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

Tonight’s ATL / Lateral Link survey explores the complex interplay between billable hours, pro bono, and sweet, sweet bonuses.
[Update: This survey is now closed. Read some of the results after the jump.]
Also, a quick note about this month’s who’s your favorite blawg other than ATL survey, which is still open. So far, the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog is way out in front. We’re also very gratified that so many of you answered “What do you mean ‘Other Than Above The Law’???”, making us your second choice for second-favorite blog after… ourselves.
A tip of the hat and bang of the gavel to taxgirl, TaxProf Blog, Balkinization and Ms. JD for their successful write-in campaigns. You’re all in the survey now.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Featured Job Survey: Billables, Pro Bono and Bonuses”

Hillary The Movie Above the Law blog.jpg* Actually, Judge Lamberth, calling a presidential candidate as “a European socialist” constitutes an endorsement — at least at most American law schools. [AP via WSJ Law Blog]

* News you can use: under the “Free File” program, opening tomorrow, the IRS and its private-sector partners will provide free tax preparation and electronic filing services to qualifying taxpayers (AGI of $54,000 or less — sorry, Biglaw denizens). [TaxProf Blog]

* The law school essay question: an unrecognized art form? [PrawfsBlawg]

* Practice pointer: don’t “recreate” correspondence to use as evidence in your case. Dramatic reenactments belong on television, not in court. [Feminist Law Professors]

* We just got called “the Matt Drudge of the legal world.” Our thanks to Neil Squillante for making our day. Now where did we put our animated siren GIF? [TechnoLawyer]

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft CWT Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid blog.JPGWe’re stepping away for a bit. Before we go, we wanted to provide you with the latest Cadwalader layoff news, verified by sources at the firm:

1. The 35 associates who were laid off were given 3 months severance, medical/dental through this year, bonuses (if they met the hours requirements), and outsourcing services.

2. The laid-off associates were in Capital Markets and Global Finance.

3. About 20 to 25 associates in the affected departments were moved to non-affected departments (including more than half of the first-year associates in Global Finance).

4. Six first-year Global Finance associates were permanently moved to Litigation (but these were the associates who had already been on document review since arriving in September).

5. Regular and special bonuses will be paid to all associates consistent with CWT’s competitors. An official announcement is forthcoming; look for it in the next few days.

As for the rumors about layoffs at other firms that have been flying around, we’re looking into them. We don’t have anything concrete and confirmed just yet.
We need your help. If you have firsthand information (we have enough secondhand stuff already) — i.e., you are at a firm that you know is doing layoffs — please email us (especially once you get home from work, and don’t have to worry about your email being monitored). Thanks.
UPDATE: Earlier today, CWT sent out an email of reassurance to 2007 summer associates who accepted offers. We reprint the email after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: The Latest Cadwalader News
(And a Request for Layoff News from Other Firms)”


If you’re an associate at Dewey & LeBoeuf, leave your brown shirt at home tomorrow. Just bring a $5 donation — sure, you can afford it, your bonuses were good — and participate in Denim Day!
Dewey LeBoeuf LLP Denim Day jeans Above the Law blog.jpg
It’s for a good cause. And it beats the pants (hehe) off Hot Cocoa Day at Skadden.
After the jump, the invitation to the Denim Day Associate Happy Hour. Very snazzy — props to the paralegal or ALS person who was tasked with preparing it.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Cheery Counterweight to Layoff Talk: Denim Day at Dewey & LeBoeuf!”

Army recruiting Uncle Sam I Want You Above the Law blog.jpgWhen law firms reject job applicants, they tend to do so in pretty straightforward fashion. Maybe you get a bare bones letter thanking you for your interest and your time. Sometimes mistakes happen — see, e.g., here and here — but they are rare, since the rejection process is so simple.
It looks like the military does things a little differently. From a tipster:

Check out this letter from the Army. Evidently I was a tad unqualified — although the depth and detail of this letter was a little over the top.

The reader is left with any number of questions. How does the successful candidate wear his hair? What brand of toothpaste does he use? Favorite color? Pastimes? Favorite sports team?

Check out the letter, posted below the fold (i.e., click on the “Continue reading” link).

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Now This Is What We Call A Rejection Letter
(Or: Uncle Sam Does NOT Want You)”

Congratulations to former judge Roger Wall, who’s getting a belated holiday gift. From the Springfield News-Leader:

After three indictments and nearly three years, a former Douglas County judge will not stand trial on child pornography charges, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. That’s because repeated delays on the part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office violated Roger Wall’s right to a speedy trial.

