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

State of Louisiana seal New Orleans Above the Law blog.jpgDisorder in the court, disorder in the court! From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

St. Tammany Parish deputies took two defense attorneys into custody on contempt of court accusations Monday after they got into a fight at the parish courthouse in Covington, Sheriff Jack Strain confirmed.

Michael Fawer of Covington and his brother-in-law, Joseph Bartels of New Orleans, tussled outside state Judge Raymond Childress’ third-floor courtroom at about 10:30 a.m. As a result, the judge ordered both men held, Strain said.

Fawer, 71, claimed Bartels made a profane reference to his religion, and Bartels, 56, claimed Fawer injured his neck.

And you thought you didn’t get along with your brother-in-law. Well, at least these guys are zealous advocates.
A little more about this incident, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyers of the Day: Michael Fawer and Joseph Bartels”

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGWe now bring you… a pair of non-announcement announcements on the associate pay raise front. They’re from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and DLA Piper.
As our tipster noted, Pillsbury Winthrop practically “threatens” its associates with a pay raise. Here’s an excerpt from their memo (emphasis added):

We want to take the time to thoughtfully consider your views and take into account your concerns, which we share, regarding the need to stay competitive, together with the implicit work-life balance impact of additional salary increases.

In other words: “Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.”
The full text of the Pillsbury memo, plus a similar “hold your horses” memo from DLA Piper, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: In a Holding Pattern?”

Alex Kozinski.jpgDespite his recent public criticism of blogs, we’ve always viewed that colorful legal genius, Judge Alex Kozinski, as a great friend of blogging.
Judge Kozinski’s nomination of himself as a “judicial hottie” played a crucial role in the development of our original blog, Underneath Their Robes. And he has been a supporter of our blogging over the years. Even his criticism of us has been constructive and well-intentioned (even if harsh).
But if Judge Kozinski has soured on blogging, perhaps it is showing through in his jurisprudence. Check out today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit in Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommates.com (PDF).
We haven’t finished reading the opinions just yet. But based on Robert Loblaw’s this write-up, which provides a helpful summary and pellucid analysis, the decision doesn’t look like good news for bloggers — or any other websites that host user-generated content.
Sigh. This whole “blogging” thing ain’t as much fun as it used to be.
Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommates.com, LLC
[U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (PDF)]
Important Ninth Circuit Decision on Websites’ Legal Immunity under the CDA [Decision of the Day]
Earlier: Kozinski On Blogs: “Hateful Things”

Edward Tuddenham Sarah Cleveland townhouse townhome mansion Above the Law blog.jpgWe’ve been so focused on nationwide associate pay raises that we’ve been neglecting New York City — where lawyers have always earned top dollar. And where they enjoy real estate spoils reflecting their high compensation, which we regularly profile for Lawyerly Lairs.
One of our favorite sources of real estate porn in the deliciously gossipy New York Observer. Here are a few recent “Manhattan Transfers” items, all of which involve lawyers:
1. Crusading Lawyer Inks Sweet $2.4 M. Deal for Harlem Townhouse

The Erin Brockovich of big-sugar class-action lawsuits has bought a stately 108-year-old townhouse on West 137th Street (at right), a leafy block near Harlem’s Strivers Row.

Lawyer Edward Tuddenham and his wife, Sarah Cleveland, a University of Texas law professor, paid $2.4 million for the five-level townhouse.

Moral of the story: If you’re a law professor with dreams of a million-dollar home, you need to marry well. Or be Feldsuk.
In addition to having a million-dollar home, Professor Cleveland is also highly attractive, a former Rhodes Scholar, and a former Supreme Court clerk (for Justice Blackmun). Could a life be any more charmed? (Although that Manhattan-Austin commute is probably a real pain…)
Update: Per this comment, and as confirmed by this press release, Professor Cleveland — who is “a fantastic teacher,” we’re told — has been snapped up by Columbia. Very nice.
2. Saint David’s Buys Headmaster Two Philip Johnson Condos for $2.99 M
The Saint David’s School, an all-boys prep school, just purchased two adjacent condos for a total of almost $3 million. These apartments will be the home of their headmaster. Who says schoolteachers can’t live well?
One of the principals in this deal is a lawyer: Willkie Farr & Gallagher partner Xavier Dieux is selling one of the two units. Presumably Mr. Dieux is trading up; he was probably living below his means in his condo at the Metropolitan.
3. Davis Polk Stays At Home
This item, reporting on Davis Polk & Wardwell’s 650,000-square-foot renewal at 450 Lexington Avenue, concerns commercial rather than residential real estate. So it may lie slightly beyond the jurisdiction of Lawyerly Lairs.
But it is interesting to see how Davis Polk is perceived by the outside world. The Observer refers to DPW as “cultivat[ing] its reputation as the Cravath, Swaine & Moore for happy people.”
Is that view of DPW accurate? Feel free to debate in the comments.

Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin Hachigian LLP Above the Law blog.JPGIf you graduated from law school before or during the tech boom of the late 1990′s, you may recall how an elite boutique named Gunderson Dettmer led the charge on associate pay raises. As noted here:

In 1999, a Silicon Valley firm named Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, shook the legal community by offering new associates a starting salary of $125,000 with a guaranteed bonus of $20,000. This represented a 25 percent increase in the average base salary and even more for the total compensation package. Other firms in major cities around the country were forced to follow Gunderson’s lead and annual salaries increased by about 30 percent between 1999 and 2000. New associates reaped the benefits.

