A Legal Tabloid - News, Insights, and Colorful Commentary on Law Firms and the Legal Profession
Managing Editor: David Lat
Editor: Elie Mystal
Assistant Editor: Staci Zaretsky
Contributors: Kashmir Hill, Marin, Mark Herrmann, Jay Shepherd
David Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Observer, Washingtonian magazine, and New York magazine. Prior to ATL, David 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 book reviews editor of the Yale Law Journal. David has received several awards for his work on ATL, including recognition as an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, a group of innovators within the legal profession, and inclusion as a member of the Fastcase 50, "the fifty most interesting, provocative, and courageous leaders in the world of law, scholarship, and legal technology." You can connect with him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.
Whoops! This reader poll has been closed for a while, but we forgot to report back to you about the results.
Here’s what we asked you, and how you voted:
And here’s a reminder of why we conducted the poll. A reader wrote to us:
Would you consider a poll asking how many hours people at the biglaw firms who just received salary comps are working? I’m at a second-tier biglaw firm (am law 100 with nyc, dc, cali offices + regional markets) that’s considering what to do with compensation.
The reluctance to matching [the $160K payscale] is expressed as “associates at those firms just bill more hours than our associates do.” An empirical — though not necessarily scientific — survey would be helpful to confirm or debunk that position.
Based on these results, the obvious observation is that the median respondent bills somewhere between 2100 and 2200 hours. So if your associates are billing out at standard Biglaw rates, and bill at least 2100 hours a year on average, it would seem that your firm can afford to be on the $160,000 pay scale.
Other thoughts? We aren’t particularly good at parsing statistics. So we look forward to reading your comments.
P.S. This poll is closed, but two other polls about billable hours remain open. You can vote in them by clicking here. Earlier: ATL Reader Poll: We Know How Much You Make. But How Hard Do You Work?
Newsweek has an interesting article about retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The gist of the piece is that even though Justice O’Connor is longer on the Court, she’s still extremely busy. Since her SCOTUS retirement, she has served on the Iraq Study Group, which published its report not too long ago; sat by designation on circuit courts (by our count, at least three — the Second, Eighth, and Ninth); worked on books; and delivered speeches, including vigorous defenses of “judicial independence.”
The most noteworthy material concerns the timing of Justice O’Connor’s departure from the Court:
O’Connor carefully weighed when to quit the bench. In the spring of 2005, with Chief Justice William Rehnquist publicly battling thyroid cancer, the two justices discussed timing. “We talked a little bit,” O’Connor recalls. “I was concerned about whether he had an intention to step down since his plans might have altered my own. It’s hard for the nation to grapple with two [retirements] at once,” she says. “He indicated he didn’t want to step down.” So she realized she had to go first.
And so she did, announcing her retirement on July 1, 2005. As it turned out, however, Chief Justice Rehnquist passed away about two months after SOC stepped down. So the nation did end up having to deal with two vacancies at the same time. (Then-Judge John Roberts was moved over to the Chief spot, after being nominated initially as an Associate Justice, and Judge Samuel Alito was subsequently appointed to replace Justice O’Connor.)
The article also reports unfortunate news concerning Justice O’Connor’s husband, John Jay O’Connor III:
After O’Connor was freed from her daily duties at the court—it took six months before Alito took her seat—John’s condition deteriorated. Last summer she reluctantly placed him in a care center near their home in Phoenix; she visits him often. “It’s such a miserable disease. It’s so sad. It’s so hard. I did the best I could,” she says. “He wants me there all the time.”
Justice O’Connor’s departure has left a void on the Court. And we’re not talking about making Justice Kennedy even more of an influential swing vote.
What we want to know is: Now that SOC is away from One First Street most of the time, who leads the morning aerobics classes at the Supreme Court gym — as Justice O’Connor used to do, on a daily basis before she retired? Although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a cheerleader in her youth, she no longer seems like the aerobicizing type.
And don’t look to SOC’s replacement, Justice Samuel Alito. We adore Justice Alito as a jurist. But we don’t think we’re alone in not wanting to see him in spandex. Justice: Bench Player [Newsweek via WSJ Law Blog]
Bloomberg News has a very good article about Sullivan & Cromwell v. Charney, the lawsuit filed by mega-firm S&C against its former associate, Aaron Charney. It’s more detailed than the New York Sun and TheLawyer.com articles that we mentioned this morning.
Sullivan & Cromwell said in their complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan yesterday, that Charney improperly leaked privileged information to the media while publicizing his case. The firm said it fired him [last Wednesday].
So it’s official. Aaron Charney can now be referred to as an EX-associate at Sullivan & Cromwell.
