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

gavel judge Above the Law blog.jpgToday we bring you not one, but two Judges of the Day. We can’t decide who is more deserving of the honor. From the Florida Times-Union:

Twelve days before Christmas, Circuit Judge Aaron Bowden fired his 17-year judicial assistant, who had been on leave since August with cancer. The Jacksonville judge said he feared her prolonged illness would leave him without an assistant at a time when the state had implemented a hiring freeze.

But his decision left Christine Birch, 54, with no medical, life or disability insurance and has created a firestorm at the courthouse.

Chief Circuit Judge Donald Moran responded by calling Bowden “a no-good son of a bitch,” prompting Bowden to respond with a blistering e-mail (PDF) defending his decision and calling Moran’s criticism irresponsible, unprofessional and unseemly.

Other judges’ assistants were also appalled by Birch’s firing. They raised money to pay her rent this month….

Birch declined comment Thursday. But she thanked Moran in a handwritten note last week for putting her back on the courthouse payroll in a rotating judicial assistant’s position. Birch was paid about $3,275 a month in her old job, and the state paid her health insurance premium. Her new rotating position pays $750 less a month and requires her to pay her own premiums.

Our tipster writes:

Best quote from the article: “He said if she died while on the payroll, he would have been without an assistant for two months, ‘not an ideal situation for a judge.'” I guess dying wouldn’t have been an ideal situation for her, either.

To get both sides of the story, check out the email from Judge Bowden in which he defends his actions (and rips Chief Judge Moran a new one). You can access his message — in which he benchslaps Chief Judge Moran for his “effrontery” and his “irresponsible” comments, made “precipitously [and] without authority” — by clicking here (PDF).
P.S. Speaking of cancer, here’s a PSA from ATL, and bad news for Biglaw associates and paralegals: according to cancer researchers, overnight work and sleep deprivation may raise your cancer risk.
Judge fires his assistant, draws criticism [Florida Times-Union]
Email from Judge Aaron Bowden (PDF) [Florida Times-Union]

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. Successfully placed candidates receive a $10,000 placement bonus.
Position: Executive Compensation Attorney
Location: New York
Position Description: Top firm seeks a senior executive compensation/employee benefits associate to join the firm’s quickly growing executive compensation group. The firm would consider bringing on an outstanding lateral associate and immediately making them partner.
Skills requirements: At least 6 years of executive compensation experience, and the ability to step into a senior role and work independently.
Firm Description: This Chicago-based law firm ranks Top 10 on AmLaw 100 rankings of U.S. firms by revenues and is known for consistently paying at or above market salary and bonuses.
For more information, see job #7521 on Lateral Link.
Earlier: Prior Job of the Week listings (scroll down)

shark lawyer attorney swimming with sharks Above the Law blog.jpgRemember this attorney, who announced the dissolution of his law partnership in most unorthodox fashion? We sure do (and so does “Tim from Anaconda”).
Our friends out west are idiosyncratic when it comes to office decor, too. From a piece by Debra Cassens Weiss for the ABA Journal:

A Montana lawyer said his decision to put a shark tank in his office started out as a joke.

“I said, ‘What would it take to put a shark in a lawyer’s office?’ and it just kind of took off from there,” lawyer Christopher Gillette told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Workers hoisted the 1,000-gallon aquarium through the second-story window of Gillette’s new office in downtown Bozeman on Monday. He plans to fill the tank with a blacktip reef shark and other saltwater fish, including a venomous lionfish.

Forget mediation. Nothing brings about settlement as quickly as the prospect of being devoured by a blacktip reef shark. With a venomous lionfish on hand to clean up any leftovers.

Gillette, who practices family law, says he thinks clients will find the tank to be relaxing. “People seem to be comfortable with fish,” he told the newspaper.

Others will get a chance to watch the marine life, too. Gillette plans to install a camera and broadcast video of his fish tank beginning in February at www.cjgillettelaw.com and www.ccaqua.com.

No word yet on whether Bob Link of Cadwalader — official holder of the “shark tank” nickname, courtesy of the New York Law Journal — plans to install an aquarium at One World Financial Center.
ABA Journal [ABA Journal]
Earlier: An Update on the Managhan Law Firm (aka ‘My Wife Is Sleeping Around and That’s Why We’re No Longer Law Partners’)

Fireplace Room Sheraton New York Hotel Towers Above the Law blog.jpgIf you’re in Iowa, we’re guessing you have plans tonight. But if you’re in New York City, and looking for something to do from 8:30 p.m. onward, consider attending the Law Blogger Happy Hour:

Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008, 8:30-10:30PM

Fireplace Room within Library Bar at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers

811 7th Avenue (at 53rd Street)

It’s bitterly cold in the Big Apple right now: 19 degrees (and it feels like 10). So come in from the cold, plant yourself in front of that roaring fire — they don’t call it the “Fireplace Room” for nothing — and cozy up to some of your favorite law professor/bloggers.
The holiday season isn’t that far behind us, so who knows… Maybe there will be egg nog!
Concurring Opinions–PrawfsBlawg Happy Hour at AALS [Concurring Opinions]
Happy New Year! [PrawfsBlawg]

