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

Samuel Kent Judge Samuel B Kent Above the Law blog.jpgAs regular ATL readers will recall, Judge Samuel B. Kent (S.D. Texas) is currently on leave from the bench (although still collecting his $165,200 salary). The Fifth Circuit suspended him after allegations of what it described as sexual harassment.
But Judge Kent’s troubles may not be over yet. From the Galveston County Daily News (via How Appealing):

A woman who has accused U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of unwanted sexual touching will have her case reheard by a disciplinary panel of the 5th Judicial Circuit, her attorney, Rusty Hardin, said late Monday.

Late that afternoon, Hardin gave the panel summaries of interviews his team did of 20 people who have had contact with Kent. Hardin claims those interviews show that Kent has misbehaved toward women since shortly after he was named to the federal bench in Galveston in the early 1990s.

Hardin said he and his client are asking that the panel refer the matter to the Judicial Council of the United States with a recommendation that Kent be impeached.

Additional discussion, plus a reader poll, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge Samuel Kent: A Bigger Horndog Than Bill Clinton?”

recycling environmental eco friendly law firms Above the Law blog.jpgAt least it’s a better way to spend the firm’s money than a theme song (mp3). From The Recorder:

Nixon Peabody has appointed a chief sustainability officer, hoping not only to reduce the firm’s environmental impact, but to increase its impact on clients. Carolyn Kaplan, a counsel in the firm’s energy and environmental practice, will spend at least a quarter of her time in the new position.

So what exactly will Ms. Kaplan do in this new gig? Send around annoying firm-wide emails telling people to recycle those reams of useless Westlaw print-outs? Tell associates to turn off the lights when they leave their offices (even if it will tip off the partners to their departures)?

Kaplan said the position has two aspects: looking internally at ways to reduce the firm’s production of CO2, or its carbon footprint, and determining how attorneys can use the firm’s experience to better understand clients dealing with environmental regulation and related issues. Both of those could make the firm greener in the financial sense, too, she said.

More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Everyone Is Greener at Nixon Peabody”

Thacher Proffitt Wood LLP Above the Law blog.jpgWe had been hearing rumors this morning of associate layoffs at Thacher Proffitt & Wood. The rumor mill was claiming that somewhere between 30 to 40 associates were given pink slips by TPW.
As is so often the case, the truth is somewhat different, but the rumors not completely unfounded. Thacher Proffitt has not laid off any associates just yet, and certainly not as many as 40. The firm has, however, notified a smaller number of associates — namely, 24 non-first-year associates — that their being laid off in January is “a near certainty.” It is also encouraging first-year associates in its Structured Finance and Real Estate practice groups to look for other opportunities.
In response to inquiries from us, TPW issued this statement, through a spokesperson:

It is no secret that the credit crisis has deeply affected our Structured Finance and Real Estate practices, which are large practices in our Firm. Therefore, we have taken the painful step of notifying 24 associates in those practice areas that if we do not see a substantial improvement in the market, it is a near certainty that they will be laid off in January strictly for economic reasons.

These associates are good, hardworking lawyers that any law firm would be fortunate to have. Unfortunately, these associates are working in areas that are currently slow and that will not be active for some time to come. We are delaying a decision on economic layoffs for as long as we can; however, we believe it would be unfair to the associates potentially affected to give them no warning of this possibility. We are encouraging these associates to seek new opportunities and, should they leave the Firm, we will compensate them through the end of March.

In addition, we have offered first-year associates in our Structured Finance and Real Estate groups a four month severance package should they leave the Firm. They are under no obligation to take this offer, [which] is strictly voluntary; however, we feel it is in these associates’ interest to explore other opportunities as well, as we are concerned that we will not be able to provide them with the best work experience at this formative stage of their careers.

We thank Thacher Proffitt for getting back to us so quickly. And we commend the firm for its candor about the possible layoffs, as well as its praise for the affected associates as lawyers.
If you have any associate layoff news that has not been previously reported, please contact us, by email (subject line: “Nationwide Layoff Watch”). Thanks.

