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

Deborah Jeane Palfrey Debra Jean Palfrey DC Madam Above the Law blog.jpgApparently we weren’t the only ones who got blue balls from felt cheated by 20/20′s report last Friday on the alleged DC madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Professor Ann Althouse writes:

Were you, like me duped into watching “20/20″ last night to hear what names they’d name based on the big list forked over to them by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who’s accused of running a prostitution ring in Washington?

“Our decision at the end was not to name any names,” said Brian Ross, the news correspondent who presented the segment. Mr. Ross said that the network went with a “conservative approach,” and that “based on our reporting it turned out not to be as newsworthy as we thought in terms of the names.”

At least they’re being honest — it seems — in not pretending they’d belatedly discovered some ethical compunction about it.

Like Professor Althouse, we were also duped, seduced by ABC’s advertising promising a salacious broadcast. We rushed home from a party on Friday night so we wouldn’t miss the 20/20 special report, which we were expecting to be sensational. We were disappointed.
Sigh. Well, at least there was a shout-out to the Akin Gump escort:

Sometimes when Palfrey was unavailable [to answer the phones], a legal secretary at one of Washington’s top law firms, Akin Gump, would handle the calls as well as go out on calls herself.

Using her e-mail account at Akin Gump, the secretary told Palfrey why she wanted to be an escort: “A day a week would be fun and spa money.”

And from an ATL source, here’s more gossip about the Akin Gump Escort, a former secretary to powerhouse partner John Dowd, the criminal defense lawyer now representing Monica Goodling:

This secretary likes to shop at high-end stores. She also drives luxury vehicles.

An escort with a weakness for fashion and the finer things? Color us surprised.
This could, however, be advantageous for Monica Goodling. If we were John Dowd, we’d instruct the Akin Gump Escort to take Monica Goodling shopping for a new suit, before Goodling’s anticipated congressional testimony.
Brian Ross Reports on the D.C. Madam [ABC News / 20/20]
ABC fakes us out about naming names [Althouse]

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGIf you’re a current clerk with an offer from Debevoise & Plimpton, good news. The firm has bumped up its clerkship bonus to $50,000 — which is fast becoming the new Biglaw standard.
There’s a small catch that may affect a few of you. Unlike some other firms, like Weil Gotshal and Cravath, the Debevoise bonus appears to be “flat.” It does not increase for multiple clerkships or years of clerking.
In case you’re curious, the Debevoise email appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Clerkship Bonus Watch: Debevoise Joins the $50K Club”

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGNope, we haven’t heard about any more West Coast firms announcing associate pay raises. We have nothing to add to the recent announcements by Orrick, O’Melveny, and MoFo.
If you’re expecting Latham & Watkins to act soon, you will probably be disappointed. They weren’t too quick on the draw the last time around. And rumor has it that they’re taking their sweet time about a raise now, too.
From an anonymous commenter (caveat — not verified):

“Our managing partner here at LW in LA has quietly been spreading the word that we should expect the bump, and that we shouldn’t get worried if we don’t hear anything formal until the end of the month after the executive committee has its May meeting. Apparently they don’t want to contribute to the ‘hysteria’ (his words) by having an emergency meeting over this.”

Hysteria. We love it. Associate pay raises = Salem witch trials.
We saw Goody Orrick with the Devil! And Goody O’Melveny and Goody Morrison, too!
(Please treat this as a new open thread for salary discussion. Please note any breaking news in the comments — and send it to us by email, too. Thanks.)


Supreme Court 6 Above the Law blog.JPGRemember our lovelorn Craigslist poster, with a hopeless crush on the dazzling Denise McNerney, Merits Clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court? It appears that he may have a rival for the affections of this comely clerk.
From today’s Legal Times:

[T]here was a large and enthusiastic turnout at Georgetown University Law Center April 26 as the Supreme Court Institute recognized four senior officials of the Clerk’s Office: Chief Deputy Clerk Chris Vasil, Deputy Clerk Gary Kemp, Deputy Clerk Cynthia Rapp, and Denise McNerney, the merits clerk. Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stopped by to shake their hands.

Solicitor General Paul Clement extolled the Clerk’s Office…. Sidley Austin’s Carter Phillips seconded the motion, describing McNerney as the most important woman in his life — after those in his family.

