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

Shawn Hynes Shawn T Hynes Cleary Gottlieb Above the Law blog.jpgAs the old adage goes, “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” And there is some anecdotal evidence in support of that proposition. See, e.g., Elana Glatt / Elana Elbogen (depending upon how you view the merits of her case against her wedding florist).
Here’s another example of what can happen when Biglaw litigators represent themselves. From TaxProf Blog:

The Tax Court today decided Hynes v. Commissioner, T.C. Summ. Op. 2008-1 (1/2/08), a case involving Shawn T. Hynes, a fifth year securities litigation associate in Cleary Gottlieb’s New York City office. The taxable year at issue was 2003, when Hynes was a Penn 3L (he tranferred to Penn after completing his first year at Oregon).

More about the facts of Shawn Hynes’s case, and how he got benchslapped by the Tax Court, after the jump.

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John Hagler Judge John B Hagler Above the Law blog.jpgLast month, Judge John B. Hagler, a state court judge in Tennessee, stepped down from the bench. Here’s why, from the AP:

A Tennessee judge resigned last month after making a recording of fantasies so lurid that when the tape fell into the hands of the police and FBI, they thought they were listening to a torture session and believed it might be linked to a murder case.

Police have cleared the judge in the murder case. But a hearing started yesterday over whether they must release the tape.
So, pray tell, what exactly is this tape about?

“It sounded like someone being tortured,” Chattanooga police Sgt. Alan Franks testified Wednesday, offering the first details of what is on the tape.

Franks said the recording was investigated in relation to a still-unsolved 1997 murder. He gave no other details on the murder case.

“The content was so shocking. I have been a police officer for 24 years,” Franks said before his testimony was cut off by an objection.

Well! What does Judge Hagler have to say for himself?

Hagler said that he had done nothing wrong but that the recording had caused great embarrassment to friends, family and the courts. Hagler, who is 65 and married, has been a circuit judge in Cleveland, Tenn., since 1990 and served three terms as president of the Tennessee Trial Judges Association.

“The description of it as containing ‘graphic fantasies’ … is an accurate and sufficient description and all any decent person would want to hear of it,” the judge said in a statement.

Should we be troubled by the trend of excessively scrutinizing the unorthodox sexual practices of judges? See also Judge Herman Thomas, aka the Spanking Judge, who resigned a few months ago.
Aren’t judges entitled to be a little kinky too? If judges have to worry about their personal lives being placed under the microscope, will the state and federal benches lose out on potentially talented jurists, who just happen to have a little sumthin sumthin going on under those robes?
Update: More coverage, from the ABA Journal.
Tenn. judge resigns over fantasies tape [Associated Press]
Ex-Judge Fights Release of Lurid Audiotape [ABA Journal]

In a matter of hours, voting will end in the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 contest. ATL is competing in the Gossip category. If you’d like to vote for us, or one of the other fine gossip blogs in the category, just click here.
We have a decent-sized lead, so we’re not going for the hard sell. In contrast, over in the Generally Speaking category, a fierce battle is raging between Overlawyered and Quizlaw — separated by about 30 votes, out of over 3,000 cast. Check out their respective plugs here and here, replete with “last-second dirty tricks.” Because no legal blog contest is complete without eleventh-hour chicanery — the stakes are too darn high.
As one blog contest draws to a close, another gets underway. Nominations are now being accepted for the Eighth Annual Weblog Awards (aka the 2008 Bloggies). There’s no “law” category (and, as of this year, no “Best African or Middle Eastern Weblog” or “Best Craft Weblog” category — may they rest in peace). But if you’re feeling nice, feel free to nominate ATL for either “Best Gossip Blog” or “Best Topical Blog.”
And here is yet another blog contest (because you can never have too many blog contests). It takes the form of today’s featured job survey, brought to you by ATL and Lateral Link:
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.
The ABA Journal Blawg 100 [ABA Journal]
The ABA Journal Blawg 100: Gossip [ABA Journal]
Eighth Annual Weblog Awards: 2008 Bloggies [official website]


Greenberg Traurig logo Above the Law blog.gifFrom the year-end message of Cesar L. Alvarez, CEO of Greenberg Traurig (one of our favorite firms here at ATL — see, e.g., here, here and here):

I had a few thoughts for 2007 and 2008 that I would like to share as my year-end message.

First, 2007. As of today, Sunday, December 30, 2007, we have collected $313.5 million during our collection drive and expect to collect approximately $16.5 million on Monday, the 31st, to reach $330 million for our December collection drive. Although we expect to be short by $10 million of our goal, this is still a great accomplishment when you consider the housing situation, the subprime issues and the dislocation of the credit markets that prevented a number of deals from being completed this year.

Read the rest of Cesar Alvarez’s message — in which he spreads holiday cheer doom and gloom, jawboning down associate compensation expectations — after the jump.

