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

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry Chief Justice Loyola 2L Lawyer of the Year Above the Law blog.jpgLast week, the ABA Journal named former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales its 2007 Lawyer Legal Newsmaker of the Year. Now we bring you news of two more Lawyers of the Year.
The National Law Journal went highbrow and international. The NLJ selected Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, as its Lawyer of the Year:

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is not exactly a household name to the legal profession in the United States. We think he should be.

Chaudhry, the chief justice of Pakistan who was dismissed from office by President Pervez Musharraf after the imposition of emergency rule, has been a strong voice for the preservation of the rule of law in Pakistan — one of the United States’ key allies in the war on terror.

Meanwhile, the WSJ Law Blog stayed domestic. Their honoree may be, for better or worse, more well-known that former Chief Justice Chaudhry (at least to readers of ATL). Their pick: celebrity commenter Loyola 2L!

[W]hen the nominees were put to an unscientific vote, Loyola 2L won in a landslide…. And before you start whining, “But he’s not even a lawyer!,” we never said we were strict constructionists!

So who — or what — is Loyola 2L? For the non-cognoscenti, he, or she, is purportedly a second-year student, or “2L,” at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. And his claim to fame? For over a year, Loyola 2L has beaten a loud and consistent drum of discontent around the Web by posting in online forums about the job prospects for graduates of nonelite law schools.

If you’re hoping that this honor will bring Loyola 2L to unmask himself (or herself), don’t hold your breath:

[W]hile he’s presumably a “3L” by now, he still clings to the moniker. And anonymity. In responding to a call to identify himself he said, “Outing myself . . . would only add to the current difficulties in my life.”

For today, L2L, put the complaining on hold, and bask in the limelight. You’ve earned it!
P.S. Thanks for all of your nominations for ATL’s own Lawyer of the Year contest. We’ll put up the poll shortly.
The Lawyer of the Year: Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry [National Law Journal]
The Law Blog Lawyer Of the Year: Loyola 2L [WSJ Law Blog]
Earlier: ATL Lawyer of the Year: Nominations, Please

Okay, she didn’t quite say that. But, for the record, the woman accused of groping Santa Clause denies the allegations, claiming that she never ever sat on his lap:

“I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if he was confused, it was a false report,” Sandrama Lamy, 33, said this morning.

Lamy said she was window shopping at the mall Saturday with a friend when she decided to get a picture with a man playing Santa Claus.

A woman — apparently working with the mall Santa — made a comment after the picture was snapped, Lamy said.

groping grope molest molesting Santa Clause Above the Law blog.jpg“I did not sit on his lap. A woman there said ‘Be careful, that’s my husband.’ I said ‘What does that have to do with the picture?’” Lamy said. “That’s all I said, and I left.”…

“Why would I do this? There were so many people there. If he (Santa) needed a few extra bucks I would have given it to him,” Lamy said. “I’ve never been involved in a crime or anything. This is shocking to me.”

Selected amusing comments from readers of the Danbury News-Times, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Accused Groper to Santa Claus: You Wish”

coolie cart puller Above the Law blog.jpgEvery now and then, we like to highlight super-crappy especially unappealing job opportunities. See, e.g., this one (perfect for those of you who think sleep is overrated).
A reader at the University of Texas Law School recently sent a great job posting our way. A teaser:

Where to begin? First, what the heck is “Associate Attorney II”? Second, workday commences at 8 AM, and work week is 50-60 hours, Monday through Friday (not including possible weekend and holiday work). Third, anyone who cannot sit for two hours, or requires use of any ADA accommodations, need not apply. Fourth, everything is at the partners’ discretion. Oh, and just in case you thought otherwise, “[t]his description is for recruitment purposes, only, and does not constitute a contract.”

We noticed a few other less-than-appealing aspects of the job:

1. Pay is $4K a month. (This is a lawyer’s job, right? At a law firm?)

2. The job requires a current Texas driver’s license and “the ability to drive long distances unaccompanied during daylight and nighttime hours.”

3. One of the practice areas is “water / wastewater / solid waste” law.

4. The job requires the ability to “carry[] loads of up to 35 pounds (such as books, binders, and files).” (To repeat: this is a lawyer’s job, right?)

5. Yes, there are bonuses — for associates who “produc[e] stellar work product and exceed[] billable hour goals,” and “at the discretion of the partners.”

Well, at least they’re honest. No pretending to match the Cravath bonus scale, while in reality giving market-level bonuses to only a handful of associates.
Read the full job listing, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Definitely Not the Job of the Week”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgO’Melveny & Myers just announced associate bonuses for its offices in California and Washington, DC. One of the tipsters who sent us the memo is not pleased:

Attached is the memo that O’Melveny & Myers associates just received. The figures for the “class bonus” appear to be far below the standard bonus at other comparable firms such as Gibson Dunn.

