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

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGWe’re a week or so into 2008, which raises the question: a new year, a new associate pay raise?
One might expect pay raises to be announced around fall recruiting time, to entice the 2Ls. Historically, however, the last two base salary increases were announced in January (perhaps in an effort to reduce the post-bonus exodus of associates). In January 2007, Simpson Thacher announced its new pay scale, with a $160,000 starting salary. The prior raise, by Sullivan & Cromwell to $145,000, was announced in January 2006.
But don’t expect more of the same in January 2008. From the National Law Journal:

As law firms wrapped up operations for 2007, the associate compensation picture looked eerily similar to the boom before the bust seven years ago.

The ratio of bonuses to base salaries for first-year associates at the nation’s top law firms in 2007 was on par with the figures in 2000, a year that precipitated a dramatic plunge in those annual perks that help to make the punishing associate hours more tolerable.

For 2007, beginning associates made as much as $45,000 in bonuses in addition to the $160,000 in base pay at top firms in New York and on the West Coast, with some shops doling out “special bonuses” and getting bragging rights ahead of competitors.

But all that cheer in 2007 may become a distant memory as 2008 is looking increasingly leaner.

“There’s more concern out there now than there was in the summer,” said James Cotterman, an attorney-compensation consultant with Altman Weil. “There’s more talk about a recession.”

Indeed. If we’re not already in a recession, we’re about to enter one. Sure, some firms have strong countercyclical practices. But litigation and bankruptcy never make as much as transactional work and M&A in boom times.
More doom and gloom, plus the promised digression on billables, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Reading the Associate Compensation Tea Leaves
(And a Digression on Billable Hours)”

Chuck Rosenthal District Attorney Charles Rosenthal Fatal Overdose Above the Law blog.JPGWe love tales of misbehaving DAs. And this one is a doozy. From the Houston Chronicle:

New e-mails released Tuesday show District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal sent and received racist jokes and strategized with political consultants and colleagues about his re-election campaign on his county e-mail account.

Also within the correspondence obtained Tuesday by the Houston Chronicle were numerous sexually explicit images. It was unclear, however, if Rosenthal ever forwarded those files.

Those were just for his personal wank collection.

Among e-mails that concerned Woodfill were video clips of nudity and sex acts and a racist joke forwarded by Rosenthal that compares former President Bill Clinton to a black man. The e-mail says Clinton played the saxophone, smoked marijuana and gets a check from the government each month.

Pot always struck us as more of a white person’s drug, but whatever.

Also included within the e-mails is heavy traffic between Rosenthal and Sam Siegler, Rosenthal’s physician and the husband of Kelly Siegler, who is running for district attorney. In one e-mail from Sam Siegler to Rosenthal, an attached video shows women having their breasts exposed after men forcibly pulled down their blouses in public. The video called the act “sharking.”

Kelly Siegler dismissed her husband’s e-mails. “He cusses like a sailor and his sense of humor is crude, to put it mildly,” she said. “It’s his computer and what he does at work is his business. He’s the boss.”

Stand by your man, Kelly. As long as there’s no kiddie porn in those emails, it’s all good.
Oh, and Rosenthal also sent “intimate e-mails to his executive secretary.” More details, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day: Chuck Rosenthal”

pregnant high school students maternity leave Above the Law blog.jpg
Birth leave sought for girls [Denver Post via Drudge Report]
Earlier: Biglaw Perk Watch: Hogan & Hartson Announces Enhanced Leave for Childbirth and Adoption


Bellagio casino hotel Las Vegas Above the Law blog.jpg* Nobody puts baby in a corner. The empress strikes back, scoring an upset victory in the New Hampshire primary. HLS 1, YLS 1. [Washington Post; New York Times]
* Supreme Court hands down a “mind-numbing” ruling (per Tony Mauro). The early opinions in a Term are always boring. But at least this one has an interesting debate about stare decisis. [U.S. Supreme Court (PDF) via The BLT (via How Appealing)]
* Walter Dellinger and Sri Srinivasan think the Indiana voter I.D. law is pretty worthless. But will the SCOTUS see things the same way? [Slate]
* A federal grand jury is looking into the MySpace suicide case. [Los Angeles Times via WSJ Law Blog]
* In the typical case, a big media company goes after a little person for copyright violation. But now some ordinary folks are turning the tables, suing corporations for commercial use of amateur photographs posted on the web. [Washington Post]
* So it’s not exactly the Wynn or the Bellagio. But this casino in a trailer, open for just eight hours, will help a property owner retain a valuable zoning designation allowing gambling. [New York Times]

James Colliton Jim Colliton Cravath Swaine Moore Above the Law blog.jpg(We missed this case because it happened over the holidays, when we were away from ATL. But we’ve received several requests to cover this super-juicy story, so we’ll go for it, despite being so late to the party.)
We described Schoenfeld v. Allen & Overy, a lawsuit by a Jewish associate against his former law firm, as “the Jewish version of Aaron Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell.” Now we’re looking at “the pervert-who-has-sex-with-13-and-15-year-old-sisters version of Charney v. S&C.”
From the New York Daily News:

A disgraced lawyer who paid a mother to allow him to have sex with her underage daughters is looking for a payday of his own – from the elite law firm where he once worked.

