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

Our latest legal celebrity sighting: Justice Antonin Scalia, spotted at Georgetown University Law Center. He is believed to have been at GULC to speak to a con law class.
Of the current justices on the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia clearly inspires the greatest amount of fanatical devotion. How many other justices have their own fansite?
(Okay, Justice Thomas has one too. And with his new, bestselling memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, he’s definitely building a fan base. But we still think that Justice Scalia has the most groupies of any member of the SCOTUS.)
And how many other justices are asked to sign students’ laptop computers? This student, who had his laptop autographed by AS, was proudly displaying his computer to his classmates, saying that he felt Scalia had “blessed” his laptop for the upcoming exams.
autograph laptop Justice Antonin Scalia Above the Law blog.jpg
With such a large and devoted following, we have a feeling that Justice Scalia’s forthcoming book — Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, a guide to persuasive legal writing and oral advocacy, which he’s writing together with legendary legal writing teacher Bryan Garner — will sell pretty well too.
Scalia to Join Supreme Court Book Club [Legal Times]

Richard Scruggs 2 Dick Scruggs Dickie Scruggs Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgYesterday the FBI executed a search warrant on the Scruggs Law Firm in Oxford, Mississippi — the shop of high-flying plaintiffs’ lawyer Dickie Scruggs. It wasn’t immediately clear what investigation the search was related to. Here’s some commentary on the situation that we enjoyed, from David Rossmiller (in brackets, following excerpt from news article):

“This is a surprise to everybody connected to the Scruggs Firm,” [lawyer Joey] Langston said, “but I’ve got to tell you people who are very high profile and very successful have to contend with unpleasantries and this is unpleasant, but we’ll contend with it.”

[I like the touch of noblesse oblige here -- as if the FBI descending on one's place of business is the same as, say, getting heckled by drunken lumpenproletariat while showing up in top hat and tails to receive an award for charitable giving.]

suitcase briefcase cash money Above the Law blog.jpgNow we have a better idea of what the office search was probably about. From the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger:

Multimillionaire trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs has been indicted on charges of conspiring to bribe a judge in the case involving $26.5-million in attorney fees involving Katrina claims….

According to the indictment, Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey cooperated with the FBI in the investigation after reporting a bribery overture to authorities.

According to the indictment, Scruggs and others tried to influence Lackey by giving him $40,000 in cash to resolve the attorney fees’ dispute in favor of Scruggs’ law firm. Some of the conversations between Balducci and Lackey were captured on tape.

An interesting observation, from the WSJ Law Blog:

Down in Mississippi, there has been speculation of a connection between the FBI search warrant and this week’s surprise resignation of Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), Scruggs’s brother-in-law. Lott’s office told the Sun Herald the two events were but a mere coincidence.

Because, you know, it’s so much better to have people think you stepped down because of a gay sex scandal, as opposed to your brother-in-law’s indictment.
(For the record, the rumors about Sen. Lott and the gay sex scandal appear to be unfounded. See HuffPo and Wonkette — two sites that would, of course, love for the rumors to be true.)
Scruggs arrested on bribery charges [Clarion-Ledger]
More on FBI search of Scruggs’ law offices [Insurance Coverage Law Blog]
Dickie Scruggs Indicted On Federal Bribery Charges [WSJ Law Blog]

More Partner Income Greedy Partners Above the Law blog.jpg* Hey look! Biglaw partners have an ATL of their own, and it’s called, appropriately enough, More Partner Income.
Here’s a post about how to get associates to enter their hours in timely fashion — so partners can get themselves PAID, w00t. Helpful hint: Offer them CANDY! [MorePartnerIncome.com]
* “JD, No Job, Debt – What An Opportunity!” Here’s some advice about how to deal with your predicament. [Law and More]
* Boalt Hall — er, Berkeley Law — students discuss whether post-1L grades matter. For the record, Yale does have grades, and its system is pretty similar to Berkeley’s (except without “High Honors”). [Nuts & Boalts]
* Speaking of Yale Law School, Professor Ian Ayres — our small group professor, and a great teacher — has come up with a brilliant way to get people to lose weight. If you overindulged over Thanksgiving, you should check it out. [New York Sun]

Nancy Cohen Nancy Sher Cohen diva Heller Ehrman Above the Law blog.jpgSome of our prior coverage of Heller Ehrman has been a bit gloomy. We take it all back. Now that the firm’s Los Angeles office is under a magnificent new leader — Nancy Sher Cohen, whom we have previously praised in these pages — we see nothing but good things ahead.
Legal Pad conducts a very interesting interview with Nancy Cohen. Here’s an excerpt:

Legal Pad: How do you feel about “Above the Law” blog calling you “divalicious”?

Cohen: I found out about it from several associate who came to show it to me. Isn’t that funny? I just looked at it and howled. There is a lesson there. You just never know who is going to be writing about you, thinking about you, making comments about you. It’s a reminder that you should always do your best and always be sensitive and nice, civil.

