August 2014

Tom Wallerstein

Recently, someone remarked to me that the week after Christmas is a “dead week.” He meant that many people take the week off, many companies are short staffed, and business generally is light.

When I was in Biglaw, I always worked the week after Christmas. Even though most partners wouldn’t be around, I figured that left it up to me to make sure my cases were being handled properly. With hindsight, I know that I probably wasn’t quite as essential as I thought, but that was my attitude at the time.

Now that I am a partner in my own firm, you might think that I can finally relax and let my associates mind the store. Negative. First, I care about my associates’ quality of (work) life. Having spent years in Biglaw, I am committed to trying to lessen at least some of the unpleasantness that often entails. So I want my employees to be able to take time off, or at least work a lighter schedule, during a week that is traditionally light. Second, running my own firm just raises the stakes. Now I really do have ultimate responsibility for all my cases, so I feel even more pressure to work harder and better than ever before.

So much for a dead week. Still, the comment got me thinking about what it means to be “swamped” with work versus having a “dead week,” and how those concepts differ when applied to Biglaw versus a running a solo or small firm practice….

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Welcome to the latest edition of Above the Law’s Grammer Pole of the Weak, a column where we turn questions of legal writing and English grammar and usage over to our readers for discussion and debate.

Last week, we discovered that our readers’ preference for using pled over pleaded as the past tense of the verb plead hasn’t changed too drastically since 2008: 57% of lawyers still prefer to use pled. So much for members of this profession being sticklers for rules, grammatical or otherwise, eh?

This week, we’ll be turning to a question of spacing. We’ve already dealt with sentence spacing — specifically, whether one space or two should be used between sentences — but today, we’re going to take a look at the em dash. Should you be using a space before and after an em dash?

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‘Tis the season to puzzle over holiday gift etiquette at the office. Every year, a few questions come up about this topic — what’s appropriate, how much, whether they really have to, etc. No really, one year, a colleague complained, “Well, I’m not getting much of a bonus this year, so why should I give a gift to my secretary?” What you’d call a true, selfless, holiday spirit.

Obviously, this was back during law firm days, when bonus announcements are made early, unlike at companies, where the grand reveal isn’t usually for another couple of months after wilting trees have been cleared from the driveways. Not gifting your admin wasn’t exactly unheard of at a law firm, though, and I think it evidences a difference between the impact of gift-giving at a large law firm versus in-house.

At a law firm, you could give gifts to every employee at the office (or not) and, while your colleagues would be appreciative (or not), this act (or lack thereof) really wouldn’t make much of a difference in your career. Do you still have zero clients? Okay, still not making partner. Still have boatloads of clients? Continue with deity status.

At a company, on the other hand, you need to find out the unwritten rules for gifting….

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* Merry Christmas! House Republicans will get one less lump of coal in their stockings this year after accepting a two-month extension of unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts. [New York Times]

* Another birther lawsuit has been thrown out, but Orly Taitz won’t be stopped. She’s like the Energizer Bunny of questionable litigation. She’ll keep appealing, and appealing, and appealing… [Los Angeles Times]

* John Edwards is trying to delay his criminal trial, claiming to have a mystery medical diagnosis. What kind of disease does karma hand you for cheating on your sick wife? [New York Daily News]

* Nora Demleitner will be will be stepping in as the new dean of Washington and Lee University School of Law. Hofstra Law, you M.A.D.? [National Law Journal]

* Is the American Bar Association really driving up the cost of law school tuition, or is it the law schools themselves? Here are some graphs that might surprise you. [Am Law Daily]

The field of contenders for our third annual law firm holiday card contest was more impressive than ever. We received numerous nominations, and we thank everyone who participated. It took many hours to review the plethora of submissions.

We could complain about how some of you failed to follow contest rule #3, limiting the contest to “cards that are unusually clever, funny, or cool…. cards with some attitude, with that extra je ne sais quoi.” But we won’t; the holiday spirit has us in a good mood. You are all wonderful!

But some of you are more wonderful than others. Let’s look at this year’s finalists….

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Justice Kavanaugh has a nice ring to it.

* Searching for the perfect holiday present? Via Professor Glenn Reynolds: “As A Christmas Gift, Tell Your Friends and Relatives They’re Fat.” [Instapundit]

* If a Republican wins the White House in 2012, who might get nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court? Mike Sacks offers up a star-studded SCOTUS short list: the brilliant and genial Brett Kavanaugh, the fabulous Diane Sykes, certified superhottie Jeffrey Sutton, emerging feeder judge Neil Gorsuch, and star litigator Paul Clement. [Huffington Post]

* Another proposal on law school transparency. What is this “gainful employment” of which you speak? [Law School Transparency]

* If you can’t find gainful employment, well, maybe you can score a $500 reward from a concerned parent. [The Legal Satyricon]

* Speaking of Marc Randazza, here’s an interview in which he discusses “putting the nail in copyright holding company Righthaven’s coffin.” [WebmasterRadio.FM]

* A riddle from Eric Turkewitz: How is Indiana just like the old Soviet Union? [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]

* An interesting profile (by Peter Lattman) of Albert Foer — father of the three famous Foer brothers, and a celebrated and successful antitrust law crusader. [DealBook / New York Times]

To help me get in the holiday spirit, I’ve been catching up on my favorite movies. Some might prefer It’s A Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, but I can’t get enough of It’s a Wonderful Lifetime and ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas. Give me a movie where a D-list celebrity overcomes the holiday blues to discover the meaning of Christmas, the joy of love, and the warmth of family, and I am a happy girl.

After 22 days of non-stop Christmas movie watching, I began to think that only in a movie staring Melissa Joan Hart would someone devote her professional career to tackling an issue she had to overcome. Not so.

Earlier this month, Casey Greenfield, known for her personal battle with child support issues, and Scott Labby, a fellow graduate of Yale Law School, formed the firm Greenfield Labby LLP. The firm’s mission is to serve individual clients “with a focus on family and matrimonial practice, strategic planning and crisis management”….

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Most of us correlate this time of year with holiday cheer, happiness, and general festivity. However, if you find yourself looking for a job in December, it can be a little disheartening. Employers, if they are not taking time off, focus their efforts on end of the year wrap-up. Although hiring may seem slow during the holiday season, don’t consider it a total loss.

Check out these holiday job-hunting tips from Lateral Link that will be sure to help you keep your chin up, and your hope of landing a new job alive….

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Roland Davenport

There aren’t that many really good Santas.

Roland Davenport, a Michigan solo practitioner, commenting on the sad state of Santa Claus couture during the holiday season. Davenport, who attended what he calls “the Harvard of Santa Claus schools,” has been dressing up as Santa and performing at holiday parties for the past eight years.

Davenport’s real, white beard and $750 red suit are considered prestigious by the competition, and his Santa retainer reflects it.

Captian Picard as a member of the ABA

If you had told me a week ago that I would end up writing three stories on Duncan Law School, I’d have said: “I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more, is none.”

But now I’m stepp’d in so far into the Duncan Law spitting match with the American Bar Association, that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er. (Shout out to commenter guest9999999 who nailed the Macbeth angle in the last Duncan Law post.)

Duncan Law talked to the New York Times, the ABA denied provisional accreditation to Duncan Law, and now Duncan is suing the ABA, alleging an antitrust violation.

And you know what, in all this back and forth, I’m going to have to pull a Romney and kind of flip-flop….

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