April 2014

Ed. note: This post is written by Will Meyerhofer, a Biglaw attorney turned psychotherapist, whom we profiled. A former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney, he holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work. He blogs at The People’s Therapist.

An editor at Above the Law suggested some months back that I do a piece on the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings. For whatever reason, this stodgy old weekly news magazine — which someone must still read — has created a sideline business publishing rankings of schools, including law schools. I’m not sure what the criteria are, but at least in theory, it’s a big deal for lawyers when the list comes out each year.

The list seems designed to make official what everyone knows anyway, i.e., that there are “prestige” schools that are harder to get into. But like any good opinion piece, they throw in a few twists — familiar names in unexpected places. It boils down to dissing one of the big places, or unexpectedly anointing a second-rank outfit. That way everyone can get riled up over the respective rankings of my school versus your school.

It sounded kind of boring, so I filed the idea away.

Then it started to gnaw at me. The U.S. News list seemed like a good example of the amazing lengths lawyers go to in order to distinguish themselves from one another. The entire profession splits hairs like this because the career path is so conservative there isn’t much to distinguish one attorney from another. Every lawyer lines up to take the LSAT, then get processed and distributed to law schools based on hairline distinctions. In class you sit through identical lectures, take identical exams, and head off — for the most part — to identical firms to do nearly identical work.

You end up arguing over the details….

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Alfred Steiner, artist and MoFo associate

Morrison & Foerster tends to attract quirky types. The firm is demonstrably offbeat, from its mildly bizarre website to its embracing the moniker “MoFo.” So we were not particularly surprised when an artist type auctioning off a piece of conceptual art on eBay turned out to be a lawyer from the firm.

Alfred Steiner is a tech and IP lawyer in MoFo’s New York office. He described the piece to us thusly:

In a conceptually reductive context where works are increasingly defined more by an agreement between artist and collector (whether written or oral, tacit or explicit) than by the tangible manifestation of the work itself, what would a work become if it were reduced to be coextensive with that agreement, that is, if that agreement were the work itself?

Yup, the piece of art is a contract. What we were surprised by was how much a contract from a Morrison & Foerster attorney went for on eBay…

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And we’re back. Day 3 of the Elena Kagan Senate Confirmation Hearings. Today, junior Senators will get to finish their first round of questions, and then the Senators on the Judiciary Committee get to go after Kagan for a second round…

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* Just in case you didn’t already know, Facebook is really, really helpful for divorce attorneys. [Associated Press]

* DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas plans to sue polling company, Research 2000. [Washington Post]

* Meanwhile, Howrey goes after Nate Silver on behalf of Research 2000. [FiveThirtyEight]

* Make sure that your in-house lawyers all have their licenses in order. Communications by Jonathan Moss, who was chief in-house counsel at Gucci but practicing with a lapsed license, are not entitled to attorney-client privilege in a trademark infringement lawsuit against Guess?. [New York Law Journal; ABA Journal]

* The SEC pays out $755K to fired lawyer Gary Aguirre, who claimed wrongful termination after he tried to investigate a prominent hedge fund. [Associated Press]

* A Texas lawyer and his wife accused of stealing $2 million for military veterans. [Houston Chronicle]

* Judicial minimalism is gone at One First Street. [New York Times]

* Google caves to try to keep its license in China. [New York Times]

This week, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is in the hot seat spotlight. Today, she was feeling the heat from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. The Judiciary Committee let the session go past the expected 6 p.m. end time, noting that Kagan has a reputation for “toughness.” Regardless, she seemed irritable about the day going for so long.

We’re just pleased that Lady Kaga is now getting the paparazzi attention that she deserves. You can plug into the hearings online in so many ways. You can stream the hearings from a webcast on the Senate Judiciary website. You can follow various liveblogs, including that of SCOTUSblog or ours here at ATL (where we had over 2,500 people following, bantering and commenting today). Or you can follow court watchers on Twitter, like Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick or our ATLblog feed.

We’re having fun watching Solicitor General Kagan’s nomination dance with the senators, with the exception of sitting through Senator Specter’s bombastic questioning. He was more interested in hearing himself talk than hearing Lady Kaga sing. And that’s unfortunate, as she had some very nice turns of phrases today.