Memo after the jump.
Update: Based on the reactions thus far, this announcement is not going over very well. But maybe OMM is okay with that. Opines one commenter: “Expect a big exodus. It’s probably what they are hoping for.”

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: O’Melveny & Myers (CA and DC)”

Grafton Minot Biddle Judge Grafton Biddle Above the Law blog.jpgColorado judge Grafton M. Biddle has been the subject of a prior ATL shout-out. But he has never been officially named a Judge of the Day. We think it’s about time.
From the Rocky Mountain News:

A former Douglas County judge who had an affair with a prosecutor that included a rendezvous in his chambers and in the women’s courthouse showers was suspended for three years Monday.

Grafton M. Biddle’s punishment comes almost a year after he resigned his judgeship in a short Dec. 18 letter signed simply, “With regrets,” that gave no reason for his decision.

But by then, rumors of his affair with Deputy District Attorney Laurie A. Hurst — who used the last name Steinman at the time — had been circulating in the courthouse.

From one of the paper’s online commenters:

“Just another black mark on the Colorado Judicial System…… Would this be prostitution??? You know, lawyers have billable hours for everything they do… Screw the judge or screw the neighbors… Someone is paying the price for getting screwed, and an attorney is involved.”

If you use the Douglas County courthouse showers, wear flip-flops.
Judge suspended over affair [Rocky Mountain News]
Earlier: Let’s Get It On, Counselor!

groping grope molest molesting Santa Clause Above the Law blog.jpgWhat kind of sick society do we live in? From the Danbury News-Times (via Drudge):

A 33-year-old woman was charged with fourth-degree sexual assault Saturday after allegedly groping a man playing Santa Claus at the Danbury Fair mall.

Sandrama Lamy, 33, of Danbury, is charged with fourth-degree sexual assault, according to Danbury Detective Lt. Thomas Michael.

She sounds like a total…. ho ho ho.

Details leading up to the alleged fondling are sketchy. “I don’t know what the deal was. It was just bizarre,” the mall Santa told a reporter…

The mall Santa told police that Lamy touched him inappropriately while sitting on his lap. “The security officer at the mall said Santa Claus has been sexually assaulted,” Michael said.

Put Ms. Lamy on the “naughty” side of the ledger.

2007 has not been a great year for mall Santas. Earlier this month in Missoula, Mont., a mall Santa was assaulted with a pumpkin pie. Meanwhile, a department store Santa in Australia claims he lost his job earlier this month because he said “Ho, ho, ho.” (His bosses had asked him to say “Hi, hi, hi.”)

“Santa Tim” Connaghan is the president of RealSantas.com and teaches hundreds of people a year how to be Santas. He said the Danbury Fair mall incident, if true, is one of kind. Santas usually have to worry about kids tugging beards and teens throwing pennies from the mall rafters.

“I’ve had some very nice ladies sit on my lap,” Connaghan said.

Over at the Connecticut Employment Law Blog, Daniel Schwartz offers an analysis of potential employer liability under this fact pattern.
Sexual Harassment of Santa Claus – What’s An Employer To Do? [Connecticut Employment Law Blog]
Police say woman groped Santa [Danbury News-Times]

So far, we’ve received about 1,000 responses to yesterday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on bonuses.
So far, we’ve discovered that around 40% of associates receiving bonuses think their bonus is too low, which is just slightly higher than the percentage of associates who think their hourly rates are too high. Coincidence?
Are you satisfied.jpg
Since over a third of you still don’t know what your bonuses will be, we’re going to leave the survey open for the rest of the week. Please fill it out if you haven’t already done so. To access it, click here.
In the meantime, we’re going to post the national results and breakdowns on a city by city basis. Since we have the most responses from New York, that’s where we’ll start. See the results after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Featured Job Survey Results: Bonuses”

Joseph Collins Joseph P Collins Mayer Brown Rowe Maw Above the Law blog.jpgMany of our Lawyers of the Day tend to be solo or small-firm practitioners from non-major cities. Not so with today’s honoree, Joseph Collins. He’s a partner at Mayer Brown, one of the country’s biggest and most prestigious law firms, and he maintains offices in Chicago and New York.
From an article by Nathan Koppel in the Wall Street Journal (subscription; but also covered at the Law Blog):

In a rare case of a lawyer being charged in connection with the alleged wrongs of a client, Chicago lawyer Joseph Collins was indicted today on fraud and other charges in connection with the 2005 collapse of commodities and derivatives firm Refco Inc.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Tuesday announced 11 counts against Mr. Collins, of the law firm Mayer Brown LLP, in connection with legal work he did for Refco, including documenting a series of “round trip loans” between related entities and outside investors that Refco completed to shift bad debt off its books from the late 1990s to 2005. The discovery of the transactions led to one of the swiftest collapses in Wall Street history.