The firm is considerably bigger today. And it didn’t lead this latest round of pay raises; Orrick deserves credit for that.
But Gunderson Dettmer is definitely keeping up. Moreover, as a source at the firm notes, “Thankfully it appears that we didn’t take the underhanded bonus-cutting route that Wilson Sonsini and Heller Ehrman did.”
Check out the memo, after the jump.

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Irell Manella LLP Elite CA Law Firm Above the Law Blog.JPG
The website of Irell & Manella touts the firm as “An Elite CA Law Firm.”
Immodest? Perhaps. But true, insofar as Irell pays its associates as “an elite CA law firm” should.
The Irell & Manella pay raise memo, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “West Coast Pay Raise Watch: Irell & Manella”

Elizabeth Halverson Judge Elizabeth Halverson.jpgState court judges are like bratty kids, or pets that aren’t housebroken. You can’t take them anywhere.
Because they’ve probably already been banned from where you were planning to take them. Even if the place in question is the courthouse.
Consider the Honorable Elizabeth Halverson (at right). From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

The District Court chief judge on Thursday banned District Judge Elizabeth Halverson from the county courthouse.

In an administrative order, Chief Judge Kathy Hardcastle said Halverson jeopardized security at the courthouse this week by bringing her own two bodyguards into the courthouse and allowing them to bypass security checks.

As for why Judge Halverson needs two (2) bodyguards — and no, we won’t make the obvious joke — there’s quite a backstory, full of juicy judicial infighting. You can read all about it here.
Fred Axley Judge Fred Axley Above the Law blog.jpgAnd Judge Halverson isn’t the only state judge getting banned from public places these days. Meet the Honorable Fred Axley.
From the Legal Reader:

A Memphis judge is banned from a Florida resort. He is accused of sexually harassing an employee. Eyewitness News Everywhere uncovered this is not the first time Criminal Court Judge Fred Axley has been accused of sexual harassment….

Now he has been banned from a resort in Destin, FL, after an employee there says he sexually harassed her last week….

When we called the resort, an employee who asked not to be named, told us Axley had propositioned a massage therapist there for oral sex.

We commend the resort employee for having the courage to turn down the judge (and report him). Because saying “no” to a judge isn’t easy — even if the request involves sucking his gavel.
You can read more about Judge Axley’s history of alleged harassment, including incidents that led his law clerks to file lawsuits, by clicking here.
Judge Halverson banned from courthouse [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
Memphis Judge Banned From Florida Resort For Harassment [Legal Reader]

Orrick Herrington Sutcliffe LLP Above the Law blog.JPGHere is a memo that some of you have been waiting for, with an eagerness more typical of teenage boys expecting Spiderman 3. It’s an outline of the associate bonus program for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, in all of its complex glory.
The memo is rather lengthy. We thought about taking screenshots of each page, but that would have been too time-consuming. So we just cut and pasted the text instead.
Some of the formatting was lost as a result (as well as the pretty green “O” at the top of each page in the original). But the substance of the memo is all there.
If you’re interested, you can check it out after the jump

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Skaddenfreude: Here’s the Orrick Memo”

soccer field Above the Law blog.jpgIf you’re a sucker for soccer — which is one of the world’s most popular sports, and which may soon take off on these shores, thanks to the arrival of David Beckham — then you should definitely check out the Volokh Conspiracy guest-blogging of our good friend and former co-clerk, Professor William Birdthistle.
Here’s a teaser, from Birdthistle’s first post:

I attempt to discern the cause of the deterioration of World Cup soccer into [such a] deplorable state. My conclusion, which I’ll explore further in coming posts, is that the rewards and punishments that referees have in their arsenal are too crude and too capable of determining the outcome of the game. The power of referees to work a game’s bouleversement with one blow of the whistle — either by sending off a star player or awarding a penalty — places officials at the center of the game.

Players then have a strong incentive to attempt to influence referees, often by bearing false witness to the facts with dives and operatic petitions. This phenomenon appears to be exacerbated at the quadrennial World Cup, where teams play relatively few games for enormous stakes and where caution and calculation often trump free-flowing football….

My proposals for addressing the situation, which I will also discuss further in future posts, focus primarily on ways of diluting and refining referees’ power.

For more thoughts, including details of his reform proposals, check out the links collected below.
Football Most Foul [Volokh Conspiracy]
The Universal Game [Volokh Conspiracy]
William Birdthistle, Guest Blogging [Volokh Conspiracy]

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosati WSGR Above the Law blog.JPGAlong the lines of Heller Ehrman’s recent announcement, here’s another pseudo-raise from a West Coast firm. Earlier this afternoon, a source at Wilson Sonsini informed us:

A memo will be distributed later today with the details, but we received a VM a few minutes ago. Essentially, there will be “raises” to match market in places where there has been movement. This is defined as DC, CA, TX. NYC was already at $160k.

BUT the raise will be “mitigated” by an offset in the bonus structure. Also, Seattle and Salt Lake City are excluded from the “raise.”

The memo, which a second source at the firm verified for us, appears after the jump.

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