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

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).
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.

* SCOTUS gives cool reception to challenge of Indiana voter I.D. law. [New York Times; Washington Post; Slate (via How Appealing)]
* DOJ investigating award of a lucrative monitoring contract to John Ashcroft. [New York Times]
* Vioxx settlement plan looks like it will go through, but total cost could be higher than the advertised $4.85 billion. [Wall Street Journal]
* It’s not just the feds. State judges are unhappy with their pay too. [New York Law Journal]
* Another lawyer resigns from representing one of the Scruggs. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Dead man cashing? [New York Times]
Update / Correction: With respect to item #2 above, the DOJ is looking generally 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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Morning Docket: 01.10.08″

Last month, our ATL / Lateral Link job survey asked you when your firms paid bonuses, and whether you were planning on changing jobs once those bonuses got paid. About 900 of you responded (and got to see bonus and survey breakdowns for Los Angeles as a reward).
Not surprisingly, most of you in major cities reported that your firms paid bonuses by the end of the year. Associates in Atlanta, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Seattle, however, were more likely to be screwed in for a longer wait.
After the jump, poll results broken down by city, plus stats on how bonus timing is, or isn’t, affecting your decisions to stay.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Featured Job Survey Results: Bonus Timing”

Warren Zier ascot tie necktie Above the Law blog.jpgDressing up for court shouldn’t be hard. Dark suit, white shirt, and appropriate neckwear.
But what constitutes appropriate neckwear? From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (via How Appealing):

Justice may be blind, but Milwaukee County Circuit Judge William Sosnay’s sense of courtroom fashion is not.

In the courtroom of the pompadoured judge long known as a fastidious dresser, a sentencing hearing in a misdemeanor case was delayed for three hours Tuesday after a veteran prosecutor turned up for court wearing an ascot.

A courthouse rule requires all lawyers to wear neckties, but prosecutor Warren Zier’s occasional choice of creative cravats drew the judge’s ire.

One haberdasher, contacted by the newspaper, respectfully dissented:

“Really?” Bob Norris, manager of Harleys for Men haberdashery in Shorewood, said by phone when told of the courthouse happenings. “Ascots aren’t worn very much but would be considered formal.”

The silk neck loop, worn under the shirt around the base of the neck, is an unusual touch, Norris said, a wardrobe choice one might wear to a fancy dinner party. Hugh Hefner has worn them for decades….

Ah, but maybe prosecutors don’t want to take fashion cues from a porn publisher.
What’s your view? Was the judge ridiculous for flipping out over an ascot? Or was the prosecutor ridiculous for wearing one?
Post a comment, and take our fashion poll, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: William Sosnay”

DePaul Law School De Paul University College of Law Above the Law blog.jpgIf you’re looking to buy someone a belated holiday gift, and have $100,000 to spare — perhaps you’re a senior associate in New York who just earned $110,000 or $115,000 in year-end and special bonuses — check out this item, currently up for bids on eBay:

So America… just how much is an education worth? Let’s find out. Up for sale is my law degree. Yes, you read correctly. Three years and $100,000 plus of debt for your pleasure. Please note that I am in no way claiming that by purchasing this degree you will be given credit for having attended an accredited law school and completing its course of study nor will it give you the necessary credentials to take the bar exam. You will not be able to become a lawyer by purchasing this degree. However this would make a great collectible if your name happens to be [redacted].

Why am I selling this great item? Because it has been nothing but a curse and aggrevation in my life. Going to school for this degree has been a joke, and has only brought me stress and misery. This degree has been a great invitation to work at least 60 hours a week at a place where I don’t want to be for people that I don’t care about. It has helped me develop great relationships with bill collectors as I can’t afford the cost this great privilege has afforded me. It has limited my abiltity to pursue other work options as people just can’t understand why someone with a law degree wouldn’t want to be a lawyer. Believe it or not, the extensive job dissatisfaction amongst lawyers, high suicide rates, and failed personal relationships that lawyers have isn’t enough to convince others that it’s not a healthy, worthy pursuit. And of course even if I would be happier as a bartender, I couldn’t afford to pay back the loans needed to earn this degree. Though that’s true of many that I graduated with. Individuals that wanted to practice law for the benefit of the poor or impoverished or those who can’t afford legal counsel are having a hard time too because they aren’t paid enough. But that’s justice.

And that’s just the start of it. Read the full lament cum listing by clicking here.
But why should you buy this law degree for $100,000? Justice Clarence Thomas might sell you his Yale Law School degree for fifteen cents.
As for what motivated the seller to put up this listing, it appears to be an attempt to promote an adult entertainment site that he’s launched. We won’t include a link to it here because obviously it is NSFW (and the woman splashed all over the site is no Kumari Fulbright).
The conventional wisdom is true: there are a million things you can do with a law degree.
My Law Degree [eBay]
Justice Says Law Degree ‘Worth 15 Cents’ [AP via Huffington Post]

New York Observer logo small Above the Law blog.jpgIn our column for this week’s New York Observer, we help you plan an imaginary dinner party. A dinner party, of course, is only as good as the guest list. So we review which colorful characters of the legal world, who made headlines in 2007, should be invited to your festivities.
Think of it as a “year in review” piece, aimed primarily at people who don’t read ATL (since most of the names mentioned in the article will be familiar to regular visitors to this site). The potential guests under consideration: Charlene Morisseau, the sassy ex-associate who sued DLA Piper; Aaron Charney, who made S&C “bend over”; and internet celebrity Loyola 2L.
ATL bonus content: Due to space considerations, our write-up of Elana Glatt (née Elana Elbogen) wound up on the cutting room floor. But if you’d like to read it, we’ve reprinted it after the jump.
Culture of Complaint Spreads Through Law Firms [New York Observer]

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?”

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

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