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

Joseph Russoniello Joe Russoniello Cooley Godward Kronish Abovethelaw Above the Law online legal tabloid.jpgVeteran litigator Joseph Russoniello, recently nominated to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, previously served as senior counsel in the San Francisco office of Cooley Godward Kronish. If he’s confirmed, which is looking likely, one would expect him to take a big pay cut as he moves from private practice to government service. The current Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, earned $1,993,367 over 21 months while at Patterson Belknap; now, as AG, he takes home $186,600 a year.
But Joe Russoniello won’t be taking such a huge pay cut. A reader observes:

Buried at the end of a Recorder article (subscription) about a DOJ report about Joe Russoniello’s possible conflicts or interest due to his $1.5 million stock portfolio is Joe’s last year’s compensation from Cooley Godward. This is the part that I found interesting. Why? Because it’s so low.

What do you think Cooley Godward was paying the ex-U.S. Attorney to serve as counsel to the firm? Half a million? A million? No…. $244,802!

In light of that paycheck — which, while handsome by normal standards, is a pittance by Biglaw ones — we hope that Russoniello’s Cooley gig was super-cushy, with minimal billing required. His paycheck is pretty much equal to that of a third-year associate at Cravath, all in (base of $180,000, year-end bonus of $45,000, and special bonus of $20,000). But how many Cravath third-years can claim to have served as U.S. Attorney in a major city for eight years, as Joseph Russoniello did (1982-1990)?
Fighting Crime May Not Pay [The Recorder (subscription)]
Taking Stock of The DOJ’s Next Targets [Legal Pad]

laptop pink girl woman Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgLeave it to lawyers to complicate everything they touch. Over at New York Personal Injury Law Blog, Eric Turkewitz has this update on the New York bar exam fiasco:

The New York State Board of Law Examiners has confirmed to me that they will hear appeals regarding the July 2007 exam. That exam was plagued by malfunctioning software for those that submitted essays on laptop computers, only to see all or part of the answers disappear. The BOLE subsequently said that they approximated the answers if they were incomplete, based on how the examinees did on other answers. Those grade approximations were subsequently called into question based on an anonymous tip in this blog.

More details in the full post.
New York Bar Examiners Will Entertain Appeals Over Laptop Problems [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgFor associates in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis, this Wednesday is when they’ll learn their financial fate:

From: Jonathan Putnam
To: New York Associates
Cc: John Desmarais, John Kuehn, Michael Movsovich, Maria Davalos
Sent: December 17, 2007
Subject: Associate Bonus Meeting

As in past years, John Desmarais will give a short presentation this week to explain our associate bonus methodology. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 4 pm in Conference Room 50G-H. The bonuses will be paid before the end of the month.

When it comes to bonuses, K&E does things a bit differently. Associate bonuses are not lockstep but individualized, based on (1) your rank relative to your peers and (2) your hours.
Historically the Kirkland bonuses have been quite generous. Even for average K&E associates, as opposed to top performers, they’re typically well above-market — some of the highest in all of Biglaw (even if not at Wachtell levels).
But in light of this year’s “special” bonuses, how will the K&E bonuses stack up to the top tier New York firms? Check back later in the week to find out.

* Is this brilliant, or awful, or both? [LexBlog via WSJ Law Blog]
* Move over, bonsai trees. Make way for… law faculty recruitment swag? [Feminist Law Professors]
* State government lawyers to…. $197K! No, seriously. [Pennsyltucky Politics Blog / Harrisburg Patriot-News]
* A cautionary tale about law firm websites, courtesy of Jones Day. [Legal Blog Watch (Carolyn Elefant)]
* Don’t take tax advice from Wesley Snipes. [TaxProf Blog]
* Lots of Lawyers (and Judges) of the Day on this list. [Blogonaut]
* Blawg Review #138: on human rights, and law student rites. [De Novo via Blawg Review]

Anthony Kennedy 2 Justice Anthony M Kennedy Above the Law blog.JPGWhat are the duties of a Supreme Court law clerk? The primary responsibilities of SCOTUS clerks include reviewing cert petitions, conducting legal research, and drafting opinions.
But Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has added a new task to the list: congressional gossip gathering. On Friday, he dispatched one of his clerks to the Senate. The clerk’s mission? To skulk around hallways and offices, collecting intelligence about the status of the pending judicial pay raise legislation (and maybe to put in a good word or two in favor of the bill, too).
It’s not unusual for a clerk to serve as a justice’s eyes and ears — but these spying duties usually don’t extend beyond One First Street. If Justice Kennedy subscribes to a strict view of separation of powers, and wants cameras out of the courtroom, should he perhaps keep his clerks out of the Capitol?
Okay, we jest. We really don’t think it’s a big deal if Justice Kennedy wants to send a clerk over to snoop around the Senate (and we also suspect that Justice Kennedy, of all the justices, wouldn’t mind cameras in the courtroom). But AMK’s sending over a clerkly spy is a sad commentary on how desperate some judges are for a pay raise.
(Another depressing sign: rumor has it that one federal judge was wandering around the Federalist Society 25th anniversary gala, collecting the unclaimed $1 Madison coins that were left at each place setting.)
So come on, Senators. Pass the federal judicial pay raise, and give these judges back their dignity!
Federal Judiciary Salary Bill Progresses – With Caveats [Washington Briefs]

