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

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.

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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

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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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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.

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