In a stinging order dismissing the case, U.S. District Court Judge Richard E. Dorr called the government’s handling of the case “disappointing” and “out of control.” And unlike Dorr’s dismissal of the same charges against Wall in September, Tuesday’s ruling was “with prejudice,” meaning attorneys may not refile charges.

So that’s the end of that. What was Judge Wall accused of?

The case against Wall began in early 2005, when the government alleged the man was in possession of three tapes showing, among other things, a female minor having sex with her boyfriend. Acting on an anonymous tip, federal agents had seized envelopes containing the videos from an Ava woman’s residence. Wall was alleged to have given the items to the woman for safe keeping.

It’s especially troubling when a judge stands accused of such offenses, since they have no excuse for such behavior. If they have a weakness for youthful flesh, they ought to just stick to their clerks.
Earlier: Former judge will not face trial in porn case

Remember Stephen Dunne, the aspiring attorney who brought suit after failing the Massachusetts bar exam, blaming it on a question about gay marriage? Well, he’s sorry. From the Boston Herald:

Stephen Dunne said he was “embarrassed” for being an “instrument of bigotry and prejudice,” in a letter to the editor and interview in the Jan. 3 edition of Bay Windows, a Boston newspaper serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered readers.

“By filing a misguided federal lawsuit . . . in respect to the legitimacy of same-sex marriage, I have regrettably perpetuated intolerance and animosity towards my fellow Americans,” Dunne said in his letter. “My religiously based discrimination of gay people was callous and diametrically opposed to America’s core principles of freedom and equality.”

Dunne filed a federal lawsuit in June against the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners and Supreme Judicial Court, seeking to prohibit the gay marriage question from being used to compute his bar exam score and from being included on future exams. He argued that answering the “patently offensive and morally repugnant” question, which involved a married lesbian couple who was divorcing, would imply his support of gay marriage and parenting, in violation of his Irish Catholic beliefs and First Amendment rights. He also challenged the constitutionality of the SJC’s 2003 ruling under which Massachusetts became the nation’s first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

So what brought about his change of heart? Does Stephen Dunne have a boyfriend now?
P.S. Speaking of matters gay, we thank Professor Ann Althouse for linking to our personal blog in this post, about Senatrix Clinton as a gay icon.
Update: Additional discussion, including a link to a Q-and-A with Steve Dunne, over at Legal Blog Watch.
Failed bar exam-taker apologizes to gays [Boston Herald]
Law Grad to Gays: ‘I Apologize’ [Legal Blog Watch]
“Hillary Clinton As A Gay Icon.” [Althouse]

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft CWT Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid blog.JPGIn our earlier post about the layoffs at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, we praised the firm for its candor. Those of you who weren’t already in the profession when the last bubble burst may not recall that many firms, instead of being honest about dismissing associates for economic reasons, tried to cast them as performance-based. Firms should be commended for not taking that path.
But we do have some criticism for the firm as well. While we appreciate the firm sending us the news, it was not very classy to share the layoffs with the media before doing so internally. It’s not appropriate for associates to first learn about layoffs at their firm through a blog. As one tipster told us:

“Associates here at CWT are a little in shock right now since the firm has neglected to inform us of the layoffs through an intra-firm email.”

Now, in the firm’s defense, it appears that perhaps they want to provide such news in person. But even if they notify the affected associates individually and in person, they could at least have sent around a firm-wide email mentioning the overall action.
Some other random things we’ve been hearing, from different sources:

1. “As I write this to you, CWT laying off associates one by one… A friend of a friend just got the ax. It sounds dreadful there….”

2. “If you get laid off, no bonus. MEAN…”

3. The entire Corporate department is meeting today at 5:30 p.m.

4. “I bet most partners weren’t even told [about the layoffs]. That’s how it worked with the bonus announcement [recall the number-free bonus memo]. Most partners found out at the same time we did.”

5. “Nobody knows who the 35 are — whether they’re coming from NY or another office — or even what department.”

6. “I don’t think litigation is going to be affected by this. We have people from Global Finance down here doing doc review for us.”

There’s also lots of good stuff in the comments to our prior post. But we can’t vouch for the comments to the same extent that we can vouch for the information above (sent to us by trusted sources whose identities are known to us).
Update / Correction: Speaking of the comments, we have confirmed the truth of this comment:

No, you DO get a bonus, IF you made your hours. But the amount of that bonus is not known….