James Colliton is suing Cravath, Swaine & Moore for $1.45 million, accusing the white-shoe firm of stiffing him on an annual bonus, salary and vacation pay.

Reached by phone at his home in Poughkeepsie, the convicted sex offender refused to talk about his suit, which was handwritten on notebook paper.

“It’s all in there,” Colliton said.

That’s what he told her. Also, we’d expect better than a complaint “handwritten on notebook paper” from James Colliton. If Aaron Charney can type up his pro se complaint against his former firm, surely an ex-Cravath lawyer can do the same.
More discussion, beyond the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day Last Month: Talk About a ‘Special’ Bonus
(The bonus you claim after pleading guilty to paying a mom so you can have sex with her two underage daughters)”

* Banishment? We didn’t know they still did that. But here’s a funny little twist: Can you banish someone from an entire state except for one county? [Fulton County Daily Report]
* Haven’t gotten a response to your FOIA request? Don’t take it personally. Even the kids of a deceased federal judge can’t get their request fully satisfied. [Daily Business Review]
* Blogger / criminal defense lawyer David O. Markus: “Allowing jurors to ask questions is like letting New Englanders call the plays for the Patriots. It sounds like fun, but it’s going to be a disaster.” [National Law Journal (subscription)]
* With whom would you rather dine: a Harvard Law grad or a Yale Law grad? [Huffington Post]
* Speaking of politics, our big sibling also dabbles in election-year commentary. [DealBreaker]

Kumari Fulbright Facebook Arizona law student beauty queen Above the Law blog.jpgTime for an update on everyone’s favorite law student cum beauty queen cum accused kidnapper, Kumari Fulbright. If you’re not familiar with her story, click here, and read through the ATL archives.
First, from an observant reader, some sad news for those of us who were her Facebook friends:

It looks like Kumari finally realized we weren’t all her friends. Her Facebook page is gone.

Darn it, now we’re down a friend. And just as we’re closing in on the 1,000 friend mark!
Second, poor Kumari Fulbright has been temporarily suspended from the University of Arizona law school. Getting indicted on kidnapping and assault charges will tend to do that to you. One UA alum, who brought the news to our attention, observed:

Well, it took the alma mater long enough to react. I’ve been forwarded this godd**ned story from everyone I know across the country, all with some variation of either (a) UA law students are stupid / crazy or (b) girls in Tucson are ugly / felonious. Stay classy, Arizona.

We object — strenuously. The “felonious” part is not established; she’s been indicted, not convicted. And the “ugly” part is belied by the record evidence. Even though her Facebook profile is gone, we’ll always have that screenshot (above right), which amply demonstrates Kumari’s overwhelming hotness. The way you become a beauty queen is by being beautiful. Who’d have thunk it?
Our Arizona tipster adds:

[T]his story’s insane… It’s been killing me at happy hours or other lawyer gatherings here in Phoenix… Everyone has been taking their swipes at the U. of A law school for the past two weeks!

The school hasn’t made many statements, and I really doubt they will. They’re all touchy-feely down there. I’m surprised they didn’t try to cure her with hugs.

More about the suspension, plus links to news articles, below the fold.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Kumari, We Hardly Knew Ye”

Hogan Hartson LLP Above the Law blog.JPGBeefing up parental leave policies: everybody’s doing it. It may not be another pay raise, but it’s very welcome news for lawyers at large firms who are trying to balance Biglaw with Big Family (or contemplating such a move).
We’ve written in the past about new leave policies from Simpson Thacher, Latham & Watkins, Davis Polk, Sullivan & Cromwell, and Weil Gotshal. Today Hogan & Hartson joins the 18 Weeks Club.
Memo after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Biglaw Perk Watch: Hogan & Hartson Announces Enhanced Leave for Childbirth and Adoption”

Last month we asked you which holidays you worked on, or expected to work on, during 2007. About 10% of you reported that you expected to work on Christmas, and roughly 22% expected to work on New Year’s.
In today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, let’s find out if you were overly optimistic, pleasantly surprised, or just plain right.
Did the Grinch steal your vacation? Tell us about it in the comments.
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

cockroach Biglaw law firm cafeteria Above the Law blog.jpgWe have a lunch meeting today, so we’re going to be offline for a while. We’ll leave you with a food-related post to chew over while we’re gone. Hopefully it won’t cause you to lose your appetite.
Over at Keeping Up With Jonas, Jonas Karp has filed a great investigative report: a look at how various law firm cafeterias fared in unannounced annual inspections by the New York City Department of Health. If you’re hoping for a healthy dose of schadenfreude, you might be disappointed. As Karp writes, “All of the firms surveyed passed their inspections, and none had Serendipity 3-like 100 live cockroach violations.”
Darn. But as Jonas notes, “some firms did a lot better than others.”
Which ones? Read the full post to find out. As you review the results, consider this question: Is cafeteria cleanliness inversely proportional to law firm prestige? Simpson Thacher and Cravath came within a few points of failing inspection, while a perfect score was earned by… Greenberg Traurig!
Maybe GT associates won’t be getting a pay raise anytime soon. But at least their New York office has an immaculate cafeteria.
Feel free to opine on the quality of your law firm’s cafeteria, or any other Biglaw canteen that you have personally sampled, in the comments.
Law Firm Cafeterias: Inspection Results [Keeping Up With Jonas]

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