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

We received about 1,400 responses to last month’s ATL / Lateral Link survey about base salaries and bonus. So far, we’ve told you about New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles (take the survey on that page to see the results), San Francisco / Silicon Valley, and Boston.
Today, we’re showing you Texas, and we’re supplementing last month’s data with the thousand responses we’ve received so far to last night’s survey on hours, rates and bonuses. (That survey, by the way, is still open.)
Find out how Texas compares to the rest of the country after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Featured Job Survey Results: Bonuses (Texas)”

Life's Short Get A Divorce billboard Fetman Garland Above the Law blog.jpg

As you know, here at ATL we have a weakness for lawyers who pose in the nude. So today’s pick for Lawyer of the Day should surprise no one. From Legal Blog Watch:

Remember the racy billboard ads posted by Chicago law firm Fetman, Garland & Associates that raised so much controversy last spring? The ads featured two photographs, centered on the chest of a scantily clad man and woman with the slug line, “Life’s Short. Get A Divorce.”

Now, one of the firm’s principals, Corri Fetman, has revealed something else about her firm’s revealing ads. In this press release issued today, we learn that “the sexy female in the ads is none other than Corri herself.” Fetman first shared “the naked truth” about the ads in the February 2008 issue of Playboy, which includes another law firm ad, a “provocative nude pictorial of Corri” and a new online column by Fetman, entitled Lawyer of Love.

Carolyn Elefant disapproves:

[I thought] that Fetman’s billboard ad was an effective form of advertising, because it made a point clearly, provoked an emotional response and generated buzz. But the nude spread in Playboy goes too far. As a pure marketing ploy, I’m hard pressed to figure out what kind of clients Fetman is trying to target by posing nude in Playboy.

Horny male ones? Surely men in need of matrimonial counsel are disproportionately represented among the ranks of Playboy readers.
Elefant anticipates this argument:

Even if her spread did generate some decent clients, Fetman would spend hundreds of hours culling through all kinds of calls from various perverts and weirdos contacting her for reasons other than aggressive legal representation.

Hehe. Hey Beavis. She said “aggressive legal representation.”
Lawyer With Racy Divorce Ads Exposed — Literally! [Legal Blog Watch]
‘Life’s Short, Get a Divorce’ Attorney Corri Fetman Bares All for Playboy.com [EarthTimes.org (press release)]
Corri D. Fetman bio [Fetman, Garland & Associates]

Who Wants To Be a Millionaire Boies Schiller Flexner Above the Law blog.jpgQuite possibly. From the American Lawyer (via NYLawyer.com (subscription)):

[David] Boies, the founder of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, loves the thrill of placing bets both at the casino and on big contingency cases.

In November one of those bets paid off when Visa Inc. agreed to pay his client American Express Co. as much as $2.25 billion to settle an antitrust suit. The payday for Boies and his partners should be huge. For associates who worked on the case… their share of that fee depends on how each decided to roll the dice.

A thumbnail sketch of the compensation scheme:

The associates who worked on the American Express matter were offered a choice each year at bonus time. They could take the conservative route and have their annual bonus include the hours they devoted to this case. That way they’d be assured of getting some credit for those hours. The downside was that those hours aren’t counted toward the contingency fee. One lawyer familiar with the matter says the firm offered this bonus option to appease associates worried that the case might lead nowhere.

Plan B allowed associates to roll their hours over to the next year. If the case paid off, they would receive a share of the contingency fee proportionate to those hours. Ka-ching!

According to Boies, somewhere between a quarter and a half of the associates opted for the more risky approach. In hindsight, it was the right choice:

A young lawyer who placed her bets on the contingency fee could be richly rewarded. According to one former lawyer at the firm, an associate’s share of such a fee is tied to hours billed. The firm takes the percentage of hours the associate contributed to the case, divides by five and applies that fraction to the fee premium. Boies confirmed that this formula is “basically right,” although other factors could increase the associate’s share. A hypothetical example: If an associate contributed 5 percent of the overall hours to this case and the premium fee (the amount above normal billing rates) were $100 million, the associate would get 1 percent of $100 million — which is $1 million.

