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.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.

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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.

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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]

Cooley Godward Kronish LLP Above the Law blog.JPGWe have confirmed the rumor from the comments that Cooley Godward Kronish raised associate salaries yesterday.
Actually, here’s a better way of saying it: Cooley has matched the market. Because, let’s face it, the $160K scale is the new going rate in California.
(And it effectively is in Washington, DC, where Hogan & Hartson, Akin Gump, and all the D.C. offices of New York and West Coast firms pay on the $160K scale. We’ll have to wait and see, however, with respect to Chicago, Texas, and a few other major legal markets.)
We confirmed the fact of the raise with a source at the firm; but we don’t have a copy of the Cooley memo yet (assuming there was one). If you have one, please email it to us (or post it in the comments). Thanks.
Update: No memo; but more details. From a tipster: “The raise is effective June 1. All offices. No discussion of effect on bonuses.”

51st and Broadway Above the Law blog.JPGDo you work for a law firm in Midtown Manhattan? If so, feel free to drop in and say hello to your undersigned writer.
Last night we drove up from our regular base of operations, Washington, DC, to the Big Apple. Right now we’re hanging out, and working from, the Starbucks on the northeast corner of 51st and Broadway.
If you have some gossip you’d like to share — stuff that’s too juicy to send us by email — please swing by. Or just come by and say hi. (And do leave us with one of your business cards, so we can add you to the list of tipsters we use to verify information about specific firms.)
Hope to see some of you later today, when you’re on a lunch or coffee break. Thanks!
(After the jump: A random photo we took this morning, while walking through Rockefeller Center, of Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, of the Today show, with Antonio Banderas.)

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What more could you ask for in a law firm? As reported by several commenters, and confirmed by the Legal Times, Akin Gump has raised starting salaries in its Washington and California offices to $160,000 (with corresponding increases up the seniority ladder).
Cynics might wonder: Is this an attempt to distract attention from the scandal of the Akin Gump Escort? Akin Gump associates might respond: Who cares? Some people subscribe to the “mo money mo problems” school of thought. But to most Biglaw associates, “mo money is mo money.”
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer Feld LLP Akin Gump escort Above the Law blog.jpg
We realize, of course, that the real reason behind the Akin Gump raise is Hogan & Hartson’s earlier move to $160K. We just enjoy working references to the Akin Gump Escort into as many stories as possible, no matter how gratuitous.
Even if the Akin Gump Escort Affair (hehe) played a supporting role in the timing of this raise, there would be no shame in that. Increases in associate compensation sometimes have their roots in scandal. Fallout from the Aaron Charney lawsuit, for example, may have led Sullivan & Cromwell to raise its clerkship bonus to $50,000, in anticipation of a tough fall recruiting season. That increase, of course, gave rise to clerkship bonus mania across the country, in which firms untainted by scandal ponied up more dough for law clerks.
For those of you who are curious, the Akin Gump memo appears after the jump.
P.S. Apologies for the delay in posting this news. We’ve been on the road for most of the evening.
Akin Jumps on the $160K Bandwagon [The BLT: The Blog of the Legal Times]

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Stroock Stroock Lavan LLP Above the Law blog.JPGThat’s what some of you were wondering with respect to Maury B. Saiger, the associate at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in New York, who sent out a now infamous email yesterday. After we posted his email, his bio disappeared from the Stroock website. Had he been fired?
No. Maury Saiger’s bio is back online. Our sources at Stroock tell us that they are not aware of any adverse employment action being taken with respect to Mr. Saiger.
But we do hear that the firm’s Executive Committee threw a s**t fit yesterday, after we posted Saiger’s email. There were some very unhappy campers at Stroock yesterday.
More about the fallout from this episode appears after the jump.

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White Case LLP Above the law blog.jpgToday seems to be White & Case day here at ATL. This morning we wrote about Emily Pataki, a supervised legal intern an associate at White & Case, acing the New York bar exam. And now we have some W&C news on the clerkship bonus front.
In an earlier comment thread, there was debate over the size of White & Case’s clerkship bonus. Was it $15,000? Or $35,000?
That debate is now moot. We just received word from official sources at the firm:

White & Case — Judicial Clerkship Bonuses Update

DC, Los Angeles, Palo Alto and New York at $50,000

Miami at $35,000

For Biglaw-bound law clerks, this is very good news. As various commenters noted here, White & Case falls just outside the Vault Top 20 (and below most other members of the $50K Club on that list). But now that White & Case has raised, we expect many more firms — and pretty much everyone in the top 20 — to step up to the plate.
Three cheers for White & Case!

Alberto Gonzales 4 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.gifWe’ve been doing a lot of Biglaw coverage lately. But since Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is being raked over the coals as we type, in an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, let’s take a timely detour into the U.S. Department of Justice.
The DOJ isn’t looking terribly competent right now. And this latest story won’t burnish their reputation. From a tipster:

As you know, the Justice Department produced a number of documents to Congress, concerning the controversial U.S. Attorney firings. These document productions have not been huge — maybe just a few thousand pages. Nothing like what you see in major commercial litigation.

One such document production showed up on Capitol Hill, in four sets: two sets for the Senate Judiciary Committee (Democrats and Republicans), and two sets for the House Judiciary Committee (Democrats and Republicans). The production arrived on a weekday evening.

A Republican staffer immediately started looking through the production. The staffer noticed that the produced documents didn’t have Bates stamps on them. Oops. Guess the DOJ forgot to have them stamped — a screw-up, although not a cardinal sin.

A few pages later, the staffer noticed something else, on a document with redactions on it. There was redacting tape that was STILL ON THE DOCUMENT. One could access the redacted, privileged material simply by peeling off the tape.

Holy crap. Instead of sending over Bates-stamped photocopies, the DOJ had produced its ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS to the Congress.

Nice. Apparently the Justice Department is less competent than a second-year litigation associate: they can’t do a proper document production.
It gets worse. More after the jump.

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