“In four minutes, it would be another hour; a half hour after that was the ten-minute break. Lane Dean imagined himself running around on the break, waving his arms and shouting gibberish and holding ten cigarettes at once in his mouth, like a panpipe. Year after year, a face the same color as your desk. Lord Jesus. Coffee wasn’t allowed because of spills on the files, but on the break he’d have a big cup of coffee in each hand while he pictured himself running around the outside grounds, shouting. He knew what he’d really do on the break was sit facing the wall clock in the lounge and, despite prayers and effort, count the seconds tick off until he had to come back and do this again. And again and again and again.”
Yesterday, the New York Times ran a longish piece on just what in the hell was happening at the IRS office in Cincinnati. A Kafkaesque tale of bureaucratic intrigue, the treatment does little to tell us why in the hell we care just what in the hell was happening at the IRS office in Cincinnati. I’ll leave that determination to the qualified pundits and their punditry.
But what the Times article does do is shine a light on what it means to be a lawyer. What it means to others and what it means to us. Completely by accident, the mess at the IRS tells us how important lawyers are. And how impotent we are. This makes little sense even as I type it. But bear with me. Please. It is not often that meaning comes so nicely gift-wrapped.
* Lat’s turning his serialized web fiction into a real live book, scheduled for publication in 2014. Congrats, Lat! [Supreme Ambitions]
* REMINDER: If you’re looking to enter the annual ATL Law Revue Video Contest, send us that submission by THURSDAY, APRIL 18, at 5:00 PM (Eastern time). That’s not a soft, law school deadline; it’s a hard, law firm deadline. [Above the Law]
* A reminder that yesterday’s events may be more aptly compared to the Atlanta Olympics bombing than 9/11, at least with regard to the targeting of a public event, regardless of the media’s inclinations. [Balloon-Juice]
* Employees around the country are wildly abusing Twitter’s new app, Vine, exposing themselves to retribution and disclosing confidential information. And I’m highly looking forward to the first “Biglaw associate abuses Vine” tip showing up in my inbox. [Connecticut Employment Law Blog]
* Bear Lawyer comments on the Bitcoin debacle. [Bear Lawyer]
* Congratulations to NYU Law for winning its 5th Straight Deans’ Cup over Columbia on a last second play. I’ve been waiting for video of this ever since I learned that the game ended on a buzzer beating three-pointer when an unknown NYU student informed me of it on the subway platform that night. Well, now we have our video and it is highlight worthy….
* Wait, auditors agree that auditor letters are pretty much a waste of time, but they still want them anyway? As I learned in Civ: “The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency.” [Going Concern]
* Yes, the legal world is still buzzing because one of the nine most powerful people in America deigned to utter a few words in court. I hope Justice Thomas appreciates that his obituary is going to prominently include references to his confirmation hearings and his well-documented muteness. [ZombieLaw]
* Bottom line, I don’t want to be on the side of praising SEC enforcement actions. [National Law Journal]
* I hope Obama is well armed, because the only thing that stops a politician in the pocket of the gun lobby are the people holding their votes to the heads of their Congressmen. [Blog Briefing Room / The Hill]
* Same-sex marriage should be legal because gay people should be allowed to save money too. [The Atlantic]
When I worked at a law firm, I knew that lawyers’ responses to audit letters — in which the firm confirms to auditors the status of litigation pending against a client — were a massive waste of time.
Firm policy dictated that we would speak only pablum in response to audit letters. We would identify each case by name, court, and number; explain that a complaint had been filed; list the causes of action; say where we stood in discovery and whether a trial date had been set; and then say that we didn’t have a clue who would win. (If we thought that the client’s chance of losing was either “probable” or “remote,” we were required to say so. I’m not sure we ever saw such a case.)
Every once in a while, a junior associate would receive an audit letter and write a real response to it — analyzing the lawsuit, the tactics, and who would win. When the powers that be learned about that mistake, there’d be hell to pay: “How could you write those things? Didn’t you run this past an audit letter review partner? We don’t actually provide information in those responses, you fool! Never do this again!”
