
But after the jump, Hilton gets to the real point of the matter.

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blind item AboveTheLaw legal blog.jpgOn Monday, we offered you a blind item about a major law firm giving “fake work” to its summer associates. Some commenters thought we were criticizing the practice, but if you go back and read our original post, you won’t find any criticism. To the contrary, we enumerated the advantages of this policy (which found defenders in the comments as well).
We now bring you an update, based on a number of interesting emails we received. Here’s one:

My former firm, Day Berry & Howard [now Day Pitney], did this with first years back in the 80s. Several of us found out we were researching the exact same issue having to do with business trusts. I proposed we do a joint memo and that’s what we did. I don’t think they did that again.

And here’s a second:

Fake-work has been happening for years. I have given it to summers at the two firms I’ve been at and have practiced this art since 2005…. [T]his practice will greatly increase this year.

It is very easy, especially in areas like tax, where you can give a summer associate a discrete set of facts year after year (sans client names) and see if the summer can get to the answer you already know is right (or find some of the authorities that are directly on point). I actually think it is a GREAT way to test a summer’s research and writing ability without having to take as fact the lame “I couldn’t find very much on point” excuse. Of course, it is essential that the summer not know you gave him/her fake work until he/she does a spotty job and then you hand them the memo you (or a former summer associate) wrote so that they can see that they should have put a bit more effort in getting the project right before handing it in. In prior years, it was fun to see the sense of dread come across an SA’s face if they did, in fact, half-ass it and you caught them in the act (since the SA would likely get an offer anyway). This summer, pulling something like this would probably bring the SA to tears or worse.

I gave three separate fake work projects to summers back when I was at Locke Lord. The partners absolutely knew I was doing it and liked the comparison potential that the practice fostered. The practice was not widespread when I was doing it.

Additional discussion, plus the name of the firm that was the subject of the original blind item, after the jump.

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DLA Piper logo.jpgBack in May, we reported that DLA Piper decided to cut its associates’ salaries. Initially it was a 20% cut on some associates, but after our report the firm moved down to a 10%, across the board, salary cut.
But saving money was apparently only one of the goals for DLA Piper. We can also add DLA to the list of firms that want to end the system of lockstep compensation. The National Law Journal reports:

DLA, the largest firm in the United States, with about 3,785 attorneys worldwide, is one of several firms rethinking its associate program amid the need for cost-cutting brought on by the recession and in light of clients’ demand that they pay only for associates skilled enough to deliver consistent quality. The firm hopes by year end to have a new associate compensation, training and promotion structure that discards the traditional “lockstep” system of paying them based on years of service, the leaders said.
“People really want to rethink the model,” said Lee Miller, one of the firm’s joint chief executives. “I don’t think the model is broken, but people want to rethink what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.”

The model isn’t broken, but the firm is going to change it anyway? That sounds like some excellent Shock Doctrine logic.
After the jump, more details about DLA’s new business model.

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