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

On Tuesday evening, I returned to the offices of Wachtell Lipton, the law firm where I toiled as an associate years ago. Luckily, I wasn’t there to bill hours; instead, I attended a reception marking the launch of a delightful new book, The Mother Court: Tales of Cases that Mattered in America’s Greatest Trial Court (affiliate link).

“The Mother Court” is the nickname for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, regarded by many as the preeminent federal trial court in the nation. In the book of the same name, James Zirin, a leading litigator who’s now senior counsel in the New York office of Sidley Austin, shares with readers the fascinating history of this top tribunal.

In a review that ran yesterday in the New York Law Journal, Thomas E.L. Dewey hailed the book as a “richly textured, immensely readable overview of the modern history of the Southern District of New York.” Last month, in the New York Review of Books, Judge Jed Rakoff praised Zirin’s “fluid prose and eye for detail.”

What fun tidbits and interesting opinions did James Zirin share in his remarks on Tuesday night?

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What’s more stressful: working in-house, or working at a law firm? Conventional wisdom might say that law firm life is more stressful — but that’s not the case for everyone, as recently explained by one of our in-house columnists, Susan Moon.

So in-house lawyers might be more stressed than many people think. But at least they’re getting paid a pretty penny to put up with all these headaches — mo’ problems, mo’ money?

That’s one conclusion to be drawn from Corporate Counsel’s new rankings of the nation’s best-paid general counsel. Conventional wisdom holds that in-house lawyers earn less than their Biglaw counterparts — but top in-house lawyers, the GCs of the nation’s largest companies, earn sums that meet or even exceed Biglaw partner pay….

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bar exam failures famous failed bar exam Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg

Ed. note: This post was originally published on July 17, 2007. We republish it today, with a few updates added, to remind our readers taking the bar exam later this month that even though you surely won’t fail — especially if you’re having fun studying — even failing the bar won’t stop you from having a spectacular career, in the law or elsewhere. Good luck!

We recently wrote about Paulina Bandy, that poor creature who failed the California bar exam thirteen times, before finally passing it on try #14. Her story seems to have freaked out some of you who are sitting for the bar exam later this month.

Relax. Take a deep breath. You won’t wind up in a 365-square-foot shack in your mom’s backyard. Chances are, you will pass. And even if you fail the bar once or twice, you’re still not on your way towards Paulina Bandy-dom.

As it turns out, a number of well-known individuals — some famous for their accomplishments in law, and others for different reasons — didn’t pass the bar on the first (or even second) try….

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Chief Judge Loretta Preska

According to Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link), a judicial diva is “a particularly confident, skilled, and physically attractive female judge.” By this definition, Chief Judge Loretta Preska (S.D.N.Y.) is a judicial diva. She is highly regarded, as both a judge and an administrator, and she never looks anything short of fabulous.

I’ve been fascinated by Judge Preska for years. I had this to say about her back in 2004 at my first website, Underneath Their Robes: “Magnificent. Tall, thin, elegant. Great bone structure, perfectly coiffed silver hair. Note to self: nominate for superhotties contest next year?”

This gorgeous judge now owns a gorgeous apartment. Chief Judge Preska and her husband, a partner at one of the nation’s most profitable law firms, just paid almost $9 million for a penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side….

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John Farren and Mary Farren

When we last checked in on John Michael Farren, the former general counsel to Xerox and deputy White House counsel under President George W. Bush, things were not going well for him. Back in December, a jury found him liable for assault and battery against his former wife, Mary Margaret Farren. The jury awarded Mary Farren some $28.6 million in damages — an amount that reflected the brain injury and emotional trauma suffered by Mrs. Farren, who went from a lucrative job at Skadden to unemployment.

Criminal charges against Mike Farren remained pending at the time of the civil verdict. On Friday, the criminal case got resolved — and not in a manner favorable to Mike Farren….

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The average high temperature for Houston in July is a scorching 94 degrees. It’s one hot legal market.

Figuratively as well as literally. Back in April, for example, we talked about Kirkland & Ellis opening a Houston office — and prying away partners with $5 million pay packages. You don’t need to be a high-powered partner to get in on the fun; even junior to midlevel associates are getting offered signing bonuses when they lateral.

And this hot market is only getting hotter. Who’s the latest major law firm to land in Space City?

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Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

Last month, we took a look at associate compensation in the 1990s. Our post focused on the cities of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles. We said that in the future we’d look at remaining major markets: New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco/Palo Alto, and Washington, D.C.

Today we’ll tackle Biglaw in the Big Apple. What were NYC salaries like in the last millennium?

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There are (many) legitimate criticisms of President Obama to be made, from both the right and the left. But reasonable people can agree that there are also many ridiculous ones.

He’s a Communist! He’s not a U.S. citizen! He’s a closet Muslim who wants to institute sharia law in the United States!

How about: he’s a plagiarist!

It’s true of Vice President Joe Biden. Is it true of President Obama?

(Please note the UPDATE added below.)

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In a recent survey, managing partners of large law firms expressed tepid expectations about demand for legal services. So it’s not surprising that cost cutting — or, to put it more nicely, expense-management initiatives — remain popular in Biglaw.

Who’s the latest major law firm trying to reduce its payroll through a voluntary retirement program?

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Judge Emmet Sullivan

* Judge Emmet Sullivan (D.D.C.) wants the IRS to explain, in a sworn declaration, how exactly it lost Lois Lerner’s emails. [WSJ Law Blog]

* And the fun for the IRS continues today in the courtroom of Judge Reggie Walton (D.D.C.), as reported by Sidney Powell, author of Licensed To Lie (affiliate link). [New York Observer]

* Speaker John Boehner wants to take the Republicans’ crusade against Obamacare to the courts. [New York Times]

* Andrew Calder, the young M&A partner that Kirkland & Ellis snagged from Simpson Thacher for a reported $5 million a year, is already bringing in big deals. [American Lawyer]

How the cupcake crumbles: the once-successful venture of an NYLS grad and her husband needs a rescue.

* “Duke University is not and never has been in the business of producing, marketing, distributing, or selling alcohol.” Some bros down in Durham disagree. [ABA Journal]

* If you see something… sue someone? The ACLU and Asian American civil rights groups, together with some help from Bingham McCutchen, have filed a legal challenge to the Suspicious Activity Reporting database. [New York Times]

* Congrats to David Hashmall, the incoming chair of Goodwin Procter — and congrats to outgoing chair Regina Pisa, the first woman ever to lead an Am Law 100 firm, on her long and successful leadership. [American Lawyer]

* A group of investors might end up devouring Crumbs, the cupcake-store chain founded by New York Law School grad Mia Bauer that suddenly shut down this week amid talk of a bankruptcy filing. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

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