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.
[At the time of the Second Amendment's drafting,] lawmakers took a devil-may-care approach to punctuation. Often, the whole business of punctuation was left to the discretion of scriveners, who liked to show their chops by inserting as many varied marks as possible.
Another problem with trying to find meaning in the Second Amendment’s commas is that nobody is certain how many commas it is supposed to have. The version that ended up in the National Archives has three, but that may be a fluke. Legal historians note that some states ratified a two-comma version. At least one recent law journal article refers to a four-comma version.
The best way to make sense of the Second Amendment is to take away all the commas (which, I know, means that only outlaws will have commas). Without the distracting commas, one can focus on the grammar of the sentence.
… [W]hen the justices finish diagramming the Second Amendment, they should end up with something that expresses a causal link, like: “Because a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” In other words, the amendment is really about protecting militias, notwithstanding the originalist arguments to the contrary.
In fairness to the other side of the debate, that’s just one scholar’s opinion. Many others, including prominent liberal academics, disagree.
What do you think? Take our poll, after the jump.
For non-New York associates of Sidley Austin, Monday is the big day. The firm just sent out a memo informing them that bonuses will be distributed at that time. As you may recall, the firm previously announced special bonuses, but only for its New York office — news that was not well-received outside of NYC.
If you’re hoping for hard numbers, you’ll be disappointed; the memo is rather vague. It states:
[W]e continue to determine bonuses on an individual basis and consistent with our culture and practice, will communicate with you individually about them. Because year-end bonuses remain discretionary and are tailored to individual circumstances, no description of the relevant factors could be exhaustive. As in recent years, however, we again have considered the hours that each associate has spent on chargeable, pro bono, and certain non-chargeable matters such as legal services to the Firm, as well as the quality of each associate’s work and other special contributions to the Firm.
You can read the whole thing, in all of its glorious opacity, after the jump.
Law school list serve trainwrecks are a staple here at ATL. We’ve written about several — see, e.g., Cumberland Law School; Washington University School of Law — and they tend to be popular with readers.
A student at NYU Law School brought a recent listserv debacle to our attention:
[This listserve controversy] touches on many law school and other legal topics. They include grades, finals, state vs. T14 schools, Jesus, the Constitution, Jesus vs. the Constitution, and [people] who were arrested at Harvard [see April 24, 2:21 AM entry] and feel the need to announce it to the whole law school.
Perhaps it’s just exam stress all around, but having just taken my crim pro final earlier today, the last bit made things extra hilarious.
The reader then included several emails from the thread. But fortunately for us, another NYU law student already collected and posted them over here (which saves us the trouble of cutting and pasting).
More after the jump.
Here are the results from yesterday’s Featured Job Survey, brought to you by ATL and Lateral Link, which inquired into billing rates.
More than 700 of you responded to yesterday’s survey, not counting a few dubious entries. In case you were wondering, yes, we really do discard your response if you claim to be billing out at $25 an hour at Sullivan & Cromwell. We’re asking for your rates for legal services.
For those of you wondering what the average rate for an hour of lawyerly time is these days — and whether your firm is selling you cheap — here are the national averages based on our (admittedly unscientific) survey:
How many associates think they’re worth more than that? Find out, after the jump.
Last month, Morgan Lewis & Bockius issued a bonus non-announcement — a placeholder memo, indicating that bonus news would be forthcoming.
Perhaps MLB associates have reason to be optimistic. The firm must be saving some money, since it’s making associates pay their own way on the ski trip of Business and Finance Practice Group. Our tipster observes: “[T]his is yet another reflection of Morgan Lewis’ caring attitude.”
When law firms hold “destination events” — e.g., the Boies Schiller firm meeting in Jamaica, the Kirkland & Ellis retreat at the Hotel Hershey, and other retreats mentioned here — they often pay for their associates to attend. But there’s no rule holding that they must do so, especially if attendance is voluntary (which is the case here).
And hey — at least the firm has negotiated a special ML&B discount!
(ML&B ski trip memo, after the jump.)
Our recent open thread about boutique law firms prompted another request for more beyond-Biglaw discussion:
Not really a tip, but how ’bout a thread on midsize firms — not quite big law, which has been going on for a while, and not quite boutique, which you just recently posted. I’m talking 75-200 attorney type firms that still pay $125K-$150K base in New York (don’t know much about other regions).
Our tipster provided a few examples of the firms in question, with starting salaries (note — we have not independently verified these numbers):
If you have information to share on year-end bonuses (or compensation more generally) at midsize / regional law firms, please share in the comments. It would be optimal if you could identify the firm by name; but if you can’t, please provide as much information as possible. Thanks. Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Beyond Biglaw
Here’s the latest Job of the Week, courtesy of ATL’s career partner, Lateral Link. 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. Position: Staff Counsel Company: ActBlue Location: Boston, MA Position Description: Staff Counsel will report to Executive Director. Initial responsibilities will include:
• Research of campaign finance laws and regulations at the federal, state and local levels.
• Developing and implementing legal and lobbying strategies to expand ActBlue’s ability to operate at the state level.
• Ensuring compliance with all applicable campaign finance and privacy laws.
• Cultivating relationships with election offices and local campaign finance attorneys across the country.
• Responding to legal inquiries and complaints.
Additional information, after the jump.
We have confirmed the rumor that has surfaced here and there in the comments: Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz once again paid year-end bonuses to its associates that were 100 percent of their base salaries (which are already above-market; starting salary at WLRK is $165,000). This is consistent with past practice; Wachtell has paid 100 percent bonuses for several years running now.
Due to the new “special bonus,” the gap between Wachtell associates and their counterparts at other top shops, while still large, isn’t as enormous as it has been in the past. But when you’re a senior associate taking home roughly $600,000, it’s not very gracious to complain.
P.S. Disclosure: We worked at Wachtell from 2000 – 2003. For our thoughts on that experience, click here. Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Wachtell Lipton Windfalls
So yes, it’s true. The rumor that Boies, Schiller & Flexner has raised starting salaries to $168,000, which has surfaced here and there in the comments, has been confirmed for us by a knowledgeable source. The news was announced last weekend at the firm meeting in Jamaica.
As for the rest of the scale, second-years make $180,000, and then there are $21,000 jumps each year thereafter (i.e., $201,000, $222,000, etc.). Additional changes to the old Boies compensation system — primarily relating to contigency cases, which the firm does a fair amount of (and earns major moolah from) — are being considered, but have not yet been finalized.
Now, as you may recall from this earlier post, BSF is perhaps sui generis when it comes to associate compensation matters. Associate compensation is actually directly tied to the revenue that each associate generates for the firm. So their move to $168K is not as exciting as if, say, a firm with a more traditional compensation structure — a Cravath or Sullivan or Simpson — made such a move.
But hey, it’s still good news; the new base rates are indeed a raise over what Boies associates previously earned. But recall that, at least in the major (New York / Westchester / D.C.) offices, base salary is just an advance on total compensation, and bonus is the difference. And in the major offices, it’s really all about the bonus.
Anyway, stay tuned. If you’re at Boies and can provide us with more detail, please feel free to email us. Thanks.
P.S. Sorry for the radio silence. The new servers that we’re expecting in 2008 are needed now (as we’ve repeatedly told our bosses). Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Associate Compensation Overhaul at Boies Schiller?
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.