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

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Lawyer of the Year: Nominations, Please”

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!

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Featured Job Survey: How Much Is Your Time Worth?”

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.

Will Baude Yale Law School clerk Chief Justice John Roberts Above the Law blog.jpgToday’s Morning Docket links to this fascinating article by one of our favorite Supreme Court correspondents, Tony Mauro. Mauro writes:

Among prominent federal appeals court judges in the 1990s, Barack Obama was known as “the one who got away.”

In 1990, Obama had been elected the first African-American president of Harvard Law Review, which made him a blazingly hot prospect as a law clerk for one of the top federal appeals judges, who in turn would almost certainly send him on to the Supreme Court as a clerk.

But with a remarkable certitude that still amazes his friends and elders, Obama said no to all that…

But the three individuals listed below didn’t “get away”; they have not escaped the justices’ clutches. They’ve all been hired to clerk for Chief Justice John G. Roberts in October Term 2008 (who is, by the way, now done hiring for next Term — sorry, aspiring JGR clerks):

1. William Baude (Yale 2007 / McConnell)
2. Jeffrey Harris (Harvard 2006 / Sentelle / Silberman)
3. Erin Murphy (Georgetown 2006 / Sykes)

Will Baude (pictured) is a fellow blogger, founder of Crescat Sententia (where he once interviewed us). Jeff Harris is currently finishing up the second of two D.C. Circuit clerkships (because, you know, doing just one wasn’t prestigious enough). Erin Murphy is currently a Bristow Fellow. She was, incidentally, hired by then-Judge Samuel Alito to clerk for him on the Third Circuit — so she has actually been hired by two justices (even though she never clerked for SAA due to his intervening elevation).
Also, note the feeding by Judges Michael McConnell (10th Cir.) and superhottie Diane Sykes (7th Cir.). They’re both highly-regarded judges who are reputed to be great to work for. Expect to see them feed more in the future (especially Judge McConnell, a former SCOTUS clerk himself — having once been a SCOTUS clerk is highly correlated with feeding your own clerks).
The current tally of OT 2008 SCOTUS clerks, with the three new Roberts clerks added, appears after the jump.
The Man That Got Away [Legal Times]

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: The Chief’s All Done, Too”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgMaybe you can tell us. We heard that the associates’ meeting for O’Melveny & Myers’s New York office was muddled, with no clear answer or bright-line rules about the firm’s bonus policy. What we have gathered, however, is that the firm did not do a “true match” of year-end and special bonuses. Associates will be eligible for a special bonus based on their evaluations and their hours, but we’re not sure of the cutoffs for each.
Based on the bits and pieces that we’ve heard from secondhand sources, this comment seems to be basically accurate:

The “market” bonus will be determined in the usual fashion, basically a combination of your review and hours (including pro bono). There is no bright line on hours for this bonus.

The “special” bonus will be given to associates who get at least an average review (meeting expectations) and who hit a minimum billable hour requirement (also including pro bono). This number has not been finalized but will be no more than 1950. The billable hour requirement may change a little for different class years.

If you work at OMM and can provide us with a more definitive account or more details, please drop us a line. Thanks.

In yesterday’s Featured Job Survey, brought to you by ATL and Lateral Link, we asked you whether your firms had enough work to go around. The two questions posed were (1) whether business is slow for you and (2) whether you’re afraid of losing your job.
Almost 1,300 of you responded to the survey (which is, by the way, a number 100 times greater than the handful of cantankerous commenters who objected). Here are the overall results:
Survey 12-11-07 Overall Results - Are You Afraid Of Losing Your Job.JPG
Survey 12-11-07 Overall Results - Is Work Slow.JPG
More detailed results, broken down by a number of categories, appear after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Featured Job Survey Results: Got Work?”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgJust in time for its holiday party, which is taking place tonight, the New York office of Arnold & Porter has announced bonuses. It appears to be following the example of other non-New York firms — e.g., Covington & Burling, WilmerHale, and Sidley Austin — and paying its New York associates better than their non-NYC counterparts.
Full memo after the jump. Some brief observations, from a tipster:

A word of explanation: bonus structure is very different between the D.C. office (which I believe has a tiered formula), and New York, which has in the past had a flat 1950 hours requirement, with some other types of hours counting toward that 1950. Note the tying of special bonus to 2000 client billables (this is going to cut out some, don’t know how many).

There is also confusion in the ranks about whether the special-bonus-tied-to-2000-billables thing includes pro bono hours. On my reading, it doesn’t.

Note also the VERY weird “firm citizenship” requirement. Timely billing!? Oh noes!

You can read the memo for yourself, after the jump.

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