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, David 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 book reviews editor of the Yale Law Journal. David has received several awards for his work on ATL, including recognition as an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, a group of innovators within the legal profession, and inclusion as a member 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 follow him on Twitter.
We’re rather late on this, but better late than never. Some time ago, one of you sent us this tip:
Fish & Richardson has asserted ownership over patents secured by a former principal who, in addition to being an attorney, also is a prolific inventor (and alleged “patent troll”).
Interestingly enough, Fish appears to have made its claims only after Google, one of its clients, was sued under a patent claiming a technology that Harris invented while at Fish. See Patently O, which has a copy of the Complaint.
What a mess. Anyway, we were reminded of the case yesterday, when it was picked up by Overlawyered:
Annals of creative patent lawyering: Highly placed attorney with intellectual-property specialists Fish & Richardson accumulates his own portfolio of patents, quits the firm, begins suing Fish & Richardson clients, things get messy fast (Patent Troll Tracker, Oct. 21).
One of the perks of being a judge is that everyone has to laugh at your jokes. Except when they’re in poor taste and arguably offensive.
If you’re going to make an attempt at humor in the courtroom, proceed with caution — even if you’re the one wearing the robe. From Rumpole (via S.D. Fla. Blog):
Well, those fine folks North Of the Border have done it again.
This time it is Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Levenson, who put his robed foot in his mouth by making an inappropriate joke about the Defendant in a sexual battery case during the charge conference….
To summarize, apparently the Defendant is a high school football player, and the case involved the allegation of illegal sexual contact with another male. Judge Levenson asked what position the defendant played. He was told “linebacker” and another person in the courtroom said “Tight End” at which point Judge Levenson said “Wide Receiver?”
* Remember the Mystery Pimp from our recent column about Cadwalader? Peter Lattman, who works in the same building as CWT, has solved the mystery. Fantastic! [WSJ Law Blog]
* “Despondent Microsoft Has Nervous Breakdown; Jumps Into Elliott Bay To Live With Alien Sea Creatures.” [What About Clients?]
* New digs for The American Lawyer. Their landlord is now Larry Silverstein, who was recently featured on the magazine’s cover. Did they get a break on the rent for that kind of publicity? [The Real Estate]
* Brilliant Harvard Law professors rush to the defense of… online poker! Charlie Nesson and Alan Dershowitz? Now that’s what we call a full house. [Conglomerate]
* “Is Dumbledore gay simply because Rowling says he is?” Discuss. [PrawfsBlawg]
During past disasters, such as the steam pipe explosion and the subway flooding in New York, ATL served as a clearinghouse for interesting stories about how lawyers and law firms were dealing with those emergencies.
Today the headlines are dominated by news of the devastating Californiawildfires, which have burned 269,000 acres and caused the evacuation of an estimated 500,000 people. From a reader:
San Diego is burning, and Los Angeles is not far behind. I’d be interested to hear the impact on law firms in those cities and what, if anything, they’re doing to help their employees and clients.
Whenever something like this happens, people speculate that perhaps the poor associate was sleep-deprived. Now there’s some scientific research to support such speculation. From the BBC:
Brain scans can show how the brain gets “tired and over-emotional” when someone is deprived of sleep. US researchers kept volunteers awake for 35 hours and found huge increases in brain activity when shown images designed to make them angry or sad….
The researchers found that the parts of the brain linked to emotional reactions – the amygdala – showed bigger reactions (over 60% more) to the cards compared with a normally-rested volunteer.
Researcher Matthew Walker said: “The size of the increase really surprised us.”
“It is almost as though, without sleep, the brain reverts back to a more primitive pattern of activity, becoming unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses.”
Do you feel you get enough sleep? Take our reader polls, after the jump.
Okay, it’s not a “layoff,” since it’s not due to economic pressures. Rather, it’s due to his being a total asshat judicial record and temperament — and maybe a certain infamous lawsuit he filed.
From the Washington Post:
Roy L. Pearson Jr., whose $54 million lawsuit against a Northeast Washington dry-cleaning shop was rejected in court, is about to lose his job as an administrative law judge, sources said last night.
A city commission voted yesterday against reappointing Pearson to the bench of the Office of Administrative Hearings, which hears cases involving various D.C. boards and agencies. Pearson, who was up for a 10-year term, had tried to hold on to the job.
