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 Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, New York magazine, Washingtonian magazine, and the New York Observer. 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." His first book, Supreme Ambitions: A Novel, will be published in 2015. You can connect with David on Twitter and Facebook.

Posts by David Lat

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft CWT Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid blog.JPGToday’s Washington Post contains a very interesting article by Ian Shapira (who seems to love writing about lawyers; see here and here). It’s the latest in a series of stories about well-educated young people in the D.C. area. Today’s piece focuses on college-educated twenty-somethings, living in metro areas, who decide to buck the trend and have kids. Shapira writes:

[Erin] Rexroth, a former congressional aide, and her husband, Philip, 27, who works for the Department of Homeland Security, are defying the norm for their class and age group: They are raising a child. The majority of college graduates in their 20s in metropolitan regions postpone having kids until at least their 30s or never have any, according to recent demographic research.

Like anyone who strays from the generational pack, college-educated parents in their 20s often face questions about friendships, careers and their place in life. Although rearing children invigorates them like a high-profile job, these parents sometimes say they feel like guinea pigs among childless peers. They wonder whether it’s possible to befriend older parents. Some say they feel isolated from friends, those who don’t change diapers or deal with sleep deprivation.

Later in the story, an associate at Cadwalader is quoted about how she decided to have kids early so it wouldn’t disrupt her path to partnership as much:

“By the time I’m at a point in my career where I am going to be making partner, my kids are going to be old enough to be playing on their own and sleeping on their own,” said Erin Foley Lewis, 28, an associate at the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft who recently had twins. “If I had waited until 33 to have children, I’d have newborns at the time I would be up for partner.”

Cadwalader — they still make partners over there? They better not get into that habit, or their crazy leverage — and sky-high profits per partner — are sure to fall.
On the bright side, at least Ms. Lewis is (1) in litigation and (2) in Washington. So her chances of being laid off are relatively low.
Bringing Up Babies, And Defying the Norm [Washington Post]

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGNot too long ago, we reported the move of Williams & Connolly to a pay scale with a starting salary of $180,000. Today we bring you more happy compensation news from W&C.
First, the firm just raised its clerkship bonus from $35,000 to $45,000. This is a welcome development, although not super-exciting; $45K is slightly below the $50K that is the market clerkship bonus, at least for the top firms.
The second piece of news is more interesting. If you have two clerkships under your belt — e.g., a federal district court clerkship and a federal circuit court clerkship — Williams & Connolly may be the place to be (assuming you’re interested in working on sexy, high-profile litigation matters). For people with two clerkships, the firm pays a total clerkship bonus of $90,000.
Most of the firms that pay a $50,000 bonus for one clerkship pay a $70,000 clerkship bonus for two clerkships and/or two years of clerking experience. So $90,000 would appear to be a new high in terms of clerkship bonuses.
Sorry, we don’t know the fine print on this offer (e.g., whether two years of clerking for the same judge will get you the $90K, what clerkships will qualify towards the two-clerkship bonus, etc.). But if you’re in the small class of people who might be affected by this, and if you secure an offer from Williams & Connolly, you may wish to make a polite inquiry into the precise contours of the policy.
Earlier: Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: Williams & Connolly to $180K

Earlier this hour, the Supreme Court handed down its eagerly anticipated ruling in the Stoneridge case. See collected links below, to posts by Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog and Ashby Jones at the WSJ Law Blog. The opinion itself is available here (PDF).
Lyle Denniston writes:

supreme court full frontal Above the Law.jpgThe Supreme Court, in one of the most important securities law rulings in years, decided Tuesday that fraud claims are not allowed against third parties that did not directly mislead investors but were business partnes with those who did. The 5-3 ruling came in Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta (06-43).

Investors, the Court said, may only sue those who issued statements or otherwise took direct action that the investors had relied upon in buying or selling stock — whether that involved public statements, omissions of key facts, manipulative trading, or conduct that was itself deceptive. One impact of the decision is likely to be the scuttling of a massive $40 billion lawsuit against financial institutions growing out of the Enron scandal.

This news will be welcomed by many in the business community. But is it bad news for business litigators? Defending dubious securities fraud lawsuits may not be very sexy. But over the years, doing battle with the Milberg Weisses of the world has kept many a large law firm busy — and profitable.
With transactional work drying up, is the Supreme Court’s business-law revolution, cutting down on litigation against corporate America, coming at a bad time for Biglaw as a business?
Court limits securities fraud lawsuits [SCOTUSblog]
Stoneridge is in! Supremes Rein in Investor Suits [WSJ Law Blog]

Elliott Maynard Justice Elliott E. Maynard Don Blankenship Don L Blankenship Above the Law blog.jpg
The men pictured above are not gay lov-ahs. But their relationship may be too close for comfort. On the left: Chief Justice Elliott E. Maynard, of West Virginia, and today’s Judge of the Day. On the right: Don L. Blankenship, chief executive of Massey Energy. The setting: exotic Monaco.
From a piece by Adam Liptak in today’s New York Times:

A justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court and a powerful coal-company executive met in Monte Carlo in the summer of 2006, sharing several meals even as the executive’s companies were appealing a $50 million jury verdict against them to the court.

