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

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

* Top legal stories of 2007. [CNN]
* Stop complaining, civil libertarians. Things could be much worse. [New York Times]
* A leadership vacuum at the Department of Justice. [Washington Post via How Appealing]
* And don’t look to recess appointments to address the problem. [Washington Post]
* A different kind of “pole tax,” which will divert five dollar bills from g-strings to g-coffers. But does it violate the First Amendment? [AP; TaxProf Blog]
* Union members: You’ve Got Mail. Oh wait, you don’t — at least not of the union-related kind. [New York Times]
* Adam Liptak asks whether a “Judicial Hellhole” is in the eye of the beholder. Also, a quote from Dickie Scruggs that maybe he wishes he could take back. [New York Times via WSJ Law Blog]

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgLet’s send you into the holiday weekend with some associate bonus news. Here are some law firm bonus announcements that haven’t been previously covered in these pages.
(Firms that previously announced their bonuses, but are being sneaky about the exact amounts and/or the percentage of associates getting them, will be addressed separately. This post is for completely new announcements.)
Some of this news is incomplete. If you can provide more details, please email us. Thanks.
1. Akin Gump (New York): Year-end bonuses, and special bonuses to “those associates and counsel who have performed in accordance with the Firm’s expectations regarding productivity, quality of work and Firm citizenship.” Plus “discretionary merit bonuses” to associates and counsel “who performed in a truly exceptional manner.”
One source at the firm characterizes it as follows:

Full match in NY, with extra bonuses in certain cases (generally to billers over 2400). There has never been an hours requirement, so if past practice is any indicator, anyone not being fired will get it.

Full memo, after the jump.
2. Akin Gump (outside New York): Each associate is allowed to make the case to the firm for a big bonus. A source tells us that this practice of asking associates to write up memos to justify their bonuses started a few years ago. “I wonder how this plays into the current bonus climate, or if anyone else has to do this.”
3. Hogan & Hartson (outside New York): The 2007 bonus memo appears after the jump.
4. Hogan & Hartson (New York): We’ve confirmed the fact that Hogan announced bonuses in New York. It was described to us as a market match. But we haven’t seen a memo or the fine print of the announcement, so we can’t confirm that.
Update: The bonus memo for Hogan & Hartson’s New York office appears after the jump.
5. Vinson & Elkins (New York): “V&E matched the New York market bonus (including this year’s special bonus) for its New York associates, to be paid on January 15, 2008. No memo yet, a voicemail.”
6. Sheppard Mullin: Details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: A Pre-Holiday Round-Up”

kid ski skier skis skiing old man sued lawsuit legal action Above the Law blog.jpgThe late Pope John Paul II was an expert skier. Even after he became Pope, and into his 60’s, the Holy Father would slip away from the Vatican for secret ski trips.
So, although we’d like them removed from all interstate highways, we have no problem with oldies on the slopes. This, however, is more troubling:

A 60-year-old man is taking an 8-year-old boy and his dad to court, claiming the boy caused a ski-slope collision that left the older man with a shoulder injury. David J. Pfahler of Allentown, Pa., sued in federal court in Denver, claiming Scott Swimm, then 7, was skiing fast and recklessly when they collided in January, the Vail Daily reported Thursday.

Looks like Pfahler is making a federal case of it (literally). He claims — quite conveniently, for diversity jurisdiction purposes — losses in excess of $75,000.

Scott’s father, Robb Swimm, said that he saw the crash and that Scott was skiing slowly and in control. “It wasn’t a violent collision or anything; Scott just kind of tapped his ski boots,” he said this week.

piggy bank Above the Law blog.jpgScott’s mother, Susan Swimm, said her son weighs 48 pounds and couldn’t have been going more than 10 mph. “Who in the world sues a child?” she said.

Scott: How much do you have in your piggy bank? Pfahler is nearing retirement age — and Social Security doesn’t cover many ski trips.
Man, 60, sues boy, 8, over ski collision [Associated Press]

LSU Tigers continuance motion Above the Law blog.jpgCheck out this continuance motion (PDF), filed yesterday in Louisiana state court. It’s pretty great — especially the footnotes.
Update: As noted in the comments, there is precedent for this motion in Louisiana state court. See Danos v. Avondale Industries, Inc. (unpublished order).
P.S. We’re still accepting applications for the position of ATL “Sports and the Law” columnist (details here). If you’ve already applied, thank you for your application. We are reviewing the many excellent submissions and will announce a decision in the new year. Thanks!
Motion to Continue Trial Due to Conflict with the LSU Tigers National Championship Game
[Joseph Harrell v. Fred Spencer and Imperial Casualty Insurance Company]

We’re still gathering responses to Monday’s survey, which asks you how big your bonus was (or is going to be). At last count, around 1,250 of you had responded, and you can still add your two cents (which is reportedly close to “market” at MWE) over here.
About a third of you still haven’t heard whether your firm will pay bonuses, and that’s clearly a source of deep frustration. But many of you have reported that the wait for your numbers is nowhere near as frustrating as the wait for the actual check. So here’s an open thread for discussion of the subject.
To kick off the discussion, here’s a tip we received from an associate in Washington, DC:

How about a story on mid-sized firms (who recruit from T14 schools) who intentionally wait until February-March to give bonuses? By doing so, they must know that the bulk of lateral openings will have come and gone by the time bonuses are given out — so if an associate waits for his bonus to lateral, it’s too late.

