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

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGSorry, we have nothing new to report concerning either associate pay raises or clerkship bonuses. The best we can offer is yet another non-announcement announcement (like these two).
Today’s email, which actually made the rounds earlier in the week, comes from McDermott Will & Emery:

As you are probably aware, over the last two weeks there have been a number of developments in various of our markets in the US with respect to associate salaries. It is very clear, for example that the market in California has increased to a level of $160,000 for first year associates with commensurate increases in more senior classes.

The Firm intends to continue our practice of paying competitive compensation in all of our markets. Rather than taking action on a serial basis, we are continuing to monitor the relevant developments and plan to make a final decision by May 30 with retroactive effect back to May 1.

Thank you for your patience in the interim.

Dawna Butala for Donald A. Goldman, Esq.
McDermott Will & Emery LLP

One source’s gloss on this: “A likely bump for the california offices, but looking grim for Chicago, Boston and D.C.”
We have to step away from the computer for a little while. Please discuss compensation issues, and post the text of any new announcements, in the comments. Thanks.

Cahill Gordon Reindel LLP Above the Law blog.jpgEarlier this week, we reported on the unexpected early promotions of four corporate associates at Cahill Gordon. According to various comments, the four soon-to-be partners, whose promotions will take effect in July, are Doug Horowitz, Corey Wright, Bill Miller, and Jonathan Frankel.
As some speculated, this quartet was promoted early to prevent them from leaving for greener pastures. Here are more details:

The way it apparently went down is that all 7th and 8th year litigators were sat down individually by a partner and told, a week or so ago, that 7th and 8th year corporate associates — corporate associates only — were going to be voted on this summer. The given reason was to prevent these people from leaving to go to i-banks.

Litigators were apparently told that they should not consider this to be a negative commentary on their value to the firm, and that they would be considered in the normal course, either end of this year (8th years) or end of next (7th years). Their chances of making it were described as “the same as they were yesterday.”

It’s my understanding that there is a growing rift between corporate and litigation at the firm. Each group — partners included — increasingly resenting the other. Corpies think litigators are lazy, don’t have to work nearly as hard for the same amount of money. Litigators resent being treated as second-class citizens.

Very interesting. Some food for thought:

1. Several top law firms have struggled to deal with the problem of star associates leaving for investment banks, hedge funds, and other opportunities in the world of finance. Will other Biglaw shops start employing this strategy of early promotion to retain their best associates? Could we be witnessing the start of a trend?

2. According to conventional wisdom, corporate lawyers generally have “better” — or at least more lucrative — exit opportunities than litigators. As a result, law firms face more outside competition for them. Could we eventually see a system in which partnership tracks are shorter for corporate associates than for litigation colleagues, in reflection of the different markets for the two practice areas?

Please feel free to discuss in the comments.
Earlier: Some Premature Promotions at Cahill Gordon?

In the next few weeks, summer associates will be arriving at large law firms around the country. And they’ll get treated to lavish, three-hour lunches, paid for by Biglaw shops that want to win them back on a permanent basis.
But the summer lunches may be a trifle rushed over at Dewey Ballantine. Here’s a rumor (unconfirmed) that’s making the rounds:

The word on the street is that Dewey Ballantine announced today that summer activities/lunches/etc. won’t count towards the billable hours minimum of 2000 for a bonus (cliff effect: 1999 you get nothing, 2000 you get market).

This sounds like a recipe for recruiting suicide. Do most firms with minimums exclude summer associate activities from the total? I like lunch at Nobu57and karaoke as much as the next guy, but I’m not giving up $40,000 for it.

