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

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]

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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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Latham Watkins LLP Above the Law blog.JPGEarlier today, we alluded to a significant revamping of parental leave policy at Latham & Watkins. Now we’re happy to bring you the details.
Under the earlier version of LW’s Parental Care Leave policy, associates were entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave and up to four weeks of paternity leave. Today the firm announced a significant expansion of its Parental Care Leave, at full base salary, which reflects its support for associates who are balancing the responsibilities of parenthood with a legal career.
Effective today, December 12, Latham’s Parental Care Leave policy provides:

* 18 weeks for birth mothers who are primary caregivers

* 18 weeks for adoptive parents who primary caregivers

* 10 weeks for other primary caregivers

* 4 weeks for non-primary caregivers (both birth and adoptive parents)

In addition, the firm is introducing a new “Pace Reduction Option for Returning Associates To Adjust” Program. This program automatically gives associates the option of returning on a reduced pace schedule, for six months, without seeking prior approval. It’s designed to help new parents transition back to work after their Parental Care Leave, without the immediate pressures of a full-time billable hours requirement.
This is a great move, which hopefully other firms will emulate. We commend Latham & Watkins for its commitment to lawyers who are balancing the rigors of Biglaw life with the demands of parenthood.
P.S. Are we witnessing the start of a trend in the direction of improved maternity and paternity leave policies? Back in August, as we reported in these pages, Simpson Thacher raised maternity leave to 18 weeks.

Charlene Morisseau 2 Charlene Morrisseau Charlene Morriseau DLA Piper Harvard Law School Southern Center for Human Rights.JPGFormer DLA Piper associate Charlene Morisseau isn’t just our Lawyer of the Day. This high-powered litigatrix — a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and a former editor of the Harvard Law Review — should be hailed as a heroine by Biglaw associates everywhere.

From a most engaging article by Anthony Lin, in the New York Law Journal:

A Manhattan federal judge has thrown out a race discrimination suit brought against DLA Piper by a former associate who claimed the firm’s New York office was a hostile work environment.

Charlene Morisseau, a 2001 graduate of Harvard Law School, where she was a law review editor, joined DLA Piper as a litigation associate in April 2003 but was asked to leave less than a year later. In a lawsuit filed last year, Ms. Morisseau, who is black, claimed her firing was retaliation for complaints she had made about discriminatory treatment.

She requested almost $250 million in damages from the firm and the 11 partners she individually named in the suit.

Now, we’re all in favor of giving associates more money. But $250 million may be a bit much, even for a Harvard Law grad. It’s about 90 percent of DLA Piper’s total firm profits for 2006 ($280 million).

But it looks like Morisseau won’t be seeing a dime:

Southern District Judge Lewis Kaplan granted summary judgment to the firm Monday, finding that DLA Piper had put forth a “legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for plaintiff’s termination.”

“Here, the uncontradicted evidence demonstrates that plaintiff did not perform in a manner satisfactory to Piper notwithstanding her academic credentials,” the judge wrote. “She was a confrontational, stubborn, and insubordinate employee in an environment in which professional personal relations, flexibility and a willingness to accept supervision were essential.”

Now we’ve reached the good part. Here’s why Charlene Morisseau should be every associate’s idol:

[I]n court filings, DLA Piper denied treating Ms. Morisseau differently and said the firm had taken action because the ex-associate had exhibited a pattern of unacceptable behavior, including yelling at partners and throwing one out of her office.

The firm said Ms. Morisseau ordered former partner Marilla Ochis to “back up” out of her office after Ms. Ochis had come to discuss an e-mail exchange Ms. Morisseau had apparently taken offense to.

Have you ever fantasized about telling off your partner oppressors? Well, Charlene Morisseau has lived your dream — and then some.

Read the rest, after the jump.

