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

Paul McNulty Paul J McNulty Above the Law blog.jpegFor departure. For Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, his last day at the Department of Justice will be in not-too-distant future. He announced his intention to resign earlier today.
But he won’t be leaving the DOJ as abruptly as, say, Monica Goodling. He’ll stick around for a few more months:

McNulty, who has served 18 months as the Justice Department’s second-in-command, announced his plans at a closed-door meeting of U.S. attorneys in San Antonio, according to two senior department aides. He said he will remain at the department until this fall or until the Senate approves a successor, the aides said.

(It’s nice to know that we were actually right about something. But then again, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.)
Justice Department Official Resigning, Aides Say [Associated Press]
Earlier: Paul McNulty: On His Way Out?

Sigh. Guess we got a little lax in our factchecking around here (i.e., not doing it at all, since it had been a while since anyone bothered to put together a fake memo).
The purported Much Shelist memo that we posted earlier appears to be a fake. Sorry, Chicago.
If anyone has a real memo to send us, please do so. But the lag time between our receiving memos and posting them will undoubtedly increase going forward, due to pranks like this one. Thanks.

Spanking the Monkey H Dewain Herring Above the Law blog.gifWe meant to link to this amusing story last Friday. Unfortunately, between salary coverage and entertaining visitors at our office hours, it fell through the cracks.
Anyway, to find out why H. Dewain Herring, Esq., currently on trial for murder, is ATL’s Lawyer of Last Friday, click here. You’ll be treated to the story of a prosecution featuring “salacious themes of lap dances, drug use and public nakedness.”
Herring’s defense: accidental discharge. Which, to be sure, happens all the time in strip clubs.
To pique your interest, here’s an excerpt from the trial transcript, courtesy of a source on the ground in Columbia, South Carolina:

q. and when you entered the champagne room he was masturbating, right?
a. yes, he was spanking that monkey
q. and when you entered, he saw you and kept masturbating.
a. yes, he kept on spanking that thing.
q. kept on spanking it, ok…

If he were still on the bench, and if this had happened in Oklahoma rather than South Carolina, we know the perfect judge for this trial.
Defense Stresses Lack of Intent [The State]

Much Shelist Denenberg Ament & Rubinstein Above the Law blog.jpgHere’s a recent message from a Chicago-based reader:

I’ve got a suggestion for a post. How about one on the Chicago market?

NYC, done. L.A. is pretty much set. DC looks like it’s headed to 160.

But what about Chicago? I think a post along the lines of whether Chicago is going to take a back seat as a lower tier legal market, or match the LA/DC markets, would generate a lot of interest/traffic/comments.

Ok, just my two cents. The stuff on the compensation has been great! Keep up the good work.

We agree with this commenter. There’s no longer much excitement to covering Los Angeles, which is “pretty much set,” and Washington, DC, which will surely settle at $160K (even if some firms drag their feet about it, to save themselves a few weeks’ worth of higher salaries).
But “flyover country” — basically, Chicago and Texas (which we’ll cover in a subsequent post) — is a big question mark. Will these markets match the big money of the East Coast, and retain their status as major legal markets? Or will they fade into regional obscurity, unable to draw the same legal talent as their more flush coastal counterparts?
The big Chicago shops haven’t budged on associate salaries in their home offices. But one Windy City boutique, Much Shelist, isn’t going down without a fight. Last week they raised all of their offices — including their home office, in Chicago — to the $160K scale. The memo appears after the jump.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: The purported Much Shelist memo that appears after the jump is a FAKE.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Chicago Pay Raise Watch: Much Shelist Deserves Much Praise Memo Is A Fake”

No, this has nothing to do with Bill Clinton. We’re talking about the other Monica — former Justice Department lawyer Monica Goodling, one of our favorite personalities here at ATL.
Over the weekend, the New York Times published the best article we’ve read in a long, long time. Check it out (annotations ours):
You Have a Monica Problem Monica Goodling Monica M Goodling.jpg
Now this is the point in the post where we should start highlighting the best parts of Eric Lipton’s article, followed by mildly snarky quips. But the entire piece is so delicious that it would be wrong to pick out excerpts. Please read the whole thing for yourself, by clicking here.
Okay, are you done? Great. Discussion continues after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “‘Houston, We Have a Monica Problem’”

Patterson Belknap Webb Tyler LLP Above the Law blog.jpgThe latest firm to raise its clerkship bonuses: Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler. From a current clerk:

I have an offer from Patterson Belknap and I just received an email informing me that their bonus is 50K.

Keep up the good work.

To people with two clerkships or two years of clerking experience: no, we don’t know whether Patterson’s $50,000 clerkship bonus is “flat,” or whether they pay more for more than one clerkship year. If you have an offer from Patterson and are in this boat, please contact the firm and find out what their policy is. And then tell your friends here at ATL. Thanks!

