October 2014

I know that having people answer your phone or type documents for you is part of the past and a sure path to extinction, but for those that actually employ people and are looking for ways to better that relationship, read on.

Like many lawyers, I’ve been through receptionists and secretaries. Some left for school, or other jobs, and some left because they had a different concept of the truth, or the meaning of “9:00 a.m.”

I have three rules for office staff: never lie to me, never try to fix a problem without telling me about it, and be on time. When I hire a receptionist, I put a telephone on the conference table and say that “this is the most important thing in this office.”

The relationship between lawyers and staff has a built-in tension — they help you make money, but are usually paid a very small percentage of what you make. They know that. Yes, they aren’t as educated, they’re not licensed, and they shouldn’t expect to make what you make, but the premise remains. Your secretary or receptionist opens the mail and sees the checks, takes the credit card information, gives out the wire transfer information and gets the confirmations, and knows what kind of money is coming in. They are helping you run your practice so you can make money, and they need to be treated that way….

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Go Giants?

Last week, a friend told me he hoped the Giants didn’t win the World Series because of the rioting that would inevitably follow. Now I understand why.

When I left Oakland, I thought I was also leaving behind insanity like this. Apparently not.

Last night, after the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series, San Francisco literally went up in flames. In the Mission — my neighborhood — alone, I saw at least four large fires burning in the middle of major roads. In other parts of the city, cars were set ablaze.

Click through to see pictures and video of the mayhem, and let’s ask ourselves how the law should handle this kind of widespread destruction celebration….

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Whether or not you think Citizens United was rightly decided, you have to agree that Anthony Kennedy totally underestimated the affect his ruling would have on our political process. The unfettered influx of money into the process has been ridiculous. Super PACs are openly plotting how they can buy the election, and it’s even worse on the state and local level. Even the mayor of New York is unabashed about using his money to “influence” the election.

The latest negative outcome from the “money is speech”/”corporations are people”/”unleash the oligarchs” decision comes from a boss near you. Citizens United now allows bosses to email you and tell you who to vote for. Your boss, of course, cannot force you to vote for one candidate or the other. But they are free to scare the crap out of you with misinformation and threats….

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Warning: for law degrees only, not lawyers.

After a late night out on the town, many of us have probably come up with ill-conceived plans that seemed like great ideas at the time. For example, I recently concocted a plan to move to a remote island to escape my soul-crushing student loan debt, and even started packing a suitcase. But then I fell asleep. Upon awakening from my drunken stupor slumber, I realized just how absurd that plan was. Come on, I can’t afford plane tickets.

But what if you never had the chance to sleep it off? What if you thought that your harebrained plan would actually work?

That may have been what happened this weekend to a recent Cardozo Law School graduate who was unable to get into her Chelsea apartment in New York. She cooked up a plan so convoluted, so MacGyver-esque, that 1Ls the world over would cringe if it ever appeared on a torts exam. This lawyer thought it would get her back into the comfort of her own home, but instead, she only succeeded in landing herself in the hospital — with significant damage to one of her limbs.

We suppose this must be what happens to newly minted lawyers who are used to receiving walking instructions from their law schools….

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Flooding in Wildwood, New Jersey.

As we mentioned earlier today, we’ll be operating normally here at Above the Law, notwithstanding Hurricane Sandy. Our physical offices, at the corner of Broadway and Houston in Manhattan, are closed. But your four editors — Elie, Staci, Chris, and myself — will be working diligently from our homes to keep you informed and entertained during Frankenstorm.

It seems that we won’t be alone in telecommuting today. Encouraging (or even ordering) employees to stay home, but suggesting that they work remotely if they can, seems to be a common response to the storm.

Here is information — including many UPDATES — about how various courts, government offices, law firms, and law schools are responding to Hurricane Sandy….

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I reported several weeks ago that I had been solicited to write an article about the future of Biglaw firms. But it was actually better than that: The invitation came from the “Sunday Review” (formerly “The Week In Review”) section of The New York Times, which is a pretty cool place to ask you to write.

Unfortunately, and apparently unbeknownst to the editor of the “Sunday Review” section, the Times ran a “DealBook” section on the fate of large law firms before my ditty could appear in print. This preempted my article (or at least that’s what the editor said, although maybe she was just sparing my feelings). So instead of having a piece in the NYT, I’m just another schlub typing away at Above the Law.

But if I took the time to write a 1,200-word piece on the future of big law firms, then I’m sure as heck going to get some use out of it. So here you are: “The Assault on Biglaw,” by yours truly, which damn near appeared in the Sunday Times….