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associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgSince our last compilation of bonus news, which was issued before the holiday, we’ve received some new announcements. Some of them have been mentioned already in the comments, but have not yet appeared on the main page.
But we have verified them, and they are legit. So, for the record, here they are:
1. Dechert (New York): Memo after the jump. The email to New York associates was forwarded to Philadelphia associates, “[i]n the spirit of working on improving communications across the firm.” (Read: “So you don’t find out about it from one of those darn blogs first.”)
2. Mayer Brown (Chicago, Palo Alto, Washington, DC): Memo after the jump. In a nutshell, the bonuses “will be consistent with the amounts paid for 2006 work. In addition, a further discretionary bonus may be awarded to associates who have made contributions to the Firm significantly beyond expectations.”
3. Morrison & Foerster (New York): Memo after the jump. Market-level year-end and special bonuses “will be paid to all New York associates who progress with their salary class based on their annual evaluation and who are in good standing and employed with the Firm when the bonuses are paid.”

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clock.gifOver the break, a reader sent us this article, accompanied by a quip: “Looks like BigLaw is funding some new research.”
Our first reaction: A brain chemical you snort to replace sleep? It’s called “cocaine.”
But today we have a second reaction: Would such research, if funded by Biglaw, be a waste of time? Law firm associates — and partners — sacrifice sleep to rack up billable hours. But is the billable hour on the way out?
Over at Slate, in a piece entitled “How to Kill the Billable Hour,” Lisa Lerer writes:

[C]riticisms [of the billable hour] lobbed by academics, associates, and bloggers have had a negligible impact. Making such a significant change takes a more powerful force in law firm life: the client. And now, finally, the companies that pay millions in hourly rates are striking back, forcing their law firms to cut some tough, nonhourly fee deals. If anyone can tame the billable beast, it’s the clients who feed it….

Cisco, Pitney Bowes, Caterpillar, and several other large corporations have begun to force their law firms into alternative billing arrangements. The companies push flat fees and volume-based discounts, and ban young associates from working on their business, hoping to avoid paying through the nose for work that could be done more cheaply by paralegals or temp lawyers. They say that by eradicating or at least limiting hourly rates, they avoid cost creep, cut their bills, and better predict their expenses.

Writes an ATL reader who works at a prominent New York law firm: “Great. Now it won’t matter that I bill 2500 hours a year.”
A little more, on the other side of the rainbow.

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Loyola 2L blog blogger comment commenter Above the Law blog.jpgThis announcement, apparently from celebrity commenter Loyola 2L, was posted earlier at the WSJ Law Blog (which recently named him their Lawyer of the Year). But in case you missed it, check it out:

—–Original Message—–
From: [Deleted]
Sent: Tuesday, January 01, 2008 12:26 AM
To: Above the Law; WSJ Law Blog
Subject: Retirement email from the poster Loyola 2L

Dear WSJ Law Blog and Above the Law,

I hope the new year treats you well. This is the blogger known as “Loyola 2L.” First off, I hope you can see why I combined you into one recipient. I know it’s rude to combine recipients, but both of your blogs have been a central part of my life for the past year and I couldn’t write one without the other.

No offense taken — we’re honored to be in such distinguished company.
Read the rest of his message, below the fold. (An ATL New Year’s resolution: Use more synonyms for “after the jump.”)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Loyola 2L Hangs Up His Keyboard?”

New Year fireworks in London Happy New Year Above the Law blog.jpgHappy New Year, dear readers of ATL! We hope that you had an enjoyable and restful holiday season; we know we did.
Now we’re back, after a pleasant holiday hiatus. Did you miss us?
We’re looking forward to another fun year of dishing legal gossip, as well as chronicling associate pay raises and partner profits (God willing). We’re still in the process of catching up on email and legal news, so please bear with us. If you have a juicy tip to share, please do email us.
Here are some of our ATL-related New Year’s resolutions:

1. Wake up earlier. (When you work from home, it’s easy to oversleep.)

2. Respond more promptly to emails that require a response.

3. Stop feeling guilty about not being able to respond to every last email (because, given the volume of email we receive around here, it’s not possible to respond individually to each and every message — for which we apologize).

We’ve shown you ours; now you show us yours. Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? If so, feel free to share them in the comments. If not, check out the interesting links below, from some of our favorite non-legal blogs, which offer guidance and reflections about the resolution-making process.
Once again, we wish you fun and prosperity in 2008!
Economics and New Year’s Resolutions [Freakonomics / NYT]
Will Your Resolutions Last Until February? [Well / NYT]
It’s January 2008. Make a happiness-project resolution now! [The Happiness Project]
Start a Happiness Project for 2008! [The Happiness Project]
Earlier: Happy Holidays from ATL!

To read ATL posts from December 2007, please click here. Thanks.

We hope that you’re having a wonderful holiday season and are getting some well-deserved rest — as are we.
As was the case last year, we’ll be on a reduced publication schedule between now and the new year. We’ll return to a normal schedule on Wednesday, January 2, 2008.
To those of you who celebrate it, Merry Christmas! And a happy new year to all.
Rockefeller Center Christmas tree small.jpg

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