Our five favorite Kagan quotes from Day 2 of the hearings, after the jump.

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Some summer associates are already halfway through their Biglaw summer experiences. We hope that Northwestern’s “No More I Love Yous” is not ringing true for you, and that your offices don’t bear any resemblance to the photo from our last Caption Contest.

We have heard that you’re not eating out as often or spending as much on lunch. That is inexcusable! Sure, times are tough, but the firms have brought in far fewer SAs this year, so they should be able to splurge a bit.

Skadden and Paul Weiss both had 102 summer associates in 2009, and have just 34 and 58, respectively, this year. Cravath cut its summer class from 121 to 22. Weil dropped from 96 in 2009 to 20 this year. With those drastic reductions in numbers, being a summer associate this year should be like being an only child — you get spoiled.

(By the by, we hear that a San Diego office dropped its numbers by one this month — anyone with information, email us!)

Please tell us about your spoils. Which firm has the best summer associate event this year? We’re holding a contest: make your submissions for Biggest & Bestest Biglaw Event of Summer 2010 by email or in the comments.

We had five finalists for the prize last year: Cleary Gottlieb, Sidley Austin, Cadwalader, Carlton Fields, and Fish & Richardson. Which firm won?

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* Make no mistake, Joe Biden’s absence severely limits the entertainment value of these confirmation hearings. [Going Concern]

* On the other hand, it would be awesome for Oprah to be a Senator and on Judiciary just for these hearings. [Legal Blog Watch]

* The thing is, Kagan was asked about how she would go about granting cert. But it is an issue that should probably get more attention. [AOL News]

* “Obvious disdain” gets lawyer smacked on the wrist. [Legal Profession Blog]

* A law professor thinks that reality t.v. is changing our cultural behavior. [ABA Journal]

* What do Russians have against pre-numps? [Concurring Opinions]

Georgetown Law, ranked #14 by U.S. News, is getting a new dean. Here’s part of the letter from the Georgetown president, John DeGioia:

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:

It is with great pleasure that I announce the appointment of our new Executive Vice President and Dean of the Georgetown University Law Center, William M. Treanor, effective August 16. Dean Treanor joins our community from Fordham University, where he has served as Dean of Fordham Law School since 2002.

No word on whether or not Dean Treanor has any deeply personal message he’d like to share with the entire GULC community via Facebook.

But what will new Dean Treanor bring to GULC? Is there any chance for a better-than-#14 finish in Georgetown’s future?

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Erica, of VH1's Cut Off

This is not a good month for legal types in reality television. Albie Manzo of The Real Housewives of New Jersey failed out of Seton Hall Law School. Brooklyn Law School grad Victoria Eisner of Downtown Girls failed the New York bar exam. And now all of the law school classmates of Erica Rose have failed to live up to her expectations.

Who is Erica Rose? She’s a cast member of the VH1 reality TV show “Cut Off,” about rich heiresses whose parents have indulged their every whim. The nine heiresses thought they were going on a reality TV show about “The Good Life,” but instead discovered that their parents had dumped them in a communal house, cut off their bank accounts, and canceled their credit cards. Now they’re trying to figure out how to work real jobs and survive without a trust fund.

Erica met with a career coach in the show’s most recent episode to go over her résumé, which includes a J.D. He asks why she went to law school. She responds that she “hoped to be like Nancy Grace” or to be the future Judge Judy. Such lofty goals! He points out that those women “put in a lot of hours before they got on the air.” Her response? “But I’m prettier than they are.”

Then she segued into bemoaning the looks of her classmates…

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In August 2006, Robert Wone, a promising young Asian-American attorney, was murdered while staying at a friend’s house in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Wone, then general counsel for Radio Free Asia and a former Covington & Burling associate, was stabbed to death. The housemates claimed that Wone had been attacked by an intruder, but the crime scene seemed to suggest that was not the case.

The unsolved murder inspired the birth of the site WhoMurderedRobertWone, which has tracked the progress of the investigation in excruciating detail. Prosecutors charged the three housemates, including former Arent Fox partner Joseph Price, with conspiracy, obstruction, and tampering, but not for his murder.

The verdict in the four-and-a-half week trial came today.

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