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGPlease treat this post as a weekend open thread for discussion of associate pay raises, clerkship bonuses, or anything else that strikes your fancy.
There are a million things we want (and need) to write about. But we have a fairly full weekend planned, in terms of non-ATL-related activities. So you might not hear from us until Monday — unless Alberto Gonzales resigns, or New York firms raise to $200K (neither of which is happening anytime soon).
In recent weeks, current and future Biglaw associates have expressed gratitude to Above the Law for helping to increase their compensation. Even though we know ATL has a few influential readers — managing partners, hiring partners, and recruitment coordinators at top firms (we’ll keep them nameless) — we think our influence is exaggerated.
Nevertheless, some of you do believe that ATL deserves some credit for putting more dollars in your pocket. And some of you have asked us, in emails and in comments, what you can do to give back to this site.
All we ask is that you keep on reading Above the Law (and encourage everyone you know to read it as well). But if you’d like to do more, some suggestions appear after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Skaddenfreude: Weekend Open Thread, and Shameless Plugs”

Heller Ehrman LLP Above the Law blog.JPGFear not, ATL readers. We’re already on the case. We are collecting information about the bonus structures of different law firms, with a focus on West Coast or California law firms.
To make this effort a success, we need your help. Please send tips and memos to us by email (subject line: “Bonus Structure”).
(We should warn you that it may take a little time to collect and process this information. So don’t expect a comprehensive report immediately.)
Why do bonuses matter so much? As it turns out, law firms that are paying base salaries that are the same (nominally) actually compensate similarly hardworking associates quite differently. Significant differences exist between Biglaw shops in terms of the hours-based bonuses.
One example of why bonuses matter: the just announced Heller Ehrman “raise” (memo after the jump). From a tipster:

Note that because Heller has eliminated a previously-existing automatic bonus payout at 2000 exactly equivalent to the amount of “adjustment” to the base salary, this move amounts to a “raise” of $0 for anyone billing over 2000 hours (i.e., most everyone). I implore you to solicit memos and other information relating to the bonus structures of firms–particularly firms following the “California model” of paying out rigid, automatic bonuses at various hours-targets. Without such information public, firms (like Heller and MoFo) assume that they can trick law students into believing they’re “competitive” when in fact they may be below market in terms of real compensation. (NY was already at $160k, and they apparently still get their 2000 hours bonus on top of that.)

An interesting comparison, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “West Coast Pay Raise Watch: The Heller Ehrman ‘Raise,’ and a Request for Bonus Information”

Anonymous Lawyer Above the Law blog.JPGHey, guess what, ATL readers? Here’s your chance to win free stuff!
Happy news: Anonymous Lawyer — Jeremy Blachman’s very funny novel about law firm life, based on his wildly popular blog — is now out in paperback. Hooray!
To learn more about the book, check out the hilarious website for Anonymous Law Firm LLP. Or read our review, from the New York Observer.
To celebrate this occasion, guess what? Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, Picador, we are giving away five copies of the paperback Anonymous Lawyer to lucky ATL readers. Exciting!
Here’s how to participate. Send a blank email to anonymouslawyergiveaway AT gmail DOT com (or just click here). We will pick five winners, at random, and notify them by email.
Good luck!
Anonymous Law Firm LLP [official website]
Anonymous Lawyer [Amazon.com]
Way Better Than Briefs: Legal Minds Turn To Blogs [New York Observer]

LeBoeuf Lamb La Bouche Above the Law Blog.jpgHere are the members of the “$50K/$70K Club” — the elite law firms that pay clerkship bonuses of $50,000, for one year of clerking, or $70,000, for two years:
1. Cravath, Swaine & Moore
2. LeBoeuf Lamb
3. Skadden Arps
4. Sullivan & Cromwell
5. Weil Gotshal & Manges
One of these things is not like the others…
Yes, that’s right: LeBoeuf Lamb, while certainly a prestigious firm, historically hasn’t been regarded as “in the same league” with the others.
But perhaps that will change, given the firm’s intent to go after top legal talent, as expressed through their clerkship bonuses. And see also their website:

We actively recruit associates who have completed judicial clerkships and reward them with clerkship bonuses and advanced standing. Effective fall 2007, LeBoeuf Lamb lawyers who join the firm immediately after completing law school and a qualifying judicial clerkship receive $50,000 if they have participated in a one-year clerkship or $70,000 if they have participated in a two-year clerkship. Candidates are encouraged to ask for more details about our clerkship bonus program during the interview process.

LeBoeuf Lamb, ATL salutes you! We wish you the best of luck in your law clerk recruiting efforts.
Associates: Compensation and Benefits [LeBoeuf Lamb]
La Bouche [Wikipedia]

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