Expect the litigious Pearson to fight any refusal to reappoint him:
If the panel carries out its decision against reappointing him, Pearson, 57, could take the case to the D.C. Court of Appeals. In a separate filing, he is asking the appellate court to overturn the decision in the dry-cleaning case.
The sources said that had Pearson’s term not ended this May, at the height of his battle with the dry cleaners, he might have kept the job. His term has expired, but Pearson has remained on the payroll, making $100,000 a year as an attorney adviser for the Office of Administrative Hearings.
It appears that lots of things are going up in smoke out west. From Blogonaut:
Two weeks ago the 700-lawyer San Francisco firm announced 65 staff were laid off. Now Heller has lost two leading and loyal partners to rival firms.
Patricia Gillette, a co-chairwoman of Heller Ehrman’s the labor and employment practice has defected to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe along with another labor partner and four associates, the Recorder reports.
This defection in San Francisco comes at the same time that Jerry Marks, Heller’s Los Angeles managing partner and a well-known securities litigator, is jetting for Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.
Not good news. A slowdown in work, staff layoffs, and partner defections are the hallmarks of a law firm implosion. They’ve foreshadowed the demises of several firms over the years, such as Brobeck and Testa Hurwitz.
Remember how the Heller Ehrman summer associates were grumpy over not getting paid at the $160K level? At this rate, they should be grateful to have somewhere to go after graduation.
Speaking of the Heller Ehrman summers, we have a summer associate story not previously posted, after the jump.
In our latest column for the New York Observer, we shine the spotlight on a firm that has figured prominently in these pages lately:
Founded in 1792, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft is “the oldest continuing Wall Street law practice in the United States,” as its website proudly notes. Name partner George Wickersham was attorney general under President Taft, and name partner Henry Taft was the president’s brother.
In addition to being one of New York’s oldest firms, Cadwalader is also one of the most lucrative. Last year, it was the city’s third-most-profitable law firm, behind perennial leaders Wachtell and Cravath.
But in the past few months, CWT has hosted some rather surprising visitors—at least by the standards of a prestigious, white-shoe law firm.
Some of these visitors will be familiar to ATL readers, but one will not. You can read the whole piece — and view a rather odd photo of Cameron Diaz and CWT litigation chair Gregory Markel — over here. Update: If you’re wondering about the identity of the Pimp, the mystery has been solved! Peter Lattman has the scoop over at the WSJ Law Blog. Cadwalader’s Strange Visitors [New York Observer]
That’s the question posed in this very interesting article, by Leigh Jones for the National Law Journal. It begins:
In recent weeks, some midsize firms have implemented drastic reductions to their billable-hour requirements for first-year associates in order to enhance training and to appease clients who are increasingly resistant to paying for new lawyers’ starts and stumbles.
Such a strategy is something other law firms say they are contemplating and could represent the advent of a change in the industry that many contend is long overdue.
The piece is an excellent round-up of the new approaches being employed by midsize firms, as they try to deliver cost-effective legal representation while remaining attractive places to work for associates. The strategies include reducing billable hour requirements for first years to 1600 hours, to allow for more training; abandoning billable minimums for first-years altogether, previously discussed here; and greater use of two-track systems, in which associates can choose to work fewer hours for somewhat less money.
And there’s a shout-out to ATL (which we’re vain enough to speculate was linkbait for us — if so, it worked):
As law firms have become bigger, so have associate salaries. First-year compensation jumped to $160,000 from $145,000 in January at many of the largest law firms, and law firm leaders are watching to see if speculation about pending increases to $190,000 reported on the blog Above the Law prove true.
NY to 190? Stay tuned. You can check out the full article over here.
P.S. Jones’s NLJ piece does remind us a bit of this recent post, by Amir Efrati, from the WSJ Law Blog. But then again, Efrati’s widely read Wall Street Journal story reminded us of Leigh Jones’s earlier National Law Journal article.
Maybe every story about law-firm associate life has already been written before. Maybe Efrati and Jones should just keep rewriting each other’s articles — and then have them rewritten again by the Des Moines Register, just for good measure. Midsize Law Firms Go for Big Changes [National Law Journal] Tinkering with Billable-Hour Requirements [WSJ Law Blog]
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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