Today’s featured survey, brought to you by ATL and Lateral Link, is on the same topic. It appears below.
In the spirit of delayed gratification, the next batch of results from Monday’s survey will appear after you complete the survey. So far, we’ve revealed the bonus and salary responses from New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC. Yesterday, Los Angeles and San Francisco were neck and neck in the number of responses, while Boston made a proud showing in the comments.
Which city will we reveal next? Fill out the following survey to find out.
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results. See the next batch of results from Monday’s survey after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Featured Job Survey: Bonus Timing and Lateral Moves”

  • 21 Dec 2007 at 12:35 PM
  • Uncategorized

Mayer Brown: WLFWALF?

Mayer Brown new logo Above the Law blog.jpgTime for some quick follow-up on yesterday’s intriguing email about “an exciting, transformational event” for Mayer Brown. As we speculated, the big news is a merger announcement.
From an article by Ameet Sachdev the Chicago Tribune:

Mayer Brown plans to announce Friday an agreement to join forces with a large Hong Kong firm in a deal that would dramatically expand the Chicago law firm’s Asian presence, the Chicago Tribune has learned.

Mayer Brown is teaming up with Johnson, Stokes & Master, one of Hong Kong’s oldest law firms known for its stellar reputation in banking and finance, also a strength of Mayer’s.

Note that it’s “Stokes,” not “Strokes.” A firm named “Johnson, Strokes & Master” surely would have made this list of funny law firm names. In Asia, the firm will be known as Mayer Brown JSM (which mercifully contains no “i”; but note that “jism” is a legitimate word, and a good way to get rid of your “J” if you enjoy online Scrabble, as we do).
An ATL source at the firm reports:

We just got out of the worldwide meeting they had for associates and counsel, and I thought it was pretty exciting. In its presentations in the past, it has always mentioned that it wanted to have a significant Asia presence. They said that JSM was one of the top law firms in Asia, and the complementary mix of practice groups and clients will lead to lots of “synergies” (that was the big buzz word).

Something you might find interesting — they put up a new chart ranking law firms by worldwide revenue. We jumped from 13th (with $1.1bn) to 10th (with $1.35bn). JSM last year had about $130 million in revenue on only 41 partners. I’m pretty psyched about it….

Despite $1.3 billion in revenue and 1800 lawyers, the merged firm plans to expand further. From the Financial Times:

The firms expect to grow substantially after the merger. Mr Holzhauer projects annual revenue to hit $2bn ”very quickly” and Ms Lo predicts earnings of $4bn within two to three years. ”This kind of growth cannot be obtained by just organic growth alone,” said Ms Lo.

Up to now, Mayer Brown’s Asia presence has been limited to one office in Hong Kong and a representative office in Beijing. JSM, whose clients include HSBC, Bank of China and Cathay Pacific, has 200 lawyers in mainland China, but none outside Asia.

Meanwhile, in other MB news, the firm just announced New York bonuses. Memo after the jump.
Mayer Brown to merge with big Hong Kong firm [Chicago Tribune]
Mayer Brown merging with Hong Kong’s JSM [Financial Times]
Earlier: Mayer Brown Is A Woman Now

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Mayer Brown: WLFWALF?”

We’ve previously reported on improved parental leave policies at Latham & Watkins, Davis Polk, and Simpson Thacher. We predicted that “with respect to maternity leave for birth mothers, 18 weeks will become the new ‘market rate.'”
Perhaps it already is. Tipsters have written in to advise us that Sullivan & Cromwell and Weil Gosthal & Manges went to 18 weeks some time ago — S&C back in August, and Weil in September.
For anyone who is interested, more details appear after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Biglaw Perk Watch: S&C and Weil Also Up Parental Leave”

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgAs you may recall, the reaction of ATL readers to the bonus announcement of O’Melveny & Myers was decidedly unfavorable. Now the Daily Journal (subscription) — in an article entitled “O’Melveny & Myers’ Below-Market Bonus Disappoints Associates,” by Maya Meinert and Rebecca Cho — has taken notice:

This week’s bonus announcement from Los Angeles-based firm O’Melveny & Myers has caused much dismay among associates in the firm’s California and Washington, D.C., offices – the law blog AboveTheLaw.com’s post on the subject generated more than 200 comments – because the standard bonuses remain unchanged from last year and are well below what is considered “market,” based on New York numbers.

Should other major players in California pay more, O’Melveny could feel the impact among its associate ranks, industry observers said.

According to a memo obtained by AboveTheLaw.com, O’Melveny’s standard bonuses range from $27,500 for first-year associates to $45,000 for those in their seventh year and beyond. The bonuses are tied to a rating system based on the firm’s expectations and a minimum billable-hour requirement of 1,950.

More excerpts and discussion, including the firm’s reaction when contacted by the Daily Journal, appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: O’Melveny & Myers Defends Its ‘Below-Market’ Bonuses”

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