Yikes. Carter Phillips is quite a romantic rival. He’s one of the country’s most celebrated Supreme Court litigators; a very wealthy man, as a longtime Sidley & Austin partner; and even a former Supreme Court clerk, to Chief Justice Warren Burger.
But look, underdogs can prevail in these battles for the heart of a beautiful woman. It happens all the time. Like in the movies.
So c’mon, Mr. Craigslist Poster — send some flowers to Denise McNerney, c/o U.S. Supreme Court, One First Street, Washington, DC 20003. We’re rooting for you!
P.S. We’d love to get our hands on a photo of Ms. McNerney. If you can help us out, please email us. Thanks.
P.P.S. No, this Denise McNerney isn’t the one that we’re looking for — she’s too old. We understand that Denise McNerney of SCOTUS fame is in her early 30′s.
Clerk Power [Legal Times]
Earlier: Desperately Seeking ‘The Supreme Court Clerk of My Heart’
‘The Supreme Court Clerk of My Heart’: Not Talkin’ About Pam Talkin

gun pistol firearm Second Amendment Above the Law blog.jpgLiberal law professors can be pretty predictable in their tastes. Volvo stationwagons. Fair trade coffee. Guns.
Guns? Yes, guns. No, not gunners — guns. Firearms. Bang bang. The good ol’ Second Amendment.
According to a very interesting NYT article, by Adam Liptak:

In March, for the first time in the nation’s history, a federal appeals court struck down a gun control law on Second Amendment grounds. Only a few decades ago, the decision would have been unimaginable.

There used to be an almost complete scholarly and judicial consensus that the Second Amendment protects only a collective right of the states to maintain militias. That consensus no longer exists — thanks largely to the work over the last 20 years of several leading liberal law professors, who have come to embrace the view that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns.

In those two decades, breakneck speed by the standards of constitutional law, they have helped to reshape the debate over gun rights in the United States. Their work culminated in the March decision, Parker v. District of Columbia, and it will doubtless play a major role should the case reach the United States Supreme Court.

Legal academic debate with real-world ramifications? Wow. This truly is newsworthy.
Thoughtful blogospheric reactions from Jonathan Adler, Jack Balkin, Randy Barnett, and Michael Dorf, among others. We were most amused by Professor Dorf, who blog-slaps Liptak, before concluding his post in delightfully catty fashion:

Full disclosure: I spoke with Mr. Liptak last week and expressed skepticism (along the lines described above) about his causal claim. I guess I didn’t say anything quote-worthy.

HA. Hell hath no fury like a law professor not name-checked.
(Sorry, Professor Dorf — not everyone is as susceptible to your charms as Justice Kennedy. You may spend your entire life searching for a jurisprudential romance to match what you had with AMK at One First Street, back in the heady days of October Term 1991.)
A Liberal Case for the Individual Right to Own Guns Helps Sway the Federal Judiciary [New York Times]
Scholarship and the Second Amendment in the Courts [Dorf on Law]
How Liberals Saved the Second Amendment [Volokh Conspiracy]
Scholars and the Second Amendment [Volokh Conspiracy]
The Second Amendment is Embarrassing No More [Balkinization]

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGWe’re all very familiar with the average profits-per-partner figures that are published as part of the AmLaw 100 law firm rankings. But since they’re just averages, they do raise some obvious questions:

– What’s the average take-home pay for a typical Biglaw partner?

– How much do newly minted, junior partners earn, compared to the most senior or most highly compensated partners of a large law firm?

– How much can superstars with enormous books of business rake in?

Information that goes a significant way towards answering such questions appears in this fascinating article, by Andrew Longstreth for the American Lawyer. You should read the whole thing for yourself; it’s socioeconomic voyeurism at its best.
A few excerpts, and some quick thoughts from us, appear after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Skaddenfreude: So How Much Do Partners Actually Take Home?”

Paris Hilton mugshot Paris Hilton mug shot pic photo photograph Above the Law blog.JPGHampton Inn is the dumpy and unacceptable no frills, budget-oriented brand within the Hilton Hotel family. But compared to the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, California, where Paris Hilton will be serving out a 45-day sentence for violating the terms of her probation, a Hampton Inn looks like the Waldorf Towers.
At this grim county jail, don’t look for a mint on your pillow. Expect some pubic hair from a “very masculine lesbian[],” and you’re less likely to be disappointed.
From the New York Daily News (which could barely conceal its glee over Hilton’s upcoming jail stint):

Hilton will have to say “goodbye” to dye jobs and cosmetics and “hello” to five-minute showers once a day. Her friends and family will only be able to talk to her through glass and her phone calls will be made on the jail’s closely monitored pay phones.

Purse-pooch, Tinkerbell, will not be allowed to visit. And forget those designer duds she bought on Rodeo Drive. In the big house, Paris will have to make two pairs of socks, one bra, two pairs of panties and two blue jumpsuits last for a week.