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Playboy Cover model Thacher Proffitt Wood Above the Law blog.jpgIf you go to Thacher Proffitt & Wood, you might get laid off. Or you might get…. oh, never mind.
From Roll On Friday:

In an exciting development for lonely male structured finance lawyers, US firm Thacher Proffitt has recruited a former Playboy model to join its structured finance group.

The lawyer bared all back in 1999 while she was at university but has now joined the firm as an associate. However, she may yet be grateful for another career to fall back on: this week the firm warned 24 of its structured finance and real estate associates that they are likely to be laid off in the New Year.

Managing partner Paul Tvetenstrand (try saying that after a couple of pints) blamed the lay-offs on the slow market following the credit crunch. Putting a brave face on the news, he claimed that it would be “unfair” on the associates for them to keep their jobs as that would mean “putting their careers on hold”. RollOnFriday suspects the unfortunate associates might not see it that way.

Tvetenstrand declined to comment on whether or not he had previously had a modelling career.

In addition to the likely layoffs, TPW is encouraging first-year associates to depart voluntarily. But is giving them an ex-Playmate for a colleague likely to encourage associate attrition? We have our doubts.
Thacher Proffitt recruits Playboy model [RollOnFriday.com]
Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Thacher Proffitt Announces Likely Future Layoffs

The ABA Journal just announced its Blawg 100: “the 100 best Web sites by lawyers, for lawyers, as chosen by the editors of the ABA Journal.” And we’re happy to report that Above the Law is among them. Very cool!
The ABA Journal has divided the 100 legal blogs into different categories. Readers can vote for their favorite website in each category. ATL appears, appropriately enough, in the Gossip category.
In the voting, right now we’re getting our clock cleaned by a site called That’s What She Said. Can you help us catch up?
To cast your vote, click here. Thanks in advance for your support!
The ABA Journal Blawg 100 [ABA Journal]

marijuana pot cannabis doobie Above the Law blog.jpgWith the police, who pulled you over for a traffic infraction. But the good news is that you’re getting it back. From CBS:

Eight grams of medical marijuana seized from a Garden Grove man during a traffic stop must be returned to him, according to an appeals court ruling directing local law enforcement to uphold state, not federal law.

A three-justice panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal [in California] weighed in on the issue in a published decision that sets precedent for future cases on similar issues.

The marijuana, which belonged to Felix Kha, 22, was confiscated during a traffic stop on June 10, 2005.

The city of Garden Grove tried to argue “that to the extent state law authorizers or mandates the return of Kha’s marijuana, it is preempted by federal law.” The appeals court didn’t see it that way:

Kha’s attorneys argued that the 10th Amendment to the Constitution effectively prohibits federal interference with California’s medical marijuana laws, and the three-justice panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal agreed.

The justices found that because, under state law, Kha was lawfully entitled to possess the marijuana, “due process and fundamental fairness dictate that it be returned to him.”

Indeed. Pass the bong, Your Honors!
P.S. The headline that CBS gave to the story is wrong. It was a state court, not a federal court, that issued the ruling.
Federal Court Rules Pot To Be Returned To Driver [CBS]

Ira Robinson Judge Ira Robinson fights off mugger Above the Law blog.jpgCompared to their colleagues in the trial court, appellate judges have a reputation for being delicate, academic creatures, with less in the way of “street smarts.” But don’t lump New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Ira Robinson in that group.

From the Albuquerque Journal (subscription):

New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Ira Robinson expected the worst Tuesday night when he fell to the ground as he tried to fight off a man lunging at him with a knife.

“I really thought the son of a gun was gonna stab me when I was down,” he said.

So how did it all unfold?

Robinson, 65, said in an interview Wednesday that the ski-mask-wearing assailant demanded valuables from him and two cousins visiting from San Diego as they walked to their car parked near La Fonda about 10 p.m.

But Robinson refused the robber’s demands:

“He said ‘Give me your money, (expletive)!’ I said, ‘I’m not gonna give you a damn thing!”’

Nice. But we do wish the judge had invoked his judicial office. Maybe he could have held his assailant in contempt?

A little more, after the jump.

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