We see our tipster’s point. But we think that many (if not most) firms don’t count such activities towards billable minimums. Did Dewey count them in previous years, as this rumor implies?
Update: We are getting some vague rumblings from sources that the Dewey rumor above is incorrect (although they won’t spell out how). We warned you to take this gossip as unconfirmed. Anyway, the real point of this post is what appears below…
In any event, our correspondent isn’t actually at Dewey, whose Los Angeles office will be hosting this comely young law student (as profiled in Stuff Magazine):
Dewey Ballantine Stuff Magazine hottie 2.jpg
A quasi-racy picture, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “One Summer Associate You Definitely Want To Take To Lunch”


Viva Las Vegas Viva Linklaters Above the Law blog.JPGNo, not that Bjork. We’re talking about a different idiosyncratic Scandinavian, who also harbors musical aspirations.
By way of introduction:

This email was sent to the whole of Linklaters by one of their Swedish assistants associates!

Brilliant.

Oh those crazy Swedes…
Check out the email — which has made the rounds worldwide, is still being forwarded as we speak, and was going to wind up in your inbox eventually, so we feel no qualms about posting it — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Special Message from Bjork: Viva Linklaters!!!”

Happy Texas Unhappy Texas Above the Law blog.jpgIt has been a while since our last update on associate pay raises. That’s because we have nothing to report. If you hear of anything, please email us.
In the meantime, here’s something from a Texas tipster:

Thought I would pass along information I’ve compiled over the last few days re: Texas associate salaries.

First, here’s an article where all the big Texas shops basically give the finger to the idea of pay raises any time soon.

Second, here’s the list of firms (that I know of) with offices in Texas that have raised to $150K or higher (current big firm average in Texas right now is $135K). The name of the city and number of associates in the offices in those cities is also listed (source, NALP). There may be others that have gone up that I don’t know about. Please use your vast network of informants and resources to find out.

The rest of the message, including the list, appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: Unhappy, Texas”

This past weekend witnessed an historic event: the first annual BLUEBOOK INVITATIONAL!!!
And we were on hand for the competition. On Saturday, May 12, the four august publications that publish the Bluebook — the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal — vied for supremacy.
When we first learned about the “Bluebook Invitational,” we could barely contain our excitement. We imagined a contest to determine which law review’s editors were most proficient in the rules of legal citation. It would be like the law review version of the crossword puzzle contests featured in the movie Wordplay. Editors would be given sample pages of incorrectly Bluebooked prose. They would then have to edit them, under time pressure, before being scored on both the speed and accuracy of their Bluebooking.
Sadly, as we later learned, the “Bluebook Invitational” has nothing to do with actual Bluebooking:
Bluebook 5a.JPG
WTF? Why would we want to watch a bunch of law review gunner-types toss a pigskin around?
As it turned out, though, we had a fun time. And some of the players were actually very good.
A report on the proceedings, plus pictures, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Report on the First Annual Bluebook Invitational”

Aaron Charney headshot Aaron B Charney Aaron Brett Charney.JPGMany of you have expressed interest in the latest developments in the continuing litigation between gay lawyer Aaron Charney and his former employer, Sullivan & Cromwell. It has been quite some time since our last post about this case.
Unfortunately, as far as we know, nothing is going on right now. We have a Google Alert set to notify us of all things Charneylicious, and it has been silent lately. This morning we checked the docket, as well as the blogs of two top Charney watchers, Professor Art Leonard and Lavi Soloway. Nada, zilch, zip.
To tide you over, here is one little rumor (unconfirmed, so take it with a grain of salt). It’s so minor that we hesitate to share it. But, for what it’s worth, we hear that Gera Grinberg — the S&C associate who had a relationship with Aaron Charney that partner Alexandra Korry allegedly described as “unnatural” — is back in the office.
(We tried to confirm this by emailing Grinberg. We didn’t receive a response; but we also didn’t receive an “Out of Office” notice, either.)
Observers of this case will recall that Gera Grinberg was placed on a leave of indefinite length by S&C, shortly after the lawsuit was filed. He was on this delightful vacation paid leave for a period of at least several weeks. But now we hear that he’s back at 125 Broad Street, working away like a good corporate lawyer.
Boy that must be awkward — for both Grinberg and S&C. After all, Grinberg is at the center of some salacious allegations about possible misconduct in this case.
If you have any information about new developments in Charney v. S&C, please drop us a line. Thanks.
Update: In response to this comment: Yes, we called Gera Grinberg too. The call went straight to voice-mail (which makes us wonder whether maybe he still is on leave, since no secretary was covering his phone). We left a message.

