October 2014

In a move that can best be described as cheap, Latham & Watkins joins a growing list of firms that will not allow associates to accrue vacation time. Why would a firm deny its associates the opportunity to get paid out for unused vacation days when they leave the firm (voluntarily or involuntarily)? Because it saves them money, of course.

I suppose Latham could have put it this way: “We’ll no longer honor accrued vacation time because we don’t want to be on the hook for extra paychecks after we s***can you.” But where’s the fun in that? Instead Latham tried to sell associates on the idea that its change in vacation policy would allow associates to take unlimited vacation days.

Latham associates weren’t fooled by the memo. Check it out and see if you would have fallen under the spell of spin …

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I was trying to engage my class, moving about the room, and I saw a student watching a graphic porn video on his laptop. Really? And this guy hopes to be a practicing lawyer in nine months?

– An unidentified law professor, complaining about student laptop misuse in class.

Welcome to the latest installment in our career alternatives series, in which we explore opportunities for attorneys outside the world of large law firms. We know and love the world of Biglaw — it’s our focus here at Above the Law — but we realize that there are other things you can do with a law degree.

One possible alternative: corporate intelligence (aka working as a private investigator / detective). A legal education certainly helps if you want to break into this field. Jules Kroll — founder of Kroll Inc., and widely regarded as “the founding father of the modern intelligence and security industry” — is a lawyer (Georgetown Law ’66).

We chatted with lawyer Philip Segal, founder of Charles Griffin Intelligence LLC, about how he got his start in this area.

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* Could dirty chickens take money away from legal Terrapins? [Food Safety News and Maryland Reporter]

* The Ninth Circuit finds that Seattle police officers were justified in Tasering a seven-month-pregnant woman three times when she refused to get out of her car and sign a speeding ticket. Dissenting judge Marsha Berzon thinks justice was aborted though. [Courthouse News Service]

* A victory for the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation at Cardozo Law School: Judge Robert Sweet struck down patents on two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. [New York Times]

* Is being abandoned at sea worth $4 million? [San Jose Mercury News]

* Felony charges for the Massachusetts teenagers who bullied freshman Phoebe Prince to suicide. [New York Times]

* The rise of the anti-law school blogs. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Do not overstate your firm’s diversity. [Denver Business Journal]

A tipster reports that USC’s Gould School of Law has a new proactive solution to student debt: death or permanent and total disability.

That’s right, USC kids. If you can’t get a job coming out of the Gould School of Law, you could always just die. Perhaps not the J.D. you had in mind when you enrolled there.

But “Just Dying” is only one possible solution for your financial problems. USC has some other advice for those not planning on biting it after graduation…

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* Do female suicide bombers get to hook up with virgins in paradise? Would that even be desirable? I mean, aren’t virgin men the nice way of saying “men who are pathetically incompetent in bed”? [Slate]

* Here’s a counter-argument to my anti-sin tax post. I’d agree with the argument if sin taxes weren’t imposed in accordance with BS Christian morality. Slap a sin tax on the publishers of the books most likely to inspire irrational violence: the Bible, the Koran, and all the other religious tomes sold for profit, and maybe I’ll come around. [Going Concern]

* Some tips about being a closer. Pay attention, a good wingman can only show you the door. You have to walk through it. [Law.com]

* The great hushed partner purge. [TechnoLawyer]

* Law ads that make you laugh. [Underdog]

* A full Blawg Review in 22 tweets. [Are You Writing This Down via Blawg Review]

White and Case logo.JPGWe’ve written before about partner departures from White & Case. Earlier this month, we discussed the firm’s Palo Alto office, which has recently lost some talent.

The latest partner to leave: patent litigator Jennifer L. Yokoyama, who has accepted an in-house position at Nike. Her departure from W&C is effective April 2.

“We are sorry to lose such a talented young partner in Jennifer,” said Bijal Vakil, executive partner of White & Case’s Palo Alto office. “Nike has a good eye for talent. We wish her and Nike well and look forward to remaining in contact.”

“It is a difficult decision for me to leave White & Case,” said Yokoyama. “It is a great Firm, and the Palo Alto office has an abundance of excellent attorneys and is a wonderful place to work. I could not, however, pass up the opportunity with Nike. It is a dream job for me and one that I could not turn down. I wish my friends and colleagues at White & Case continued success and will miss them dearly.”

How will Yokoyama’s leaving affect White & Case?

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Jennifer Yokoyama Goes In-House to Nike.

This is the kind of story that sounds unbelievable — until you realize that it’s dealing with the people who run Utah. The WSJ Law Blog reports:

Utah Governor Gary Herbert on Saturday authorized the use of eminent domain to take some of the U.S. government’s most valuable parcels.

A state is invoking the Takings Clause against the federal government? This reminds me of the time I came home and my dog told me to get off the couch. Sure, I was surprised that my dog was (a) talking and (b) ordering me off my own property. And so I resolved, right then and there, to never drop acid again.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what the hell Utah lawmakers are smoking …

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It’s one of the few things still shrouded in secrecy at most firms: which partners have equity in the firm and which don’t. Actual partners, of course, get a share in the firm’s profits, and are part of the PPP calculations reported by Am Law. Non-equity partners get the partner honorific, but in actuality they’re often just glorified senior associates, at least when it comes to matters like salary and major firm decisions. (Of course, this varies from firm to firm.)

Being a non-equity partner can be nice. You generally don’t have to toil on management committees or get caught up in partnership politics, and you may be less personally exposed to financial fallout should the firm’s fortunes sour (assuming the equity partners made personal guarantees on loans). But being a non-equity partner is also like being a stepparent that the children don’t respect. You don’t have any real power and don’t get to reap the full rewards from your investment and care.

Women and minority groups have tried to put pressure on firms to reveal partners’ equity or non-equity status when it comes to diversity reporting. But firms have resisted, saying that they don’t want to stigmatize non-equity partners. Angela Onwuachi-Willig sums it up on Concurring Opinions:

Over the past two years, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) has tried to obtain information regarding the breakdown of equity and non-equity partners by gender and race at law firms. The majority of NALP’s law firm members refused to hand over the information, and NALP eventually gave in on February 12.

The Executive Director of NALP, [James] Leipold, indicated that most firms cited privacy concerns for not divulging the details of their equity and non-equity partnership breakdowns. According to Leipold, small firms especially worried that providing such information would allow non-equity partners to be easily identified and stigmatized.

Well, Delaware firm Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor has revealed who its non-equity partners are, though it did so by accident. The firm’s controller needs a little lesson on the use of “bcc”…

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Cadwalader Wickersham Taft new logo CWT AboveTheLaw blog.jpgEarlier this month, we broke the news of three prominent Proskauer partners — Louis Solomon, Hal Shaftel, and Colin Underwood — jumping ship to Cadwalader. In addition, Michael Lazaroff, who has been senior counsel at Proskauer, will join Cadwalader as special counsel (as noted in the New York Law Journal).

In its press release, Cadwalader touted their arrival as a coup. And that’s generally how the news was covered (which is so often the case with law firm moves).

But covering every move by partners from Firm A to Firm B as a triumph for Firm B, the receiving firm, isn’t always accurate. Sometimes Firm A is perfectly happy to see lawyers leave. Sometimes firms even squeeze out departing partners — a trend that has been on the upswing during the recession.

With respect to the Proskauer-to-Cadwalader moves, is there perhaps more to this than meets the eye?

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