We’re confused. Does Ms. Cohen think that we were speaking negatively of her? To the contrary, we had only good things to say. From our prior post:

When we were in private practice, our experiences with Heller Ehrman were quite positive. We attended several depositions defended by the diva-licious Nancy Sher Cohen, who protected her witnesses like a lioness protecting her cubs. We were most impressed by this badass litigatrix (who is also a community activist and cancer survivor; see this profile).

As for the “diva-licious” quip, let the record reflect that the term “diva” is ATL’s highest form of praise. Longtime readers are well aware of our obsession with strong-willed women — especially women who have managed to achieve tremendous success in a traditionally male-dominated field like law.
This is why we are such fans of Senatrix Hillary Clinton, who is a tough, smart, fearless leader. We have no clue why some of you seem to think we don’t like her. We think Senator Clinton is fabulous.
Why do you think we’ve snapped up so many domain names related to her? Visit HillaryClintonIsMyGirl.com, HillaryIsMyGirl.com, Hillarylicious.com, HillaryIsSexy.com, HillarySexy.com, or HillarySex.com. Where do you get redirected to?
‘Badass Diva’ Ready to Run Heller in L.A. [Legal Pad /CalLaw]
Earlier: Going to Heller in a Handbasket? (Part 2)

Headhunter from Hell Above the Law blog.jpgEd. note: We have nothing against headhunters or legal recruiters. To the contrary, we’re generally big fans of them — especially the ones who advertise on ATL, making this website possible.
But it can’t be denied that some of them can be real pains in the a**. If you have a headhunter horror story to share, feel free to submit it by email (subject line: “Headhunter Horror Story”).
We’ll kick off the series with this fantastic story, which a reader just submitted. It’s long, but worth it — highly entertaining, suspenseful, and written with real panache. Enjoy!
********************
Sure, we’ve all had annoying recruiters call. Many of us have decided to accept a free lunch from these yahoos from time to time to garner some legal gossip. I was not such a person until yesterday, and it turned out to be an utter disaster.
Part 1: The romancing.
A recruiter, let’s call him Bob, has been calling me for over a year. I have blown him off 1000 times and told him I am happy at my mid-sized firm. My salary and bonus structure is good, and as a third-year lawyer, I’m really practicing law. (I’ve never even summarized a deposition.)
One day, we had plans to go to lunch at a nearby seafood restaurant, but I canceled at the last minute. Still, he calls every few weeks about some new position at some major firm looking for a person exactly like me (which is doubtful, considering my less than stellar law school grades).
Part 2: The lunch invitation.
Bob calls me Monday and says that Jones Day is interested in seeing my resume. Again, he tells me what amazing experience I have, blah blah, and asks me to give him my resume. He also says he still wants to take me to lunch. I say, “Let’s go tomorrow.” He says ok and that he will call me Tuesday morning to finalize plans.
Part 3. The planning.
First thing Tuesday morning, Bob calls and asks me where I’d like to go. I say that I have no idea, he presses me to choose, and I say, “Well, let’s redo our old plans and go to [the seafood restaurant]. I’ve never been there, so I don’t know if it’s good.” He says, “It’s…ok, that’s good. Let’s go there. I wouldn’t want to take you to Jason’s Deli or anything, and there’s not much more over there. Let’s meet at noon.”
Part 4. The falling apart.
At 11:30, Bob leaves a voice mail that he needs to move our lunch to 12:30. At about 12, he calls again to ask if I got the message. He then says, “I wish I could say that some big negotiation came up, but the truth is, I forgot my ATM pin number and it locked me out from getting cash after I tried three different numbers. So I’ll have to use credit for our lunch. But I’ll see you at 12:30.” He then describes what he’ll be wearing.
Read the rest, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Headhunter Horror Stories: The Lunch from Hell”

Thacher Proffitt Wood LLP Above the Law blog.jpgIn the world of Biglaw, bad news and good news go hand in hand these days. Recall that Clifford Chance announced associate layoffs and generous bonuses in the same week.
And now Thacher Proffitt & Wood, on the heels of yesterday’s news about likely future layoffs, is raising base salaries for its senior associates. We haven’t seen the full memo yet, but here’s an excerpt:

“It has long been a primary principle of our attorney compensation philosophy in New York and Washington DC to have our base salaries and annual discretionary bonuses be competitive with the top firms in New York City. In that regard, we are announcing the following changes to associate compensation…”

Our sources describe it as basically a match for the class of 2002 and more senior: 2002 – $250,000, 2001 – $265,000, 2000 – $280,000, and 1999 – $290,000.
Update (2:55 PM): We now have the memo. It appears — together with additional discussion, including a word about bonuses — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: Thacher Proffitt???”

Alex Kozinski Alex S Kozinski Judge Above the Law hot hottie superhottie federal judiciary.jpgThis Friday, at the Ninth Circuit courthouse in San Francisco, a ceremonial “passing of the gavel” will be held. The court’s outgoing chief judge, Mary M. Schroeder, will hand over the gavel to her successor, Alex Kozinski. Details about the ceremony appear in this press release (PDF).
From How Appealing (additional links collected below):

Judge Kozinski was able to sneak some humor into the news release:

“The chief judge of the circuit assumes the position based on seniority. The chief judge is the judge in regular active service who is senior in commission of those judges who are (1) 64 years of age or under; (2) have served for one year or more as a circuit judge; and (3) have not served previously as chief judge. Judge Kozinski also believes that looks count, though he can provide no support for that proposition.