A little more than a year later, the justice, Elliott E. Maynard, voted with the majority in a 3-to-2 decision in favor of the coal companies.

Insert West Virginia joke here.

Justice Maynard, who is now West Virginia’s chief justice, and Don L. Blankenship, the chief executive of Massey Energy, were “vacationing together,” according to a motion seeking Justice Maynard’s disqualification, which was filed on Monday.

A spokesman for Massey Energy disputed that characterization.

“Both Blankenship and Justice Maynard were separately vacationing in the Monte Carlo area,” said the spokesman, Jeff Gillenwater. “They were not vacationing together. They did meet occasionally for meals — lunches and dinners.”

And maybe on other occasions, too?

The motion included photographs showing the men together. The time stamps on the photographs, apparently taken by someone who had joined the men during their time together, indicated that they met on July 3, 4 and 5, 2006….

Ten of the photographs attached to the motion were filed under seal. They showed, the motion said, “two females apparently traveling with them as companions.” The men are single.

Motion Ties W. Virginia Justice to Coal Executive [New York Times]

Based on last month’s survey about base salaries and bonus, we’ve told you about bonuses in New
, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles (take the survey on that page to see the results), San Francisco / Silicon Valley, Boston, and even Texas.
And so far, one thing seems clear: New Yorkers have bigger… bonuses.

In today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, we ask you whether you think that’s ok.
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

Kumari Fulbright Facebook Arizona law student beauty queen Above the Law blog.jpgIn an earlier post about the Kumari Fulbright situation at the University of Arizona law school, we noted that the UA administration has been fairly taciturn about the whole matter. Perhaps in response to the community’s desire for more openness, Dean Toni Massaro just sent out an email discussing the matter.
It was forwarded to us by a tipster, who commented:

Can you believe this BS? It is a “welcome back” email from Dean Massaro at the University of Arizona Law School in which she “addresses” the Kumari Fulbright situation. But the Dean doesn’t really “address” anything. The school in effect says nothing at all….

With a [student] (Craig Cordes) who allegedly killed a cop in New York, a “beauty” queen gone bad, and other issues, the school needs to step up and make an affirmative statement that not only addresses these issues directly, but also defends from ridicule the few capable students at the school that have BigLaw jobs.


Toni Massaro small Dean Toni M Massaro Above the Law blog.JPGAZ Wildcat 2L, why are you being so hard on Dean Massaro? Longtime ATL readers may recall that she was nominated as one of America’s hottest law school deans. One of her nominators wrote:

Not only is Dean Massaro brilliant, attractive, and self-assured, she’s also a cancer survivor AND a lesbian. It’s easy to make Advanced Con Law sexy, but how many Deans could get 3rd year students out of bed every morning for an 8 am class and have a packed classroom? Moreover, students just LOVE her Civil Procedure classes. I’m not kidding.

Check out the email from Dean Massaro, one southwestern hottie opining on another, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law School Dean Hottie Speaks Out About Kumari”

O'Melveny Myers LLP logo Above the Law blog.jpgSomething weird, that’s what. We are not prepared to declare associate layoffs (because we try to be cautious about making such calls). But odd things are afoot at OMM, and the environment is one of Kremlin-esque anxiety and paranoia.
We contacted O’Melveny & Myers last week, to see if they had any comment on rumors of associate layoffs. They never got back to us. So this report does not reflect any information provided by the firm itself.
(Other firms that have been the subject of layoff rumors have been more cooperative, opening their kimonos and persuading us of the falsity of the layoff rumors about them. OMM did not avail itself of this opportunity.)
Although O’Melveny had no official comment, we did hear from people who are at OMM or who know people over there. The (admittedly unhelpful) upshot: nobody seems to know what’s going on; the firm is keeping people in the dark.
Read the full report, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: What’s Going On At O’Melveny & Myers?”

Lynette Scavo Felicity Huffman cancer bald Above the Law blog.jpgA recent trend: judges who are touchy about courtroom attire. Last week we wrote about Judge William Sosnay, who is no fan of ascots. Now meet Judge Holly Hollenbeck:

Bev Williams of Richland wears a knitted beanie cap to cover her hairless head everywhere she goes, but not in Judge Holly Hollenbeck’s courtroom.

The District Court judge told Williams, 43, to take her cap off or leave his court in the Benton County Justice Center on Friday morning.