“Charney has used the Charney complaint as the centerpiece of a malicious public relations campaign,” the firm said in court papers. The purpose of Charney’s lawsuit has been “to embarrass and denigrate Sullivan & Cromwell, and to name Sullivan & Cromwell’s clients unnecessarily as part of his campaign.”
Sullivan & Cromwell is seeking to prevent Charney from distributing internal law firm information, including partner memos, rankings and client data, and return it to them. The suit also seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.
No wonder S&C itself has been so tight-lipped about the litigation. They’re going after Charney for parting his lips a few too many times.
The law firm claimed that Charney, who worked in the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions Group, “gratuitously” identified clients and revealed confidential information obtained while representing such clients….
The law firm claimed Charney obtained a copy of the firm’s partnership agreement and distributed it as an attachment to his lawsuit, which he posted on his own personal Web site and an Internet Web site called “infirmation.com.”
The law firm also alleged that he improperly obtained confidential personnel data from clients and transactions which he later shared with the media, such as the Wall Street Journal and a Canadian television program.
Sullivan & Cromwell also said Charney misappropriated an internal law firm slideshow presentation made to partners which addressed morale issues. The presentation was later obtained by the Wall Street Journal, which quoted from it. The documents were from a partner whose office was next to Charney’s, the suit claimed, and are now missing.
If these allegations are true, it’s not a good thing for Charney’s post-S&C legal career. Stealing documents may look all glamorous and sexy on TV and in the movies; but in real life, it’s not always a great idea.
(How many times has Aaron Charney watched “The Firm”?)
P.S. Yes, we know — our site thrives on people leaking documents to us. But we don’t force anyone to send us stuff; people do so of their own free will. And they’re usually lawyers, so they are aware of the possible consequences.
If Aaron Charney’s lawsuit against Sullivan & Cromwell is to be believed, some S&C lawyers think that Canadians are “irrelevant.”
Feel free to debate the relevance in Canadians in the comments. One thing that can be said for them, though, is that their lawyers have pretty good sex scandals.
From an article in the Toronto Star, by the provocatively named Tracey Tyler (who is a guy for all we know):
The former head of the governing body for Ontario lawyers has been suspended from practising for 60 days after admitting to a sexual affair with a client. George Hunter, 59, offered an emotional apology to his colleagues, family and ex-lover yesterday after pleading guilty to professional misconduct.
The irony here is too rich. Maybe all those years of administering slaps on the wrists to lawyers who improperly slept with clients got Hunter thinking, “Maybe I should give this a whirl?”[FN 1]
The relationship ended abruptly after Hunter asked X.Y. to meet him at an Ottawa restaurant, where he informed her that during the time they had been sexually involved, he had also had affairs with two other women….
In a move that might be worthy of entry in the annals of unromantic gestures, Hunter, just before disclosing those affairs, presented X.Y. with a copy of section 2.04 of the law society’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
It deals with conflicts of interest between lawyers and clients. Hunter wanted X.Y. to acknowledge that she had read it….
And THIS is why George Hunter is ATL’s Lawyer of the Day. Say what you will about Hunter, but the man was a LAWYER — to the bitter and embarrassing end.
[FN1] We say “improperly” because, as noted by the Globe and Mail, “[t]here are no professional or statutory rules in Canada which prohibit lawyers from having sexual relations with clients. [There are simply] conflict of interest codes which restrict lawyers from sexual relations with clients without informed consent and when the relationship might harm the client’s interests.”
In this case, Hunter admitted to misconduct. So there’s no claim that his affair — or the two other affairs he had while having affair #1 — were above board. Sex with client sinks top lawyer [Toronto Star] Ex-Law Society official suspended for affair with client [Globe & Mail] Law Society of Upper Canada investigates former Treasurer [The Lawyers Weekly] George D. Hunter bio [Borden Ladner Gervais]
Here’s the lunchtime open thread for discussion of associate salary developments. In the morning thread, there are rumors about various announcement that allegedly have (or have not) been made. Please send us whatever info you have, so we can verify and post.
After the jump, the Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe announcement, which made the rounds on Friday.
We’re still trying to get the motion papers in Sullivan & Cromwell v. Charney, the lawsuit S&C has filed against its (former) associate. Unfortunately, we haven’t had any luck just yet.
We’ve contacted some MSM friends who have been following the case, but they either don’t have the documents or aren’t willing to share them. We contacted S&C’s counsel, Zach Fasman of Paul Hastings, to see if he might be able to provide us with copies — which, as we noted in our email, are publicly filed. He wrote back: “No comment” (and with no attachments).