Now that’s what we call a bonus. Seven figures makes even Wachtell bonuses look paltry.
As noted in Susan Beck’s article, the case was filed in 2004, so it was kicking around for several years. But even if you spread $1 million out over four bonus cycles, it still comes out to a nice chunk of change. And presumably some of the BSF associates who worked on the AmEx matter also worked on other cases, making the AmEx bonus just a part of their total compensation.
Gamble Pays Off for Some Boies Schiller Associates [The American Lawyer via NYLawyer.com (subscription)]


Cadwalader Wickersham Taft CWT Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid blog.JPGWe resume our wall-to-wall coverage of the recent associate layoffs at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. Here are the latest news articles and tidbits:
1. Highlights from an article by Anthony Lin, in the New York Law Journal:

[M]ost of the laid-off lawyers worked in Cadwalader’s New York headquarters though the firm’s Charlotte, N.C., office was also affected. All were in the firm’s global finance and capital markets practices. Almost all of the affected lawyers were associates, said [management committee member Gregory] Markel, though he said one or two counsel may also have been let go.

[Per Markel:] “We concluded that this was not a three-month phenomenon or even a six-month phenomenon.”

Mr. Markel also said the firm was confident there would be no more layoffs in the future. After yesterday’s action, the firm will still have around 260 lawyers in the two affected practices.

A number of law firms active in the area have already announced cutbacks. Clifford Chance terminated a six-lawyer group in November. Thacher Proffitt & Wood and McKee Nelson both have offered buyouts to large numbers of associates working in the area.

2. Highlights from an article by Nathan Koppel, in the Wall Street Journal (via the Law Blog):

“We were very careful about this, and we waited to see if there were any signs of the economy turning around” before letting lawyers go, says Cadwalader partner Gregory Markel, chairman of the firm’s litigation department. “We didn’t see any evidence of this turning around.”

Cadwalader is one of the most prominent law firms to recently announce layoffs, which could trigger a chain reaction among other firms; capital markets and real-estate practices are down at many firms.

It is still relatively rare for large law firms to engage in mass staff reductions. For one, many large law firms boast specialties, such as litigation and bankruptcy, that typically pick up during down economies.

3. From an observant tipster not at CWT (and presumably happy about it):

“CWT apparently doesn’t update its lateral recruiting page very often, as it currently claims to be looking for structured finance and capital markets attorneys in several offices. See here.”

4. From a source at the firm, an interesting theory about how the news was disseminated, including a possible explanation for why it wasn’t announced announced internally first:

[A] partner in Corporate leaked all this information about the Capital Markets situation to a bunch of associates. Some of it was false, some true. [Management was] really upset with him because they wanted this information to come in an official announcement or meeting, not in rumors flying around.

I’m thinking they accelerated the press announcement because the information started leaking to outside sources, rather than staying inside. I still definitely think that they could have released it internally first, but there may have been other circumstances that I don’t know about. I am not sure if the press release and the corporate partner things are related, but it seems like they would not have released it so abruptly if it didn’t happen. Whenever something major happens, it is usually disclosed internally first.

5. Finally, in case you missed it — we posted it fairly late yesterday, as a mere update to a previously published post — here is CWT’s reassuring email to 2007 summer associates who accepted their offers to return full-time.
Cadwalader Laying Off 35 In Wake of Slumping Markets [New York Law Journal]
Law Firm Cadwalader To Lay Off 35 Attorneys [Wall Street Journal]
More on the Sackings at Cadwalader [WSJ Law Blog]

Laurence Tribe Laurence H Tribe Larry Tribe Above the Law.gifNo, that’s not some insult hurled at the distinguished constitutional law professor by a right-wing zealot; it’s a fact. From a memorandum that went out to Harvard Law School students this morning:

In order to help you plan your spring schedules, I need to let you know that Professor Laurence Tribe’s class this spring is being cancelled because he has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor that is benign but will require medical treatment. Professor Tribe has asked me to convey this information and his regrets about this necessary decision.

We wish Professor Tribe the best of luck with his treatment regimen, as well as a speedy recovery.
From one tipster:

It’s just a matter of time before knee-jerk dittohead-wannabes bust out jokes like “Isn’t liberalism a form of a brain disorder?” Then again, this could end up straight out of Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, if the removal of the brain tumor turns Tribe into a fire-breathing right-winger.

Professor Tribe is a public figure, and he has surely had every epithet in the book leveled at him, multiple times. Nevertheless, even if he’s a big boy (who has better things to do than read blog comments), please keep the discussion civil. Thanks.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver Hedges associate salary Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgSome associates at Quinn Emanuel are a tad grumpy these days. But here are three items to cheer them up:
1. Profits per partner clear $3 million. As we previously reported in these pages, some QE associates were rather unhappy with their bonuses. But look on the bright side: stingy bonuses mean more money once you make partner.
As reported by Zusha Elinson in the Recorder:

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges continued its screaming ascent in 2007 with financial results that should put a scare into the most profitable New York firms.