“I was embarrassed. It made me cry,” said Williams, who recently underwent six months of chemotherapy for cancer.

But Judge Holly Hollenbeck — who’s a man, by the way, so he ain’t no Hollenbeck girl [FN1] — has a rebuttal:

“I ask everybody to remove hats,” he said, noting the only reason he has allowed one — once — was for a religious reason.

Hollenbeck said, “I am very understanding with people who battle with cancer. My own mother died from cancer. I’ve had hundreds of cancer victims come through my court, and I’ve never had one not remove their hat, ever.”

He added, “Refusal to remove shows contempt for the court and for the judge.”

So what do you think? Is Judge Hollenbeck’s position reasonable? Or is this s**t bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s?

By the way, with respect to our earlier poll, almost 55 percent of you don’t think an ascot is appropriate courtroom attire.
[FN1] Nor should Judge Holly A. Hollenbeck be confused with motivational speaker Holly H. Hollenbeck, author of Sex Lives of Wives: Reigniting the Passion, and proprietress of PassionSeekers.com.
Judge’s strict no-hat rule upsets cancer patient [Seattle Times]

runaway groom trial lawyer Above the Law blog.jpgLast week, our friends over at the WSJ Law Blog asked: “Why do ‘trial lawyers’ have such a bad name?”
One possible answer: Because they abandon their brides at the altar. From the Miami Herald:

Walk-away groom: Jim Ferraro, multimillionaire trial lawyer.

Ferraro, set to marry prominent real estate broker Patricia Delinois on Friday in a formal ceremony at Fisher Island’s Vanderbilt Mansion, jilted her — at the altar — as they were about to exchange vows before 75 to 80 guests….

After five years of dating, the couple were to finally tie the knot. But, says Ferraro: ‘When it was time to say `I do,’ I just said, ‘I love her but I just can’t do this.’ ” He walked away, flanked by sons James, 21, Andrew, 18, and daughter Alexis, 14.

The audience gasped. Delinois’ sister, Ingrid Long, told off Ferraro — loudly. Some say she yelled, ”You dog!” Not so, Long says. “I called him a snake. I think I even called him a few other things. I was trying very hard not to curse, but I think a few curse words came out.”

Says Ferraro: “It was dramatic.”

Trial lawyers can be such drama queens. Maybe they get addicted to making audiences gasp — you know, that whole “Perry Mason” thing. It appears that finances weren’t behind the cancellation:

The issue, [Ferraro] says, was not money. ”We did have a prenup.” She is CEO of Century 21 Premier Elite Realty. He has law offices in Miami and Cleveland, owns the Cleveland Gladiators arena football team, has a private jet, and built a 21,000-square-foot compound in Martha’s Vineyard — with 14 bedrooms, tennis court, basketball court, nine-hole putting green, movie theater, and weight and cardio gyms.

This time, Ferraro figures, their romance is done for good. “She probably doesn’t ever want to talk to me again.”

Update: All’s well that ends well. In February 2008, Ferraro and Delinois got married, in a secret seaside ceremony in St. Bart’s.
Power couple’s wedding ends with `I don’t’ [Miami Herald]
Why Do “Trial Lawyers” Have Such a Bad Name? [WSJ Law Blog]

law school student loans debt Above the Law blog.jpgIn case you haven’t noticed, the economy is headed for the toilet (assuming it’s not there already). The White House and the Federal Reserve have declared their intent to rush to the economy’s defense, although it may be too little, too late.
Even if the lowering of interest rates can’t save the faltering economy, it may at least bring good news for debt-saddled law school students and graduates. From one such reader:

It would be super-cool if you could do a post about loan consolidation or loan refinancing, now that interest rates appear to be going down again.

Okay, I know you’ll get a lot of people saying “Slow news day, huh?” But I’m a 3L wondering about this stuff, and it would be a good service.

And from an LLM student, who is not eligible for federal loan programs and is shopping around among private providers:

Are there any particular student loan packages that your readers would recommend?

I managed to get a comparative chart (prepared by Duke University) comparing various private loan packages. Out of that chart, I’ve narrowed it down to the following providers:

* Nellie Mae;
* Sallie Mae / Southwest Student Services Corp.;
* Access Group/National City Bank;
* Bank of America;
* Chase;
* Citibank;
* Wachovia; and
* Wells Fargo.

The chart certainly is helpful in terms of comparing repayment periods, aggregate loan limits, fees, and interest rates. However, I’m at a loss as to the meaning of various terms, such as “prime rate” and “LIBOR rate,” and how exactly they translate into computation of monthly loan payments. I’d greatly appreciate whatever help you and your readers can provide in this regard.

If you can speak to these specific questions, or if you have more general thoughts to share about law school debt — tips, predictions, rants — feel free to chime in, in the comments. Thanks.

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