Big Love Mormon polygamy Above the Law blog.jpgEarlier this week, a California judge tossed out a lawsuit brought by a high school student who was disciplined by her school, and teased by her classmates, for using the phrase “That’s so gay.” From the Associated Press:

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Elaine Rushing said she sympathized with 18-year-old Rebekah Rice for the ridicule she experienced at Maria Carrillo High School. But, the judge said, Rice’s lawyers failed to prove that school administrators had violated any state laws or singled the girl out for punishment….

The case filed by Rice and her parents in 2003 brought widespread attention to a three-word phrase that some teenagers use to mean “stupid” or “uncool,” but has come under attack as an insensitive insult to gay people.

The Rices argued that a teacher violated Rebekah Rice’s First Amendment rights by sending her to the principal’s office and putting a note in her school file. During a trial in February, Rebekah Rice testified she said “That’s so gay” as a response to other students asking her rude questions about her Mormon upbringing.

Regardless of the legal merits, it seems that young Rebekah could learn a little sensitivity. How would she feel if a classmate derided an ugly outfit of hers by saying, “That’s so polygamous”?
Update / Clarification: We are NOT making fun of Mormonism. Please recall that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actually REJECTS polgamy. Rather, we are making fun of the idiocy of playground insults (e.g., “That’s so polygamous” — which makes absolutely no sense).
Judge Rules in ‘That’s So Gay’ Case [Associated Press]

Supreme Court 6 Above the Law blog.JPGWe’re a little late on this (and blame our tardiness on associate pay fixation). But here are two interesting tidbits of Supreme Court gossip, from Tony Mauro of the Legal Times:
1. Carter Phillips’ Kin Is Alito Clerk [Legal Times]
One of Justice Samuel Alito’s incoming clerks, Jessica Phillips — who has been described as “beautiful and brainy” — is the daughter of renowned Supreme Court litigator Carter Phillips. This means that Jessica “will have no involvement in cases in which her father’s firm, Sidley Austin, participates” — which has ranged as high as 20 percent of the Court’s docket.
(Btw, Jessica Phillips is not the first female clerk whose father also clerked for the Court. Mauro ticks off a list of five daughters of male clerks who went on to become clerks themselves. Check it out here.)
2. New Job for Mrs. Roberts [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]
More on Jane Roberts’ New Job [The BLT]

Lawyer Jane Sullivan Roberts, the wife of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has a new job — and it’s not at a law firm. The leading legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa announced this morning that Mrs. Roberts is leaving Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman’s D.C. office to become leader of the In-House Practice Group in Major, Lindsey & Africa’s D.C. office.

Inquiring minds want to know: Will Jane Roberts continue to earn more than her husband in her new position?
(That was surely the case in her old job, when Jane Sullivan Roberts was a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop. Even though her most recent post at the firm was Executive Partner for Talent Development, which probably didn’t involve a lot of client-billable work, it would be shocking for a Biglaw partner to earn less than her hubby’s $212,100 salary as Chief Justice.)

Roberto Rivera Soto Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto Judge Above the Law blog.jpgOn the heels of our recent post about Judge Noel Hillman (D.N.J.), here’s another shout-out to our home state and its judges. It concerns Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto, of the New Jersey Supreme Court, who is ATL’s Judge of the Day.
From the New York Times:

[Justice] Rivera-Soto is a New Jersey Supreme Court justice, and he now faces an ethics complaint charging that he abused his position when he contacted several local officials in an attempt to help his son, who was having trouble with a teammate on his high school football team.

In a rare action against a member of New Jersey’s highest court, the state’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, which filed the complaint on Friday, accused Justice Rivera-Soto of violating court rules, including engaging in conduct “prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.”

So what’s the basis for the complaint? More discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto”

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