This is a big story, and we’ll be covering it extensively (so if you don’t find it interesting, you might want to take the day off from ATL — we have more traffic right now than our poor servers can handle). Expect an update later today.
If you’re at CWT and have firsthand information to share, please email us. If you’re afraid of your email being tracked, you can also reach us via Facebook message or AIM (our screen name is in our Facebook profile). Thanks.

animated siren gif animated siren gif animated siren gif drudge report.GIFJust half an hour ago, based on information we gleaned from various sources, we asked: “Is today Layoff Day at Cadwalader?” The answer would appear to be: YES.
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft has confirmed to us that it will be laying off 35 attorneys. Please see the statement below, which we just received from Hill & Knowlton, the powerhouse public relations firm. When a law firm hires an outside PR / crisis management shop, you know they have something big on their hands (e.g., Sullivan & Cromwell during the Aaron Charney case, when it hired Sard Verbinnen).
Update: We commend Cadwalader for its candor about these associate layoffs. They’re being open about these dismissals as being economic in nature; they don’t try to claim they are “performance based.” To the contrary, the firm praises the affected lawyers for their contributions.
Also, note that CWT is trying to get in front of the bad news and manage it, instead of letting it come out in dribs and drabs, Chinese water torture style. As noted, they’ve hired an outside PR firm. At the same time that they emailed the statement to us, they appear to have reached out to mainstream media sources as well (e.g., the WSJ Law Blog, which posted the statement two minutes before we did).
STATEMENT OF CADWALADER, WICKERSHAM & TAFT
Unexpected and persistent volatility continues to disrupt sectors of the financial markets; and is affecting the capital markets, many of our clients, and certain practices within our firm.
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft is responding to these market developments with a number of initiatives: Targeted personnel reductions will affect 35 lawyers in our US offices. Other strategies involve continued practice diversification, practice enhancements, and strategic redeployment of certain persons.
These actions affect some talented lawyers who have made significant contributions to the firm. The firm’s partners and Management Committee have put a great deal of effort into mitigating the impact of the business environment on the firm, making today’s announcement even more difficult.
Our objective is as it always has been: to provide superlative client service, and astute legal counsel. We remain committed to those goals and the long-term strength and success of our firm.
Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Is Today ‘Layoff Day’ at Cadwalader?

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft CWT Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid blog.JPGWe’ve been hearing, from multiple sources, that something big is going down today at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. Some of our sources have dubbed it “Layoff Day,” although we don’t know yet whether the news relates to layoffs or something else.
Here’s what we’ve been hearing:

1. One can check the availability of conference rooms on the CWT intranet. Today’s schedule shows that Mitch Walsh, the firm’s executive director, has reserved an entire floor for the day that consists of nothing but conference rooms, and Patti Ellis, the firm’s head of Associate Development and Recruitment, has reserved a half dozen other conference rooms.

2. A meeting of the Firm Committee is scheduled in the afternoon.

3. A rumor is going around of a merger (although one source says, “I don’t know why they would need all the conference rooms to do that,” and another asks, “Who would we merge with?”).

4. Another theory is that the firm is going to inform associates of their bonuses individually (although one tipster wonders why they wouldn’t they have made the announcement ahead of time, so people could plan their schedules accordingly).

5. Yet another possibility: the firm will be laying off associates, and they will be using the rooms to process people. This is what one source declares: “Layoffs are starting this week in areas impacted by the credit crunch: capital markets, global finance, etc. No ideas as to numbers.”

6. Some claim that “stealth layoffs” already took place last month, with five partnership-track associates quietly let go in Capital Markets right before the new year.

7. Some Capital Markets associates were previously offered moves to other departments, including Corporate, Financial Restructuring, and Litigation.

Sounds grim. One source sums up: “No one knows for sure, but today looks like it will be the culmination of rumors circulating for over a month now.”
CWT layoff rumors have been circulating for quite some time (and were mentioned in Crain’s New York Business back in December). Before the holiday break, we asked the firm if it had any comment on the gossip. A CWT spokesperson told us: “Cadwalader does not respond to speculation concerning staff or operations.”
We’ve reached out to them for comment on these latest rumors, but we haven’t heard back from them. We assume their previous policy of not responding to rumors about internal operations remains in effect.
If you have any information to share, please email us. Thanks.
UPDATE: Cadwalader has confirmed to us that it is laying off 35 lawyers. We’ve just put up a new post with the firm’s official statement. Please comment in the new thread; we are closing this one. Thanks.

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