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 Work for Food Above the Law blog.jpgOver the next few weeks, hordes of summer associates will arrive at top law firms around the country. And many full-time associates — or at least the less harried and/or curmudgeonly ones — will rejoice, delighted by the opportunity to take summer associates out to fancy lunches, on their employer’s dime.
But maybe not at Pillsbury Winthrop. Earlier this month, someone posted as follows, over at Infirmation/Greedy NY:

If you think things are tight in NYC, listen to this: Pillsbury Winthrop (NoVa/DC) just sent out a memo limiting associates to one meal per week, “and in no event should meals cost more than $15/person.”

I s**t you not, they actually sent out that memo this afternoon!!!!!

We haven’t verified this rumor; maybe it’s apocryphal, or a joke. But if it’s true, please file it under “hilarious” and “pathetic.”
On a budget of $15 a head, you can maybe dine at Au Bon Pain or Cosi. Just don’t indulge in (1) a cold beverage with your meal, AND (2) a post-meal coffee drink.
If you can confirm, or have a copy of the memo to share, please email us (subject line: “Pillsbury Winthrop Is Cheap”). Thanks.
(We wouldn’t be completely surprised if this rumor is true. After all, Pillsbury Winthrop is one of the firms that is publicly dragging its feet on associate pay raises.)
Update: Lots of dispute in the comments over the accuracy of this rumor. We will gladly accept corrections and clarifications by email. Please provide us with your real name; we keep our sources anonymous, but we need real names so we can confirm that you actually work at Pillsbury.
One thing we can confirm, from a verified source in Pillsbury’s San Francisco office:

I am an associate at Pillsbury and just read the posting about Pillsbury lunch limitations to $15 once per week. It’s not true! Of course, we can take summer associates to lunch as often as we like, and they ask that we keep it to $25 per person, but can exceed that for special occassions.

But the rumor in question concerns Pillsbury’s offces in northern Virginia and Washington, DC — not San Francisco. If you work in one of those offices, we would be especially interested in hearing from you. Thanks.
Further Update: The consensus in the comments appears to be that the rumor of a $15 lunch limit IS true, but ONLY for northern Virginia (Tysons Corner).
Cheapest Lunch Date EVER? [Infirmation / Greedy NY]
Earlier: Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: In a Holding Pattern?

supreme court 3.JPGZzzzzzzzz…
Guess this is the calm before the storm. The Supreme Court cranks out lots of important-but-boring opinions in May, so it can clear the decks and focus on the 5-4, “It’s All About AMK” barnburners that it dumps on the nation in June. Nino starts saving up his energy for penning those trademark zingers of his.
The most interesting of today’s quintet of decisions would appear to be Bell Atlantic v. Twombly (05-1126). Per Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog:

“The Supreme Court, in the first of five final decisions, ruled on Monday that claims of parallel business conduct are not sufficient to prove an antitrust conspiracy under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.”

In other words: If you’re thinking of filing an antitrust lawsuit against Biglaw, ’cause large law firms engage in “parallel business contact” with respect to associate compensation — good luck with that.
(True confession: we doubt we’ll be reading these five slip opinions anytime soon. But if you happen to check them out, and come across anything amusing — funny footnotes, bitchy benchsaps — please feel free to let us know.)
Update: A post on Los Angeles County v. Rettele, which has its amusing aspects, appears here.
Court issues five rulings [SCOTUSblog]

marijuana pot cannabis doobie Above the Law blog.jpgWe do not recommend following the example of “Spazzed customer,” as related in this anecdote.
(But his description of preparing for the bar exam — “I have to take a really big test, and then I can forget it all” — isn’t half-bad.)
Where Lawyers Come From [Overheard in New York]


100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGIf you are still participating in any of the bizarre discussions from Friday morning’s open thread — which covered such diverse topics as open houses in Houston, childhood sleepover experiences, and the hipster quotient of the New Yorker — please don’t let us stop you. You can join in the fun by clicking here.
But if you’re looking for a forum for discussing subjects that are a bit more germane to ATL, such as associate pay raises and clerkship bonuses, then this new open thread is for you.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend; we’ll see you on Monday.

Alberto Gonzales Melinda Doolittle Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.JPGWe highly doubt this. But instead of logging off as we originally planned, we’ll stick around for another fifteen minutes, on the off chance that it proves true.
P.S. Speaking of Wonkette, where we used to blog, congratulations to Ana Marie Cox on the dismissal of Robert Steinbuch’s lawsuit against her!
(To be sure, it was on statute-of-limitations grounds; bloggers might have preferred a broader ruling. But hey, a dismissal is a dismissal.)
Friday Night News Dump: Alberto Out At 5? [Wonkette]
Reliable Source: This Just In… [Washington Post via Wonkette]
Suit Dismissed Against Founding Wonkette Editor Ana Marie Cox [Associated Press]
“American Idol” — results — America, don’t take my Blake away! [Althouse]

Monica Goodling 5 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgWe have a new favorite catchphrase: “You have a Monica problem.” We’ve added it to our favorite quotations, and we may put it in our email signature file, too.
As explained here, the words “You have a Monica problem” were typically uttered to Justice Department job applicants whose credentials might be deemed insufficiently conservative by Monica Goodling — the uber-powerful ex-DOJ official who played a key role in hiring.
But these days, “You have a Monica problem” might also apply to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. From Jason McClure of the Legal Times:

Now it’s all about Monica.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales emerged mostly unscathed from last week’s face-off with Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee over his role in the U.S. attorney firings….