That last sentence, we’re guessing, is a nod to Judge Kozinski’s victory in our Superhotties of the Federal Judiciary contest. With such a robust sense of humor, is it any surprise that Judge Kozinski has his own Facebook fan club?
The Ninth Circuit’s press release states that “still and video cameras will be permitted” at the gavel passing ceremony, which is taking place on Friday, November 30, at 4 p.m., in Courtroom One of the James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse. If an ATL reader (or readers) would be willing to take pictures or videos and send them our way, we’d be most grateful. Thanks!
Ninth Circuit Attempts to Prepare Itself for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski [How Appealing]
‘Hottie’ Judge Kozinski Continues Joke in Press Release [ABA Journal]
Apochiefosis [Volokh Conspiracy]
Gavel Passing to Mark Changing of the Guard for Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (PDF) [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit]

Eric Krautheimer 2 Eric M Krautheimer Aaron Charney Sullivan & Cromwell Above the Law blog.jpgBefore Thanksgiving, we put up an open thread devoted to discussion of the California bar exam. We’re surprised that nobody mentioned this interesting tidbit of news (which we learned about from a tipster via email):

High-powered Sullivan & Cromwell partner Eric Krautheimer, the alleged tormentor of gay associate Aaron Charney, took and passed the July 2007 California bar exam.

Congratulations, Mr. Krautheimer!
Back in April, at the height of the Aaron Charney controversy, it was rumored that Krautheimer was going to be transferred to S&C’s Los Angeles office. Some speculated that it was to remove him from the New York office, where Brokeback Lawfirm all went down. But if Krautheimer’s move to the West Coast is still going forward, despite the settlement of the Charney lawsuit, we’re guessing Krautheimer has his own personal reasons for wanting to move to L.A.
On our earlier post about the move rumors, a commenter called S&C LA wrote: “No truth to this at all. Sorry, this rumor is just that and nothing more.” Presumably this commenter thinks that Eric Krautheimer — a leading M&A lawyer, and a partner making millions of dollars a year, at one of the nation’s top corporate law firms — took California’s three-day bar exam just for fun.
It must have been strange for a veteran lawyer, almost 15 years out of law school, to be taking the bar next to newly minted law school graduates — including 18-year-old Kathleen Holtz. But then again, former Stanford Law School dean Kathleen Sullivan did it — twice.
On the S&C website, Eric Krautheimer is still listed as based in New York. But expect to see him in L.A. sometime soon, now that he’s a member of the California bar.
P.S. On the S&C website, the link to Eric Krautheimer’s bio was moved from here to here. Was the firm trying to render all of ATL’s links to his bio obsolete? If so, nice try — but nothing that a site-wide “Find and Replace” can’t fix.
July 2007 California Bar Examination Pass List [State Bar of California]
Earlier: Brokeback Lawfirm: Is Eric Krautheimer Headed for Hollywood?

Adolf Hitler paralegal Above the Law blog.jpgA legal staffing agency put up an advertisement soliciting applications for a temporary paralegal position. Cover letters and résumés started rolling in. Like this one:

Hello there,

I am not a paralegal. But, I type 85 WPM and used to be [an] executive assistant and have multiple skillsets, easy to train, that honestly set me $1000 over the salary of a degreed political science bachelors degreed [sic] person. Sadly, she was aggressive and began reading Hitler’s methods and worked her way to stop my success with her deception.

The compliance lawyer finally figured out what she was doing and wound up getting rid of her. She now works in buying and selling electrical components somewhere.

So, I have no way to measure her value or mine within this paralegal field. I’ll let you be the judge.

A cover letter referencing Hitler? + 10 points. We don’t know what “Hitler’s methods” consist of, but then again, we never read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Nazis.
Read the rest of this long, strange, rambling cover letter — does the applicant need a paralegal gig, or a therapist? — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How Not To Respond to an Ad for Temporary Paralegal Assistance”

spanking Stephen Douglas Columbia Above the Law blog.jpgCall us old-fashioned, barbaric, or unenlightened — but this strikes us as a bit ridiculous. From ABC News:

Massachusetts lawmakers say a proposed measure that would ban parents from spanking their children, even in their own homes, is a way to protect kids from abuse. But many parents believe it’s an example of government run amok.

In all 50 states, parents are legally allowed to spank their children. But in 29 states it’s illegal for a teacher to practice corporal punishment, including spanking.

A Massachusetts nurse is hoping to change that and make the state the first in the nation to ban corporal punishment at home.

“I think it’s ironic that domestic violence applies to everyone except the most vulnerable — children,” said Kathleen Wolf, who wrote the bill.

Massachusetts lawmakers will consider the bill today.

Ah, the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. If Willie Horton had gotten spanked more as a kid, maybe he wouldn’t have turned to a life of crime.
More discussion, plus the obligatory reader poll — yes, we really do care what you think! — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child; Use the Rod, Break the Law?”

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