We’re coming up to New York on Thursday, to attend the hearing before Justice Bernard Fried. So we will try to get the documents ourselves, in person, at that time. But we would obviously appreciate it if someone could get copies to us earlier.
In the meantime, we’re curious to see whether S&C’s going on the offensive has affected public opinion. Ever since we opened our Charney v. S&C poll, Aaron Charney has been polling between 60 and 65 percent. But maybe this will change, now that S&C has turned the tables on Charney, accusing him of wrongdoing and misconduct in court filings of its own.
The poll appears below. Please note that you are permitted to change your vote (so feel free to do so if S&C’s countersuit has affected your views):
Last month we wrote about how Docket Review is conducted over at the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section (SPL). Attorneys who have worked under Shanetta Cutlar, chief of the section, have described Docket Review with her as an excruciating experience.
Since then, we’ve received some more information about the process. A recent email from a former SPL employee begins:
Many, including myself, are so grateful for your Shanetta Cutlar coverage. Many are able to vent and tell their true stories — or shall I say nightmares.
Your coverage has been lighthearted in tone. But with all due repect, the unprofessional mental, emotional and physical cruelty inflicted by Shanetta is indeed a FACT. This is a cry for help.
Many staff members, including deputies, have complained of physical illness related to the toxic stressful working environment within the Special Litigation Section. Some SPL staff have complained of severe headaches, viomitting and diarrhea.
Continued commentary, including a behind-the-scenes look at “Docket Review,” after the jump.
The latest round of associate pay raises is coming to a close. Most of the biggest shops have already announced, and the salary scales in the different cities are become fairly clear. The pace of announcements is also slowing down — a sign that we’re in the endgame.
Even though things are winding down, we are still happy to receive and publish compensation memos and emails. Please send announcements to us by email.
After the jump, we reprint some confirmed announcements from different offices of Morgan Lewis & Bockius. We thank the various tipsters who sent them in to us.
As previously discussed in these pages, Sullivan & Cromwell isn’t taking Aaron Charney’s lawsuit lying down. To the contrary, they have turned around and filed their own suit against Charney.
We summed up this development as follows: “Aaron, Biglaw is about to get medieval on your ass. You’re going to be bending over for Messrs. Sullivan and Cromwell. And this time around, they won’t ask nicely.”
Two news articles provide more details about S&C’s case against its former associate.
1. Law Firm Sues Ex-Employee [New York Sun]
A white-shoe law firm accused last month by one of its associates of discriminating against him because he is gay filed its own complaint against the lawyer, Aaron Brett Charney.
The firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, said last week that Mr. Charney broke his attorney-client privilege when he sought to embarrass the firm and its clients by publicizing his complaint in the press and on an Internet discussion board called Greedy Associates.
The firm also suggested that Mr. Charney stole proprietary documents from an office adjacent to his, and then leaked them to the Wall Street Journal.
Stealing documents from your neighbor’s office? How juicy! We’ve always viewed people who lock their offices whenever they’re not in them — e.g., even if they’re just stepping away for a few minutes to go to the bathroom — as being a bit paranoid. But maybe they’re just being smart.
(Also, we’re a little confused by the Sun’s discussion of the attorney-client privilege issue here. We wish we could see the S&C court filings ourselves.)
The suit was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on behalf of Sullivan & Cromwell by another New York firm, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. They ask a judge to force Mr. Charney to return the documents and award the firm unspecified damages.
Sullivan claims that Charney broke his attorney-client privilege, bringing the 125-year-old firm into disrepute when he published his grievances on a website, greedyassociates.com, before officially bringing them to firm management.
It is understood that a hearing is scheduled for 8 February at Manhattan’s Supreme Court.
Charney’s biography has also been taken down from the firm’s website in the last few days. Up until last week, both Sullivan and Charney stressed the fact that he was still an employee of the firm, although Charney said he was told not to come to the office while an internal investigation was ongoing.
Sullivan is also claiming that Charney stole and leaked documents to the press.
As some of you havenoticed, several reader comments posted over the weekend have mysteriously vanished. A few people wondered whether they were deliberately deleted.
For the record, these reader comments were not removed on purpose. We are in the process of upgrading the technology behind the site — a process that’s still ongoing. Unfortunately, these comments were lost during a server switch.
We’ll see if the missing comments can be retrieved from the ether (although we are not optimistic). We apologize for the inconvenience, and we thank you for your patience.
P.S. Please note that the “we” in this post refers to Dead Horse Media and Logicworks, not to “me,” David Lat (because I have no control over, or responsibility for, technological issues or problems; I just work on the editorial side of things).
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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