Maximilia Cordero small Jeffrey Epstein Dealbreaker Above the Law blog.JPGWe’re confused. And we’re guessing we’re not alone.

We have provided extensive coverage of Cordero v. Epstein, in which model Maximilia Cordero alleges that high-profile financier Jeffrey Epstein took advantage of her when she was underage. To add to the suit’s salaciousness, the New York Post previously claimed that Maximilia Cordero was born a man — to wit, Maximillian Cordero (b. 1983).

Now Cordero has turned around and sued the Post. She has filed an exhibit with the court casting doubt on the Post’s claim that she was born a man — but oddly enough, she’s not raising the gender issue in her lawsuit. From DealBreaker:

Cordero and her lawyer (and alleged sometime boyfriend) William Unroch have filed a lawsuit against the Post, claiming it engaged in a smear campaign coordinated with Epstein’s flack Howard Rubenstein (who is also the publicist for the Post).

Radar has all the dirt, but here’s the dirtiest bit:

“Conspicuously absent from the accusations is the Post’s revelation that Cordero was born a man. A source tells Radar that the initial filing of the suit by Unroch includes as an exhibit a birth certificate, which showed Cordero being born Maximilia Cordero, a woman. Reached by phone this weekend, Unroch (with Cordero commenting loudly in the background but declining to come to the phone), called the Post’s behavior ‘outrageous’ but refused to address Cordero’s birth gender or the authenticity of the birth certificate originally filed. ‘She’s a woman,’ Unroch tells Radar. So, why not go after the Post’s gender claims?

‘It’s a slam dunk case whether she was born a cat, a dog, or a space alien,’ Unroch says.”

You can see why we’re confused. And our confusion has only grown since someone sent us a copy of the exhibit mentioned by Radar — namely, a birth certificate showing that Maximillia Josephine Cordero, born on November 15, 1982, was born a “Female.”

You can check out the birth certificate for yourself — please note, we take no position on its authenticity — after the jump.

Epstein’s Accuser Accuses Page Six Of ‘Raping’ ‘Her’ All Over Again [DealBreaker]
Epstein’s Accuser Sics Law Dog On Page Six [Radar / Fresh Intelligence]

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Maximilia Cordero: Maybe Not a Man?”

Taj Mahal India small outsourcing Dell computers document review Above the Law blog.jpgThe law firm of Seyfarth Shaw cordially invites its associates… to toast their own obsolescence. Check out the invite below, for “a cocktail reception to welcome the group of attorneys visiting from Manthan Services in Bangalore, India.”
Our tipster wonders: “Why pay first-years $160,000 a year for legal research (or document review), when you can use a lawyer from India at a fraction of the cost?”
Earlier: Nationwide Worldwide Pay Raise Watch: Mumbai to $8,160?
Seyfarth Shaw Manthan Services Bangalore India Above the Law blog.jpg

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgTo respond to yesterday’s question: No, it’s not all over. There’s still some gas left in the associate bonus watch tank.
Last night brought an a bonus announcement from Hughes Hubbard and Reed. It’s a somewhat complicated bonus system, based on a system of “tiers.” A tipster identifies these highlights:

Tier 1 = 1950 hours
Tier 2 = 2100 hours
Not certain about tier 3 or 4
Class of 2004, 2005, and 2006 get $7500 for reaching 1950, plus half of special bonus
No pro-rated bonus for class of 2007

The associates we heard from are unhappy with the bone Old Mother Hubbard has thrown them:

“HHR has managed to make the ‘special bonus’ tied to billable hours. That kind of sucks. Glad to see that they are increasing them for next year though.”

“It is a disappointing day for Hughes Hubbard associates, as bonuses are far below market. Still a great place to work, though.”