But there’s one big wild card that’s yet to be thrown into play, and that’s Monica Goodling, Gonzales’ former White House liaison.

If you don’t share our Monica obsession, you can stop reading here. But if you find her as fascinating as we do, there’s more after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Alberto Gonzales Has ‘A Monica Problem’”

No Sleep Til Brooklyn Law School Above the Law blog.jpgLaw school snobs — or “tierists,” as some call them — should check out this interesting article, by Lindsay Fortado of Bloomberg News. It’s about how high demand for summer and permanent associates is pushing large law firms to expand their recruiting efforts, to include law schools outside the “top 10.”

When Josh Kleiman, a student at Brooklyn Law School, interviewed at 17 law firms for a summer position, 12 called back. He joined New York’s Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobsen, one of the city’s most profitable.

The competition has increased for Kleiman and other students at so-called second-tier law schools for jobs that pay more than $3,000 a week, plus free lunches and cocktail parties. New York’s largest law firms have hired record numbers of summer associates to deal with an abundance of work and defections of lawyers to banks and private equity clients.

Kleiman had the pick of the Biglaw litter:

Kleiman was also offered summer positions at Sullivan & Cromwell; Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; White & Case; Shearman & Sterling and Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel. He said he chose Fried Frank, ranked 14th in the city in revenue per partner, because the attorneys were “diverse and interesting.”

Presumably Kleiman chose Fried Frank over the conventionally more prestigious S&C sometime this past fall (pursuant to the NALP deadlines). But if similarly situated law students turn down S&C in higher-than-usual numbers this coming fall, we’re blaming it on this guy.
(To whom, by the way, law clerks may owe their newly improved bonuses. Some speculate that S&C raised its clerkship bonus to $50,000 because it feared a tough recruiting season this fall, due in part to L’Affaire Charney. Eventually Simpson Thacher followed suit, followed by many other top shops. And the rest is history.)
Lawyer Search Spurred by M&A Sends Manhattan’s Best to Brooklyn [Bloomberg]

Fenwick West LLP Above the Law blog.JPGIf you want to get a raise to the $160K pay scale, but without a corresponding “adjustment” to your bonus. Or if you want to bill only 1800 hours a year, and still make a decent living.
From a source at the firm:

Fenwick & West raises. Keeps bonus structure the same.

I know the partners are relishing embarassing our biggest competitor WSGR with this move.

Check out the memo, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: Go to Fenwick & West, Young Man”

British judges wigs Above the Law blog.jpgToday’s Judge of the Day hails from the other side of the pond. From Reuters:

A British judge admitted on Wednesday he was struggling to cope with basic terms like “Web site” in the trial of three men accused of inciting terrorism via the Internet.

Judge Peter Openshaw broke into the questioning of a witness about a Web forum used by alleged Islamist radicals.

“The trouble is I don’t understand the language. I don’t really understand what a Web site is,” he told a London court during the trial of three men charged under anti-terrorism laws.

These internets can be so confusing…
So is this Judge Openshaw positively ancient? Actually, no:

Prosecutor Mark Ellison briefly set aside his questioning to explain the terms “Web site” and “forum.” An exchange followed in which the 59-year-old judge acknowledged: “I haven’t quite grasped the concepts.”

Jeez, Judge Openshaw — get with the program. Even Justice John Paul Stevens uses email. And he’s getting close to 90!
Judge to prosecutor: So what’s a Web site? [Reuters via MSNBC]

Akin Gump 2 Akin Gump Strauss Hauer Feld Deborah Jeane Palfrey DC Madam Above the Law blog.JPGIn an earlier post about the legal secretary at Akin Gump who worked for the alleged D.C. madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, we described the secretary as “no Miss Popularity.” A source at the firm told us that “[m]ost people don’t like her,” due to her supercilious attitude. Various commenters echoed these views.
But a different source has more positive things to say about the Akin Gump Escort:

She was a secretary (never a paralegal) to partner John Dowd (attorney/author behind the Pete Rose gambling investigation and Rose’s subsequent ban from baseball and the HoF).

[Ed. note: We previously pointed out that fact, as well as the coincidence that Dowd is now representing the fabulous Monica Goodling, back in this post.]

She was a moderately friendly, attractive woman, late 20s/early 30s, with dark blonde hair. I think she lived on a farm in southern Maryland and liked horses.

First, of course she lives in Maryland. Do you think the Akin Gump Escort would be a Virginia gal?
Second, a weakness for horses — how clichéd. Does she enjoy long walks on the beach too?
Earlier: OMG: The Akin Gump Escort Worked For… Monica Goodling’s Lawyer!!!
The D.C. Madam’s Akin Gump Apprentice: She’s No Miss Popularity
Akin Gump: Truly A ‘Full-Service’ Law Firm

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