David Lat

David Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Observer, Washingtonian magazine, and New York magazine. Prior to ATL, he launched Underneath Their Robes, a blog about federal judges. Before entering the journalism world, he worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, in New York; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. David graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. He has received several awards for his work on ATL, including recognition as one of the American Lawyer’s Top 50 Big Law Innovators of the Last 50 Years; one of the ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels, a group of pioneers within the legal profession; and one of the Fastcase 50, "the fifty most interesting, provocative, and courageous leaders in the world of law, scholarship, and legal technology." You can connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

Posts by David Lat

192 Columbia Heights

What happens to people who work for failed law firms? Some of them wind up filing for personal bankruptcy.

But some of them experience far happier endings. Some of them wind up living in 25-foot-wide, 8,000-square-foot, $16 million townhouses.

Okay, a caveat: $16 million is what the owners are asking for their home. It’s not clear they’ll get that price, which would set a record for a single family home in Brooklyn Heights.

No matter which way you slice it, though, this is still an eight-figure home. Who’s the lawyer living in such luxury, and where did she once work?

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Over the past year or so, we’ve heard a steady trickle of negative news out of Dickstein Shapiro. The trickle has turned into a stream, so it’s now time to share what we’ve learned.

Let’s start with the numbers — grim numbers. Yesterday the Legal Times reported on what it described as Dickstein’s “worst year in more than a decade.” Revenue fell by 20 percent in 2013, and net income dropped even more sharply, by 35 percent. According to the Legal Times, the firm’s 2013 net income of $36 million is the lowest the firm has seen since before 1998, its first year on the Am Law 200.

Chairman James Kelly tried to spin this performance as “restructuring” and “investment,” as the firm focuses on its core practice areas. According to Kelly, “We made a strategic commitment to be a market-leading specialty firm. We decided we’re not going to be everything to everyone.”

“Everything” would appear to include “employer.” Let’s hear about the firm’s headcount cuts — affecting partners, associates, and staff — and check out the severance agreement that one source leaked to us….

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(Plus a leaked severance agreement.)”

Back in February, we covered a lawsuit filed by Mayer Brown that some critics called “disgusting” and “despicable.” The case challenges the placement of a memorial for World War II “comfort women” in a public park in Glendale, California — partly on administrative procedure grounds, and partly because the memorial allegedly “presents an unfairly one-sided portrayal of the historical and political debate surrounding comfort women.”

Filing a lawsuit that effectively seeks to deny the historical phenomenon of the comfort women — women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II — didn’t go over too well in many quarters. And now the case is back in the news, surely to Mayer Brown’s chagrin….

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Raise your hand if you’re tired of the debate over the value of a legal education. Yeah, me too.

Well, sorry to disappoint you, but the debate rolls on. A prominent law school dean and one of his colleagues took to the pages of the New York Times to once again defend the law school ivory tower from its critics.

Who are we talking about, and what are their arguments?

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Is the grass greener at another law firm?

I had the pleasure of spending much of last week in Seattle, for the 2014 Annual Education Conference of the Association for Legal Career Professionals (aka NALP). On Thursday afternoon, my colleague Brian Dalton and I, along with Guy Alvarez of Good2bSocial, gave a well-attended presentation on new media strategies that work.

I unfortunately had to leave the conference early to speak at another symposium (the Marquette Law conference on law clerks). But while at NALP, I did attend a number of informative panels, centered around two topics: (1) lateral hiring at law firms and (2) federal judicial clerkships.

Here are some themes that emerged from the three lateral hiring panels I attended:

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I have homework to do tonight.

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, during a post-show panel discussion at the Sunday night performance of Arguendo, explaining why she couldn’t stay very long.

(If you’d like to check out Arguendo, a SCOTUS-themed show that’s now playing in D.C., there’s a discount code for ATL readers: WMATL, good for 15% off on Friday nights, Saturday matinees, and Sunday evenings. Visit the Woolly Mammoth website to order tickets. Enjoy!)

Lat here. Tomorrow is a big day. First, April 15 is Tax Day; we hope that you’ve filed your return — and that you haven’t been taken advantage of. Second, it’s the deposit deadline at various law schools. We hope that you’ve made up your mind — and that you haven’t been taken advantage of.

Just kidding. Here at Above the Law, where we are sometimes critical of the value proposition of legal education, I’m the designated defender of law schools. I write stories with titles like In Defense Of Going To Law School and Go To Law School: What Else Are You Going To Do With Yourself? I also compile and disseminate law school success stories. We are not uniformly opposed to law school here at ATL; we just want people to make informed decisions.

Helping people make informed decisions is the goal of our popular column called The Decision. We field queries from prospective law students choosing between different schools, offer them advice, and ask ATL readers to weigh in as well.

Now, on to today’s scenarios. We’ve titled them “Jersey Boys” and “The Book of Mormon,” for reasons that will soon become apparent….

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Yes, today is one of those days: a day with multiple law firm layoff stories to report (not to mention rescinded offers).

This morning we brought you news of 20 support staffers losing their jobs and 10 offers getting rescinded. Now we share with you the story of a firm cutting almost 40 people.

Which firm just joined the nationwide layoff club?

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When people say we need more practical education in law school, I think, sure, if you are at number 20 it matters…. Yale Law School will do what it wants.

– An anonymous student at the Yale Law School, commenting to the Yale Daily News about his school’s strong market position. YLS is currently #1 in the U.S. News law school rankings and the ATL law school rankings (which will be updated later this month).

As we noted earlier today, the legal sector has added 2,300 jobs since the start of 2014. For an industry that currently employs more than 1.1 million people, 2,300 new jobs doesn’t sound like a lot — but hey, it’s better than shedding jobs.

Note that we’re talking about net job growth. Some legal employers are hiring, while others are firing.

Which major law firm just laid off a total of 52 lawyers and staffers last week?

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