Phillip Bennett, the former chief executive of Refco, and others have been indicted in connection with the Refco collapse.

“Acting hand-in-hand with Bennett, Collins made affirmative misrepresentations, material omissions, and told deceptive half-truths, all to assist Bennett’s scheme to steal more than $2.4 billion from potential investors,” the indictment said.

Yikes. And the indictment is coming out of the S.D.N.Y. — those guys are badass.
Neither Mr. Collins nor the firm got back to the WSJ in time to comment. But we were able to get a statement from Mayer Brown. Check it out, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day: Joseph Collins”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgWe’ve heard complaints from numerous associates claiming that their law firms are using vague bonus policies to lowball them on bonuses. While we understand why these associates are upset, we can’t say we’re surprised. The whole point of a bonus policy that contains an element of discretion is the ability to pay some associates less than others — for whatever reason, justified or not.
This is why we regard only a lockstep, non-hours-based match of the Cravath year-end and special bonuses as a “true match.” If a firm reserves the right to tailor associate bonuses — based on billable hours, quality of performance, or any other factor — expect the firm to exercise it.
So we don’t expect to write much about how firms are using slippery bonus memos to pay low bonuses (although we will bring you the results of yesterday’s bonus survey). The intricacies of an individual law firm’s bonus policy tend to be of interest only to people at that particular firm.
We are, however, interested in bright-line distinctions. For example, what firms have rejected special bonuses entirely? It turns out there are a few of them. Last week we received this info:

DLA Piper litigation associates in New York just left a “Coffee Meeting” with Joe Finnerty III, head of New York litigation. He “unofficially” announced that the bonus structure and amount will be exactly the same as last year and that there will be no market “special bonuses.”

Hmm. Did the firm not get paid enough for the Mitchell Report?
And today we received this info:

I’m an associate at McDermott, Will & Emery in the Boston office. We have all just heard through department heads that not only will the firm not issue special bonuses this year, but bonuses this year will be less than half of years past and well well below market.

For example, a 6th year associate (class of 2001) billing between 2000 and 2100 hours will get approximately $5,000. eedless to say, this is less than a first-year associate gets for simply showing up at any other firm. There is not a large or probably even a midsize firm in Boston whose bonuses are anywhere near this low.

We’re guessing that DLA Piper and McDermott, Will & Emery are not alone in nixing special bonuses. Many of the firms that have remained mum until now probably have no plans of paying special bonuses, a la Cravath.
And to be perfectly (and brutally) honest, does it make sense for firms with profits per partner that are a fraction of Cravath’s to pay bonuses at Cravath levels? Of course associates want bigger bonuses. But they also want jobs.
Nevertheless, we have no doubt that many of you are unhappy about your firm’s bonus policy. Feel free to engage in bonus bitchery in the comments. Thanks.

Ave Maria School of Law Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgWe thought the whole point of Ave Maria Law School, founded by Domino’s pizza founder Thomas Monaghan, was that with enough money, you can do whatever you want. E.g., establish a very conservative, Catholic law school, and not care if the liberal legal academy raises its eyebrows — ’cause you could buy and sell them, several times over.
So doesn’t it defeat the whole point if Ave Maria requires funding from sources beyond Monaghan’s pile of pizza dough? From Julie Kay’s article in the National Law Journal:

Got $20 million? If so, you could have a law school building named after you.

Ave Maria School of Law is selling naming rights to the new law school facility it’s building in southwest Florida.

“We’d like to find someone who would want the opportunity to have their name associated with the school, to help us with the construction costs,” said Dean Bernard Dobranski. He said the school is rapidly moving forward with its controversial plan to relocate from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Ave Maria, Fla., and has even obtained architectural renderings of the new school.

Ave Maria is already in turmoil: controversy over its move from Michigan to Florida, lawsuits filed by three professors who claim they were wrongfully terminated, an ongoing investigation by the American Bar Association. A suggestion that Tom Monaghan’s coffers are not infinite could not come at a worse time.
Meanwhile, in other Domino’s news, they’re trying to return to the glory days of their 30-minute delivery guarantee — without getting sued. Delivering delicious pizza in under half an hour is a noble mission. We wish them the best of luck.
P.S. Tom Monaghan no longer owns the pizza chain. He sold his controlling interest to Bain Capital in 1998 for about a billion dollars, which he plowed into launching Ave Maria University.
Ave Maria still looks to move, puts name on block [National Law Journal]
Domino’s Pizza and the Law [WSJ Law Blog]
Will a Twist on an Old Vow Deliver for Domino’s Pizza? [Wall Street Journal]

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