You can check out the Hughes Hubbard bonus memo, which announces the firm’s 2007 bonuses as well as its “enhance[d]” bonus system for 2008, after the jump.
Update: In response to the commenters, here’s a note on our methodology. If a firm is on either the Am Law 100 or the Vault 100, we’ll run their bonus announcement. HHR is #85 on the Vault 100.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Hughes Hubbard and Reed”

laptop pink girl woman Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgTake this with a grain shaker of salt. It’s based on an anonymous, uncorroborated comment, which appeared on another blog.
But for what it’s worth, from Eric Turkewitz’s New York Personal Injury Law Blog:

The New York State Board of Law Examiners managed to foul up this year’s bar exam, as readers of this space know, by losing many of the essay answers that had been submitted on laptops….

[T]he results were made known 11 days ago, and the examiners claimed to have taken educated guesses on the missing results [by extrapolating from how affected exam takers did on other parts of the test]….

[O]ver the holiday weekend, this anonymous comment appeared on my site, claiming that credit was given for an essay with no answer, and the same credit was given for an essay with a great answer. And there was no indication that this person was told his/her essays were part of the missing ones:

“Here’s a fair summary (having taken the test, having intense problems down loading and uploading the test) and failed: I left one NYS essay blank. (Ran out of time) I received a 3/10. That’s odd… But then, on the essays I KNEW — KNEW so well that I was practically jumping for joy as I took the test — I received a 3/10 on those as well.”

“BOLE claims they have informed all those who had computer essays lost — I suspect not. I have written away for my answers and I will be intensly [sic] interested to see how that blank esay [sic] scored a 3/10… I suspect they were ALL blanks, because of the uploads.”

“If anyone else is in this prdicament [sic], please chime in. There are a few attorneys that specialize in this, and I’ve contacted a few.”

Very strange. Does anyone have a similar experience to share? Or is this commenter off his or her rocker?
How, Exactly, did New York Grade That Bar Exam? [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]

Law schools and lawsuits go together like peanut butter and jelly. When vicious infighting involves lawyers and law students, it’s only a matter of time before someone takes the matter to court. See, e.g., Ave Maria.
But at least Ave Maria is accredited. When the law school in question isn’t even accredited, is it still transfixing in that car-wreck sort of way? Or is it just too pathetic to bear watching?
Read about litigation involving the American Justice School of Law, after the jump.
American Justice School of Law Above the Law blog.jpg

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: Some Inspiration for Loyola 2L?”

wedding rings privatize marriage Above the Law blog.jpgRapidly climbing the Most Emailed Articles list over at the New York Times is an op-ed entitled Taking Marriage Private, by Professor Stephanie Coontz. It includes an interesting history of the legal regulation of marriage (which Coontz observes is a fairly recent phenomenon):

Why do people — gay or straight — need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families….

The American colonies officially required marriages to be registered, but until the mid-19th century, state supreme courts routinely ruled that public cohabitation was sufficient evidence of a valid marriage. By the later part of that century, however, the United States began to nullify common-law marriages and exert more control over who was allowed to marry.

By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos.

A prohibition on marrying fabulous Filipinos? Your loss. Everyone knows Filipinos are great lovers.
More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Privatizing Marriage: A Proposal Whose Time Has Come?
(And How Would It Affect Business for Divorce Lawyers?)”

graduation cap gown kid Above the Law blog.jpgIn the comments to our post about Thanksgiving horror stories, an interesting (if somewhat off-topic) discussion developed. It started off with a law student complaining about having to study for final exams over the holiday, to which another commenter responded: Why bother? After a certain point, who cares about your law school grades?
The conventional wisdom is that law school grades don’t really matter after your first year. Once you’ve secured your summer associate gig in the fall of your 2L year, you can pretty much coast, according to this theory. Unless you’re hoping to graduate with honors, snag a feeder judge or Supreme Court clerkship, or become a law professor, you don’t need to worry about your law school transcript (as long as you don’t fail anything or lack sufficient credits to graduate, of course).
But in the comments, some readers suggested otherwise. They claimed that if you want to lateral from one firm to another, the firms you’re applying to may request your transcript and consider your grades. Some suggested that grades even matter in the context of partnership decisions.
Thoughts? If you have an opinion or, better yet, hard information, please provide it in the comments. Thanks.
Earlier: Thanksgiving Horror Stories: Open Thread

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