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

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgOur 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):

pryor cashman – 140k
anderson kill – 140k
herrick feinstein – 150k
otterbourg – 150k
olshan grundman – 150k
fox rothschild (philly-based) – 125k

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

gorilla lawyer ad advertisement advertising Above the Law blog.jpgThe ethical rules governing advertising by lawyers are designed in large part to protect the public from misleading pitches. But maybe it’s the lawyers who need protecting — from themselves.
If these lawyers scratch themselves inappropriately during meetings, or hog the cold cuts at lunch, don’t say they didn’t warn you.
Magilla Gorilla, Esq. [copyranter]
Earlier: Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My — Is It a Law Firm Ad Campaign?

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.

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associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgWe 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

100 dollar bill Abovethelaw Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGSo 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?

George Mitchell former Senator George J Mitchell baseball steroids MLB Above the Law blog.jpgA major legal story that’s related to sports? Oh noes! We are completely ignorant.
But we’ve collected some links about former Senator George Mitchell’s report on steroid use in major legal baseball. Feel free to discuss in the comments.
P.S. Would any of you be interested in writing a column for ATL on sports and the law? If so, please email us (subject line: “Sports Column”), and tell us a bit about yourself, your vision for such a column, possible topics, etc.
In 2008, we’re going to be making some changes to ATL — e.g., a site redesign, new servers, etc. — and bringing aboard some outside columnists is part of that plan. So feel free to send column ideas our way.
Thanks, bro. (Talking like a jock — it’s really not that hard.)
Steroid Report Implicates Top Players [New York Times]
Clemens, Tejada named in Report [Sports Illustrated / SI.com]
Law Blog Lawyer Of the Day: DLA’s George Mitchell [WSJ Law Blog]

Alberto Gonzales 5 Alberto R Gonzales Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgPart of a blogger’s job description is to shamelessly rip off stuff from the mainstream media. So we’re going to follow in the footsteps of the ABA Journal and the WSJ Law Blog, and name ATL’s first annual Lawyer of the Year. (Of course, it’s not that original an idea to begin with, insofar as it’s inspired by Time magazine’s Person of the Year.)
The WSJ crew is still accepting nominations, so we don’t know the identity of their pick. But the ABA Journal’s honoree for 2007, Alberto Gonzales, has generated some controversy. The Journal’s editor and publisher, Edward A. Adams, explained the pick to the Washington Post: “It’s about who has had the most effect in the world of lawyers this year. We’re not saying Gonzales is good or bad. We’re just saying this is the leading newsmaker in our part of the world.”
Additional discussion, plus how to submit your nomination for ATL’s Lawyer of the Year, after the jump.

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Attorney billing rates continued to rise in 2007, as just reported by the National Law Journal, based on its annual survey. With this news hook, we bring you the latest ATL / Lateral Link Featured Job Survey, which inquires into billing rates.
If you’re interested, check out and respond to the survey, which appears after the jump. Thanks!

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We previously opined that it would be tough to top last year’s holiday party at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. The Carnivale-themed festivities featured drag queens, dancers covered in silver make-up, and albino boa onstrictors.
But if the firm fails to equal that extravaganza, it won’t be for lack of trying. Check out the “Schedule of Events” — how lawyerly to have festivities on a schedule — for this year’s CWT holiday party, taking place tonight at the firm’s offices in lower Manhattan. Be in the Empire Room by 7:45 PM sharp, or you’ll miss the “Holiday Greeting by Bob Link”!
See also quesadillas. Mmmm, quesadillas…
Cadwalader Wickersham Taft holiday party schedule Above the Law blog.jpg
P.S. We’ve been hearing all sorts of rumors about CWT lately. If you have some gossip to contribute, please drop us a line. Thanks.
Boogie, Counselor! Which Law Firm Gives Best Party? [New York Observer]

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgYesterday at around 5:30 p.m., just as the New York office was getting ready to head off to the firm holiday party, Chadbourne & Parke issued its bonus memorandum. The upshot is that Chadbourne is paying year-end and special bonuses to “eligible” associates in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, and Houston (yes, Houston — wow).
The bonus table is your standard table, with the most senior associates getting $115,000 in bonuses ($65,000 year-end and $50,000 special). But it’s not a lockstep match due to the “eligibility” requirement. It’s not clear what the eligibility criteria are, but here’s the relevant language from the memo:

As in the past, eligibility to receive a full or partial year-end bonus will be performance based, with the quality of performance as well as billable or quality non-billable hours expectations each taken into account. Eligibility for a partial or full special bonus will be based on meeting or exceeding all of the Firm’s expectations.

It seems that Chadbourne is going with the Fried Frank model. Some people will get full special bonuses, some will get partial special bonuses, and some might get no special bonus at all. In addition, it appears that some CP associates might not even get a full year-end bonus, based on the memo raising the possibility of getting a “partial year-end bonus.”
In sum, it pays to be an eligible young associate.

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