Just half an hour ago, in our exegesis of her Facebook profile, we observed — and yes, we’ll ‘fess up, our feelings were a trifle hurt — that Kumari Fulbright hadn’t returned our Facebook poke.
Our apologies to the fabulous Ms. Fulbright. It seems that we poke — er, spoke — too soon:
Kumari Fulbright Facebook poke Arizona law student beauty queen Above the Law blog.jpg
Oh noes! Where do we go from here? Send her a spare roll of duct tape as a “gift”? Bite her and turn her into a “zombie” — because she’s not fearsome enough already?
Facebook can be so confusing!
Earlier: Brief Reflections on the Facebook Profile of Kumari Fulbright

As we mentioned in our earlier post about Kumari Fulbright, the former beauty queen and current law student indicted on charges of kidnapping her ex-boyfriend, we poked her today on Facebook. She has not yet returned our poke. But, surprisingly enough, she did add us as a friend.
(We also asked her, via Facebook message, if she had any comment on her case. But we haven’t heard back from her, even though she has been online for most of the day.)
Update: Exciting news! Kumari Fulbright has poked us back. See here.
Now, although we’ve been added as a friend, we’re not in very exclusive company. Since her story broke, Ms. Fulbright has been rapidly acquiring friends — over 50 in the last 24 hours. Can you imagine if (1) social networking sites existed at the time of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and (2) that curvaceous beauty was on MySpace or Facebook? She would have picked up “friends” faster than her blue Gap dress picked up presidential DNA.
Anyway, as a Facebook friend of Kamari Fulbright, we have access to her profile. We offer some observations and advice, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Brief Reflections on the Facebook Profile of Kumari Fulbright”

Stephen Yagman Steve Yagman Stephen G Yagman Above the Law blog.jpgSo it looks like no bail for Stephen Yagman, the colorful and controversial civil rights lawyer who was convicted last year of tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering. Yagman will start his three-year prison term later this month.
Yagman asked to remain free on bail while appealing his conviction (to the Ninth Circuit — a court with which Yagman has a long and tortured history). But the district court denied his request.
Perhaps the court didn’t want Yagman out and about, dropping $2,000 on shoes and $262 on dinner — as he allegedly did just hours after filing for bankruptcy, as part of a scheme to avoid paying more than $200,000 in state and federal taxes.
High-profile LA lawyer denied bail [Associated Press]

We’ve received over 1,300 responses thus far to our ATL / Lateral Link survey on bonuses (accessible here). Before the holiday break, we shared with you the results for New York, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Today’s new results are from San Francisco & Silicon Valley. Surprisingly, base salaries from those of you who responded from the Bay Area are actually slightly higher, on average, than those reported by associates in New York, particularly for more senior associates.When it comes to bonus, however, the Big Apple is still king.
The breakdowns of bonus and base compensation, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Featured Job Survey Results: Bonuses (San Francisco / Silicon Valley)”

Sure, it might feel really good to (1) bite your ex-boyfriend on the arm, hand and ear; (2) hold a butcher knife to his head; and (3) threaten to kill him. Just imagine how satisfying that bunny-boiling must have been for Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) in Fatal Attraction.
But if there’s any truth to the allegations against Arizona law student, former judicial extern, and ex-beauty queen Kumari Fulbright, and if her experience is at all representative, it won’t do wonders for your looks:
Kumari Fulbright Arizona law student beauty queen Above the Law blog.jpg
More about the alleged misadventures of the Fulbright scholar — who was indicted last month on charges of kidnapping, armed robbery, and aggravated assault, among other things — below the fold (i.e., click on the “Continue reading” link below).

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Beauty Tip: Don’t Kidnap and Torture Your Ex-Boyfriend (Especially If You Are a Former Beauty Queen)”

Britney Spears VMA girlfriend still looks good all you haters.jpgAnd now, no lawyers? From the AP:

Britney Spears’ lawyers in her custody battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline are quitting. The law firm Trope and Trope asked a court Wednesday to be relieved as Spears’ attorneys. The firm says there’s been a “breakdown” in communication with the pop princess that makes representing her “impossible,” according to the filing, obtained by CelebTV.com.

Structured finance lawyers, it’s time to put down those securitization agreements and pick up Us Weekly. Representing the embattled pop star is a growing practice area:

On a separate legal front, an attorney for Spears wants the city attorney’s office to prove that the pop star is a permanent California resident and is subject to state laws that require her to have a valid California driver’s license.

Spears faces up to a year of probation if convicted in a misdemeanor case of driving without a valid license, a charge to which she has pleaded not guilty. The case stems from a videotaped fender-bender in a parking lot in August. A hit-and-run charge has been dismissed.

Spears attorney J. Michael Flanagan earlier Wednesday requested that prosecutors be required to demonstrate that Spears, who owns homes in Louisiana and Florida, intends to make Los Angeles her permanent legal home.

Of course she does — Britney Spears is the quintessential Californian.
Now if only the judicial system would just leave… Britney… alone!!!

Spears’ Lawyers Ask to Quit Custody Case [Associated Press]

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