Eh, no big deal — Paris prefers romping around in the buff anyway. And she won’t be fazed by the loss of privacy, since all the other inmates have already seen her naked.
More discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Prison Makes Even a Hampton Inn Look Luxurious”

Matthew Waxman Matt Waxman Matthew C Waxman Above the Law blog.jpgAs previously discussed, Matthew Waxman — a member of the Elect (OT 2000/Souter), and a law school classmate of ours — is headed for academia. He recently accepted an offer to join the faculty of Columbia Law School. Congratulations, Matt!
But in the meantime, Waxman is pretty busy over at the State Department. Steve Clemons of the Washington Note writes:

Policy Planning Director Stephen Krasner has now officially departed for Stanford — and “Acting Director Matthew Waxman” is in place.

Waxman is an ideas entrepreneur with character (he is one of the real insider heroes who while at DoD fought against the erosion of the Geneva Conventions on torture). He also gets strategy and knows that water wars, transnational disease transmission, environmental challenges posed by climate change dynamics, massive refugee crises, and other non-traditional problems must be dealt with as well as thinking through how a superpower manages its interests in a world where other superpowers — and even not so super powers — aren’t the overriding security challenge.

Clemons shares our high opinion of Waxman — and thinks that his appointment as Policy Planning Director should be made permanent:

[P]erhaps State should remove the “acting” from Matthew Waxman’s title and roll the dice on someone who appears to many to be a 21st century “young Yoda.” Waxman, who I have met on occasion, reminds me of a hybrid of strategic wunderkind Paul Nitze and Eisenhower acolyte Andy Goodpaster.

One senior State Department official believes that Condi Rice “wants a name” heading Policy Planning — someone “with more stature.” But this is a pivotal time in American history and foreign policy. Not a lot of what we did yesterday will be that helpful in thinking through what we need to do tomorrow. Everything needs to be rethought.

Condi: Let’s not forget that Waxman is a former Supreme Court clerk. Isn’t that enough “stature” for you?
(We realize that a SCOTUS clerkship is a legal credential, and that Waxman’s current position is a policy post. But genius does not recognize such small-minded, jurisdictional limitations. Three cheers for Supreme Court clerks!)
Getting John Bolton Off of Bush’s Payroll Correlates with Improved US Foreign Policy Gains [The Washington Note]
Matthew Waxman bio [U.S. Department of State]
Earlier: Some Weekend Odds and Ends

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGAs noted by several commenters, and as this article in Monday’s Recorder will report, Morrison & Foerster has announced a firm-wide increase in associate base salaries. This follows on the heels of pay raise news from two other California-based (or California-originating) firms, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and O’Melveny & Myers.
Here’s the new MoFo pay scale:

1 – $160,000 (2006)
2 – $170,000 (2005)
3 – $185,000 (2004)
4 – $210,000 (2003)
5 – $230,000 (2002)
6 – $250,000 (2001)
7 – $265,000 (2000)
8 – $280,000 (1999)

As reflected in the base salary table above, all of MoFo’s offices are now on what might be called a “New York” or “$160K” pay scale. The same is true of O’Melveny, but not of Orrick (which raised starting salaries in its Sacramento and Pacific Northwest offices, but not all the way to $160,000 — just to $145,000).
With respect to the MoFo news, there’s a catch (which the Recorder fails to mention). As noted by this comment:

MOFO eliminated the “contribution bonus” payable upon hitting 1950 [hours]. More or less took the 1950 bonus, which almost everyone earns, plus a few grand more and spread that over a 12 month period. NY lawyers still get bonuses like all other NY attorneys.

Or this one (from commenter “Screwed”):

MoFo announced that it’s matching OMM and Orrick, but then anounced that it’s rescinding its previously-announced hours-based bonus that kicks in at 1950 hours. The salary increase, pro-rated over 8 months, is essentially of equal value as the now-rescinded bonus. In other words, the only real difference for people meeting their minimum hours requirement is that they get that portion of their bonus up-front. Is OMM or Orrick also playing the “give with one hand while taking with the other” move to “increase” salaries?

Your responses to this question are welcome in the comments.
More Calif. Firms Follow Orrick’s Move to $160K Associate Pay [The Recorder]

small 100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGFrom ATL reader Darrin Brown:

As always, your breaking comp announcements are always appreciated. In response to these recent developments, I whipped up a couple of “lolcats” style graphics in my office this morning. Please feel free to use or enjoy as you see fit.

No animals were harmed, and no clients were billed, during the making of these graphics. Enjoy!
(Our default rule at ATL is anonymity for tipsters. We asked Mr. Brown if we could credit him by name for these pics, and he agreed.)
Can I Have Pay Raise.jpg

Can I Have Pay Raise 2.jpg
Lolcat [Wikipedia]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of associate pay raises (scroll down)

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