The Los Angeles-based litigation shop reported that profits per partner hit the $3 million mark last year — a height surpassed by only three firms on the Am Law 100 list for 2006.

“That’s Wachtell country,” said Ronald Beard, a law firm consultant with the Zeughauser Group, referring to the highly profitable New York deal shop Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

Managing partner John Quinn offered a rebuttal to the bonus complaints:

The financial results didn’t prevent some associates from complaining about their bonuses. Legal blog Above the Law reported griping that the firm unexpectedly drew the line for full year-end bonuses at 2,100 hours, 100 hours more than the previous year.

Quinn said that decisions about bonuses are made at the end of the year, not beforehand, and that 2,100 was “not necessarily” a bright line. He added that Quinn associates were given a special bonus this year on top of the normal ones, matching a move made by only a few elite New York firms.

“If [Quinn associates] are not the most highly paid, they’re among the most highly paid in the country,” Quinn said. “Any suggestion that the firm has done really, really well and the associates haven’t shared is false.”

We have a rebuttal to the rebuttal from a disgruntled associate. Check it out — but caveat lector, this tipster may have an ax to grind — after the jump.
Update: Note the many defenders of the firm in the comments. Not all associates are whiny bee-atches!
2. Susan Estrich is in da house. Quinn seems to have a weakness for high-powered litigatrices. Already home to former Stanford Law dean Kathleen Sullivan, the firm just added Susan Estrich, who joins as Of Counsel in the Los Angeles office. From one associate:

Susan Estrich just joined our firm. Classic.

Now when I watch Fox News at home, I’ll hear plugs of work.

3. Retention bonuses: We’re looking into reports of retention bonuses in the high five-figures, which vest in 18 months. In light of the dissatisfaction in the ranks, retention bonuses may be just what the doctor ordered.
Quinn Partner Profits Clear $3 Million [The Recorder via Law.com]
Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: A Few More Updates

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “News that Quinn Emanuel Associates Are Sure To Love”

David Burcham Dean David W Burcham Loyola Law School Above the Law blog.jpgIn a front-page Wall Street Journal article last year, Dean David Burcham of Loyola Law School expressed a desire to help Loyola 2L with his job search. And it seems that Dean Burcham, himself a Loyola alum, has no shortage of job opportunities. From a just-issued press release:

After eight years at Loyola Law School Los Angeles as the Fritz B. Burns dean and senior vice president, David W. Burcham was named today to the newly created position of executive vice president and provost of Loyola Marymount University. Victor J. Gold, a veteran law professor and a former associate dean, was named interim dean and senior vice president. A national search for a permanent dean will begin immediately.

Eager to entertain complaints from non-top-tier law school graduates about their grim job prospects? This job’s for you. Remember, Loyola 2L hasn’t graduated yet.
Meanwhile, in other non-elite law school dean news, the Orlando Sentinel has this report:

Florida A&M University’s new law school dean was scheduled to start work at the school’s Orlando campus next Monday.

But after a series of phone calls, LeRoy Pernell altered his plans and showed up Thursday to meet twice with students who are upset about grading policies, course offerings and accreditation. He plans a third meeting with night students next week.

“It’s my intention as dean to really be available,” said Pernell, speaking to the more than 100 students who gathered for Thursday’s afternoon session.

How long will this last? In a few weeks, will Dean Pernell barricade himself in his office, with his secretary dumping a cauldron of hot water on the students below?
Update: It seems that our round-up of Tier 2 Law School Dean news is incomplete:

No one wants to hear about Florida A&M (didn’t even knew it existed). How about some love for the Jesuits? Creighton just named a new dean. Press release here.