As a partner at a firm, I knew that responding to audit letters was an expensive nuisance: A full-time audit letter assistant cranked out first drafts of responses to the letters. (That’s all she did, eight hours per day, 52 weeks per year — honest.) The appropriate client relationship partner reviewed each draft. An “audit letter review partner” (I had the misfortune to be one of those for four or five years) took another pass at the thing. Only then — after the letter had been stripped of all content — did the response go out the door. That was an awful lot of time and money invested to insure that the firm didn’t accidentally say something.
But I always assumed that someone — the client, the auditors, someone — thought those ridiculous letters served a purpose. Now I’ve gone in-house, and it turns out that audit letters serve no purpose at all. . . .
Back in April, we brought you a story about a family who had written to Dear Abby, an advice columnist, about their child’s law school loan debt. Apparently the mere thought of assisting their darling daughter with the repayment of her $100,000+ debt load was just too much to bear. The daughter had already ruined her own life, so why should they ruin theirs too? And yet, tens of thousands of students are still willing to look this student loan debt problem in the face and laugh.
Yes, in a time where the Executive Director of the National Association for Law Placement is forced to write entire columns about the fact that there is no conceivable way he could describe the current entry-level job market as “good,” others are still considering applying to law school.
For example, today we found out that the matriarch of another family sought wisdom from an advice columnist as to whether her husband should go to law school. How did she respond? Let’s just say Dear Prudence is a little more in tune with the realities of today’s legal job market than Dear Abby will ever be….
Aww... does your head hurt? Maybe you'd feel better if you DID YOUR FREAKING JOB!
This has been one hell of a day for ridiculous lawsuits. We’ve already dealt with Octomoms turned strippers and thick girls who want to go to law school. Now we’ve got an office worker who claims that the pressure of her job led to her heart condition.
Accountant Tammy Armstrong is claiming wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress because her employer asked her to do a lot of work. She also wants to be paid overtime because her employer had the audacity to claim her as a salaried worker and then paid her a salary.
Basically, if she wins, then every single junior office worker in law or finance should be able to sue their employers. Which makes me think she’s not going to win…
* Man, the economy is so bad, monks are having to go to court to fight for a new revenue stream. [WSJ Law Blog]
* We have peace between a Texas auction house and the President of Mongolia over the ownership of a Tyrannosaur skeleton. While we’re here, should anybody wish to invite me to a pre-screening of their inventive dinosaur park, I’d like to note that I’m not the type of bloodsucking lawyer who leaves children behind. [Heritage Foundation]
* Did you know Sullivan & Cromwell got involved in the birther controversy? The first one, the legitimate one with Mitt Romney’s father. Not the ridiculous one that Romney’s been embracing. [Reuters]
* Speaking of Mittens, did you know he supports for-profit colleges? That’s like supporting people jumping off the Empire State Building, so long as they pay to get in. [Salon]
Today, as you probably know, is the deadline for filing your taxes. As was the case last year, the combination of April 15 falling on a weekend and the little-known holiday of Emancipation Day pushed the filing deadline back a bit.
Did you appreciate the extra time to fill out your tax return? Partners at Dewey & LeBoeuf probably did, due to some problems with their K-1 forms.
And speaking of partners at Dewey, their numbers continue to decline. Let’s look at the latest defections, as well as the tax issue.
UPDATE (10:30 AM): The game of musical chairs continues. Six more Dewey departures, which we learned about shortly after publishing this post, after the jump.
I don’t always cover electronic discovery, but when I do, I prefer juicy court decisions.
And that’s what we have today. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York released a blunt, controversial ruling last week, slamming down accounting firm KPMG for requesting a less intense preservation obligation. The case has unsettling implications for attorneys and corporations who have big hopes in the future of less costly and less invasive e-discovery standards.
The case has been causing headaches for some time now….
It’s one of the biggest cons going around. I cringe whenever I hear it. A lawyer laughs and says, “I’m not good with numbers — that’s why I became a lawyer.”
On the surface, it seems to make sense; it sounds like it should be true. For some, it might even be true. After all, the last time we used quadratic equations was back when loafers on bare feet were considered desirable footwear (thanks Don Johnson).
In-house lawyers should never, ever say they’re bad at math — even those who really are. After all, business people are preoccupied with numbers. As an in-house lawyer, telling a business person that you’re bad at math is like telling them you don’t care about the most important thing that everyone else in your company cares about, and if your company is publicly listed, what every investor in your company cares about — the company’s numbers….
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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