100 dollar bill Abovethelaw Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGThe litigation powerhouse of Williams & Connolly has announced associate pay raises, effective January 1, 2008. We have confirmed the fact of the raise with sources at the firm.
There was no comprehensive memo, so we’re not 100 percent certain of the specific numbers. But word on the street is that the new pay scale is as follows:

Year — Salary
1st: $180,000
2nd: $195,000
3rd: $210,000
4th: $230,000
5th: $250,000
6th: $270,000
7th: $290,000

These base salaries are well above market (160 – 170 – 185, etc.). But remember that Williams & Connolly traditionally pays an above-market base salary, since it does not pay year-end bonuses. So W&C’s move to a $180,000 starting salary is not as exciting as a similar move by Cravath or Simpson would be.
The old pay scale is available here. The pay raise appears to be a $15K bump for the first three classes. Fourth-year associates get a $20K increase. Fifth-year through seventh-year associates get a $25K increase.
We’re reasonably confident in these numbers. But, as noted, they were not set forth in a memo. So if you see any errors, please contact us. Thanks.
Earlier: Skaddenfreude: Williams & Connolly Weighs In

The combined firm will have over 1,500 lawyers in 23 offices. It will “employ the K&L Gates brand and have the legal name of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis LLP.” Press release here.
Update: Some commentary from an inside source, after the jump.
K&L Gates, Hughes & Luce Partners Vote to Combine Firms Effective January 1 [K&L Gates]

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Firm Merger Mania: K&L Gates + Hughes & Luce”

The firm of Dewey Ballantine was never known for being particularly PC. From a 2004 article by Anthony Lin, for the New York Law Journal:

Nearly one year after lawyers at Dewey Ballantine infuriated members of the Asian-American community by performing a stereotype-laden parody song at their annual dinner, the law firm is again dealing with allegations of racial insensitivity….

On Monday, an employee sent a firmwide e-mail advertising the availability of some puppies for adoption. Douglas Getter, a London-based American who heads Dewey Ballantine’s European mergers and acquisitions practice then sent a firmwide reply.

“Please don’t let these puppies go to a Chinese restaurant!” Getter wrote in his e-mail.

Adolf Hitler Dewey LeBoeuf Zieg Heil Sieg Heil Above the Law blog.jpgNow Dewey has merged with LeBoeuf Lamb. Happily, it appears their firm cultures are a good match. Check out this email exchange appearing below — and note that Partner X came from the LeBoeuf Lamb side of the marriage….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Dewey & LeBoeuf: A Bunch of Nazis?”

Last week, our Associate Bonus Watch kicked back into high gear, with news (or teasers) from Ropes & Gray, Sidley Austin, Chadbourne & Pourke, Arnold & Porter, Wachtell, Fried Frank, and O’Melveny & Myers, as well as pay raise news from Boies Schiller. Today’s ATL / Lateral Link Featured Job Survey keeps that thread alive.
Update: This survey is closed. Click to see results for New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles San Francisco / Silicon Valley, Boston, and Texas.
More results from last week’s survey, which inquired into billing rates, after the jump.

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

Paul J Morrison Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison Above the Law blog.jpgSome quick updates on law-related sex scandals previously covered in these pages:
First, Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison, a recent Lawyer of the Day, is resigning. We’d say that this is pretty lame; what prominent public official hasn’t had an affair? But there are other allegations in the mix, including a claim that he tried to get dirt on a political rival from his lover, which make the resignation more understandable.
Second, yes, we missed last week’s juicy NYM story about financier Jeffrey Epstein, alleged former paramour of model Maximilia Cordero. Fortunately, our colleagues over at DealBreaker didn’t; Bess Levin’s post appeared here.
Finally, a sex scandal that’s new to these pages: some 1Ls at UVA getting busted for bonking, in a cell phone booth at the law library. Of course, library sex is nothing new. But it seems to be moving up the U.S. News rankings.
Maximilia Cordero small Jeffrey Epstein Dealbreaker Above the Law blog.JPGAttorney General Paul Morrison scandal (collected coverage) [Topeka Capital-Journal via WSJ Law Blog]
In Kansas, Top Official Announces Resignation [New York Times]
Jeffrey Epstein, Owner Of An Enormous Townhouse, Doesn’t Bitch About Having To Answer The Front Door When He’s In The Middle Of A 4th Floor Breast-Feeding [DealBreaker]
The Fantasist [New York Magazine]
Law Lib Bump ‘n Grind? [BLOTUS via TJ's Double Play]
Earlier: Lawyer of the Day: Attorney General Paul Morrison
Sex in Your Law School Library Is Illegal, and ‘Necessity Is Not a Defense’

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