The press release refers to him as “Eric A. Chiappinelli, J.D.” It helps for your law school dean to have a law degree.
Dean David W. Burcham Named Provost of Loyola Marymount University (press release) [EarthTimes.org]
FAMU dean reassures law students [Orlando Sentinel]
Creighton School of Law Names New Dean [Creighton University School of Law]

If you’re not already a member of Lateral Link, you can sign up through their website. Membership, which is free and confidential, allows you to learn about new legal opportunities as they become available. Successfully placed candidates receive a $10,000 placement bonus.
Positions: In-House Counsel – Real Estate, In-House Counsel – Corporate
Location: Newton, Massachusetts
Position Descriptions:
Corporate: Seeking a transactional attorney with four or more years of large law firm experience. Corporate, securities, finance/project finance or energy experience is a plus but not a requirement. Public company experience and SarbOx also a plus but not a requirement. The candidate must be comfortable working in a relatively unstructured environment and will be expected to handle day-to-day tasks while reporting to GC on larger issues. This person will work primarily with the GC and the finance team. The candidate must be able to work in a fast-paced environment and be able to handle multiple demands and transactions. The Company is growing quickly and it is a very dynamic workplace; the ideal candidate must be able to accommodate change relatively quickly.
Real Estate: Seeking candidate with four or more years of transactional real estate experience. The ideal candidate has experience with lenders and equity investors, can identify and resolve title issues, and can review real estate documents (including project leases, easements, crossing agreements, commercial leases). This candidate would be responsible for working with developers on land acquisitions for Company projects and would work with the GC, Assistant GC and the finance team on resolving issues and getting projects financed. The candidate must be able to work in a fast-paced environment and be able to handle multiple demands and transactions. The Company is growing quickly and it is a very dynamic workplace; therefore the ideal candidate must be able to accommodate change relatively quickly. The candidate needs to have good communication and interpersonal skills, as they will be dealing with rural landowners and employees inside the company.
Company Description: This privately held company is a leader in wind power production, with more than 40 wind farms in development across the country. Based in Newton, Massachusetts, the company is focused on wind farm development, ownership and operation. The company builds primarily in the Northeast, West and Hawaii, and is already producing nearly 100 MW of energy through three operational wind farms. The company is currently developing more than 3,500 MW of wind power projects in several markets through various subsidiary companies. The company is managed and supported by a team of more than 100 talented and dedicated individuals committed to the company’s environment.
For more information, see job # 7661 and job # 7662 on Lateral Link.
Earlier: Prior Job of the Week listings (scroll down)

Colleen Hartl Judge Colleen Hartl Above the Law blog.jpgMunicipal court is not exactly the pinnacle of judicial office. But we think that Colleen Hartl, until recently a (rather attractive) municipal court judge in Washington state, is still a worthy Judge of the Day. From the AP:

A Federal Way [that's a WA city name] Municipal Court judge has resigned after hosting a holiday party at which she claimed to be having an affair with a public defender who routinely appeared in her court.

Judge Colleen Hartl quit Dec. 19, less than a week after telling her guests — including five court employees — that she had sex with public defender Sean Cecil and displaying a text message in which he complimented how she looked in “tight jeans,” Michael Morgan, the court’s presiding judge, said Wednesday.

So she’s proud about how good her butt looks in tight jeans. What’s so wrong with that?

Even after admitting the affair at the Friday night party, Hartl showed up for work the next Monday morning and presided over several cases handled by Cecil, Morgan said. At lunchtime that day, Morgan — who attended the party but left before Hartl’s admission — was advised of the relationship by a court staff member who witnessed the statement. Morgan suggested that Hartl not sit on any cases that afternoon, and she resigned two days later.

Judge Hartl, we like your style.
Update: More here from Federal Way News.
Federal Way judge quits; talked of affair with lawyer [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
Affair with lawyer linked to judge’s resignation [Federal Way News]

* The surest way to avoid being wiretapped: Don’t pay your Wait for the FBI not to pay its phone bill. [Washington Post]
* In this gloomy economy, at least someone is still shopping. B of A picks up Countrywide Financial — and maybe its lawsuits, too. [Bank of America (press release) via WSJ Law Blog]
* Contentious sentencing for Jose Padilla. [Christian Science Monitor via How Appealing]
* Canada to the gays: we don’t want your orgrans. But your fashion and cooking tips are still welcome. [Toronto Star via A Stitch in Haste]
* Earlier this week, our former boss did battle with She Who Must Not Be Named. He won this round, but it may just be the beginning.[How Appealing]
P.S. A correction / addendum to yesterday’s Morning Docket, which mentioned that the DOJ is looking at how independent monitoring contracts are awarded. According to the Department, “[t]hese discussions were not prompted by United States Attorney Chris Christie’s selection of Attorney General John Ashcroft as a monitor. There is no inquiry into that selection.”
The DOJ’s full statement appears after the jump.

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