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I didn’t mean to interrupt, you were saying something about ‘clean’ coal?

Hurricane Sandy — a.k.a. “Frankenstorm”, because it’s greater than the sum of its parts (and there’s the suggestion that storms like this are growing bigger and stronger because of man messing around with forces he doesn’t fully understand) — is coming. It’s basically a hurricane that’s merging with a Nor’easter that will make it rain, and not in the fun way. The federal government is closed. The New York Stock Exchange is closed. The McDonald’s next to my apartment is closed — Sandy has already cost me a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.

Don’t worry about me, I’ve got a three-day supply of alcohol and hot pockets. Hopefully you are all similarly prepared for 36 hours of sustained hype wind and rain. Size does matter with Sandy (if “Sandy” sounds a bit mundane, know that the next one will be “Tony”). We might not get a lot of CGI worthy images out of this storm, but the length of this storm could cause a lot of damage.

One thing that is still open: the Supreme Court of the United States. Yes, because the nation might be able to survive without mass transit or the stock exchange, but old men don’t take a day off from sitting in judgment. Reuters reports that the Court prides itself on working when everybody else takes shelter from a storm: “In 1996, when a major snowstorm closed the federal government and brought Washington, D.C., to a near standstill, court arguments went on. Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Wisconsin native undeterred by snow and ruled by a strong sense of punctuality, made sure business that January 8 began on schedule.”

UPDATE (12:00 PM): According to SCOTUSblog (based on a press release from the Court), the Court has now cancelled arguments for Tuesday. So, the case of Sandy v. SCOTUS has been decided 9-0 in favor of the people who might have had to put their lives at risk to cover the proceedings.

Let’s look at some of the other things in and around the legal world that are still open along the Eastern seaboard….

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At least Casey Anthony knows her new venue motion is laughable.

* Hurricane Sandy is set to arrive today, so batten down the hatches, folks! Everything’s closing down for the storm, but please feel free to email us, if your law school or law firm is encouraging you to work. [Washington Post]

* Thanks to the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United, companies can now recommend how their employees should vote, which is “no different from telling your children: ‘Eat your spinach. It’s good for you.’” [New York Times]

* Biglaw firms are re-negotiating their office space leases in an effort to save money. While some firms have already sealed their new real estate deals, others are still on the prowl — but which ones? [Am Law Daily]

* The University of St. Thomas School of Law has a new dean, and it certainly seems like he’s willing to make some waves to help his students. The first step for Robert Vischer? Reducing tuition. [National Law Journal]

* “I don’t think her popularity has improved since the [murder] verdict.” That’s probably why Casey Anthony’s lawyers are desperately trying to get a new venue for Zenaida Gonzalez’s defamation case. [Orlando Sentinel]

* A man divorced his formerly fugly wife (she had $100K in plastic surgery to correct her looks), sued her for luring him into marriage her under false pretenses, and won. Don’t worry, girls, this happened in China. [FOX]

Now THIS is a mansion.

In the world of Manhattan real estate, life begins at $1 million. Sure, you can get a very nice studio or one-bedroom apartment for six figures. But if you’re looking for at least two bedrooms and two baths, in a decent part of town, be prepared to pay the mansion tax (although a 1,200-square-foot apartment is hardly a “mansion”).

In today’s edition of Lawyerly Lairs, we’ll present you with two apartments, both priced between $1 million and $2 million. Then we’ll ask you to vote in a reader poll and say which one you prefer. We’re all about interactivity here at Above the Law.

Now, on to our first contestant….

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* L.A. city council voted in favor of banning pet stores. Because walking your dog contributes to childhood obesitywaitwaitwhatthehell? (Elie here: Pet stores contribute proliferation of puppy mills, and puppy mills are evil. People should only acquire pets from reputable breeders, or by opening their hearts to one of the many loving animals at your local animal shelter.) [LA Times via Overlawyered]

* If marijuana gets legalized, will there be a Green Gold Rush? [Daily Beast]

* A Texas high school won’t let students vote for Homecoming unless they wear an electronic tracking chip around their neck. I didn’t realize Minority Report took place in Texas. [CNET]

* A special Halloween version of scary s**t on the internet you maybe should be afraid of. [IT-Lex]

* A bunch of alternate mottos for legal blogs, ATL included. Ours stars — who else? — the Commentariat. Nice work gang. [Legal Blog Watch]

* After the jump, Lee Pacchia speaks with Dan DiPietro of Citibank, who has a watchlist of the Biglaw firms that may fail in the near future….

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