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 Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Observer, Washingtonian magazine, and New York magazine. 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." You can connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

Posts by David Lat

crybaby crying kid cry tear tears Above the Law blog.jpgThat’s what the student group discussed in this WSJ Law Blog post should be renamed.
Here’s our candid take. A lot of what these students are looking for — in terms of reduced hours and improved work-life balance, in exchange for a smaller paycheck — already exists. It can be found by working for a midsize or small law firm, working for government, working as in-house counsel, or starting your own practice.
But it’s futile to try and export these principles to large law firms. There’s a reason they call it “Biglaw.” If you want the money and prestige of working for an AmLaw 100 law firm, you need to make sacrifices.
The members of Law Students Building A Better Legal Profession may respond: “Well, we ARE willing to make sacrifices. As we state in our manifesto, ‘We are willing to be paid less in exchange for a better working life.’”
Okay, fine. So why don’t you hang up your own shingle, or go work for a midsize or boutique law firm? We hear Gallion & Spielvogel is accepting resumes.
In other words: Why do you feel entitled to a specific work/life balance in the context of a large law firm? Why can’t you just practice in some other professional context? Or leave the law altogether if you find something you enjoy more?
News flash: there is life, and legal practice, outside of the AmLaw or Vault 100. Hundreds of thousands of American lawyers work as solo practitioners, for midsize or small firms, for in-house legal departments, or for state or federal government. They have happy professional and personal lives. They earn enough to feed themselves — and even their kids, too.
But if some attorneys WANT to work 2500+ hours a year, never see their families, and go through multiple divorces, in exchange for seven-figure paydays, who are you to spoil their fun?
Maybe you don’t enjoy smoking, or drinking, or sky-diving. But if these activities don’t affect you — secondhand smoke isn’t that much of a problem, thanks to indoor smoking bans — then you should let other people engage in them.
Live and let live, we say. Live and let live.
You Say You Want a Big-Law Revolution [WSJ Law Blog]
Law Students Building A Better Legal Profession [official website]

Kiwi Camara KAD Camara Above the Law blog.jpgToday’s Washington Post has an update on controversial legal scholar Kiwi Camara (at right). Camara, you may recall, is the legal Doogie Howser who was 16 when he entered Harvard Law School. At HLS, he caused an uproar after dropping the N-bomb in a group outline. (That’s the Cliffs Notes version; Google him for more.)
From the Post:

Camara, a native Filipino who grew up in Hawaii and enrolled at Harvard Law School at age 16, had been on track to become an assistant professor at George Mason University’s law school. But his candidacy was derailed after the law school’s dean, Daniel D. Polsby, publicized the possible appointment so he could hear what students had to say before making a final decision.

But Camara’s appointment wasn’t scuttled because of the town hall meeting. That meeting never took place:

At George Mason’s law school, the faculty had authorized Polsby to hire Camara as an assistant professor, but the dean wanted to first see what students, alumni and others thought. He scheduled a town hall meeting for last night, but the meeting was nixed after Camara’s application was withdrawn.

Why was Camara’s application withdrawn? Did it have anything to do with his controversial past? A tipster tells us no:

It has come to my attention that the derailment of Kiwi Camara’s appointment as associate professor at GMU did not occur because of his checkered past. Rather, there appears to be an independent reason, but insiders have refused to reveal what that is. I am not sure if it is worth soliciting info on this from the abovethelaw readership, but I thought I would pass it on to you.

Yes, it is worth soliciting info on this. If you know what REALLY happened with respect to Kiwi Camara and GMU, please email us (subject line: “Kiwi Camara”). Thanks.
P.S. Take a spin through Camara’s official website, which is a trifle self-important and/or oddly amusing in places.
Racist Writing as a Teen Haunted GMU Candidate [Washington Post]
K.A.D. Camara [official website]
Kiwi Camara [Wikipedia]

law school 3b tournament brackets.GIFThe real March Madness may be over (and congratulations to the Gators). But ATL March Madness rolls on!
Just as in college basketball, upsets are common in ATL March Madness — which is part of what makes it so exciting. None of the top four seeds made it into the third round. To see what happened in past rounds, click on the thumbnail image at right.
Congratulations to the Final Four:

1. NYU (5)

2. University of Michigan (9)

3. UVA (10)

4. Georgetown (14)

Results from the four match-ups that just took place:
1. Michigan defeats Texas, 57-43
In the battle of the state schools, Michigan came out on top — by a comfortable margin.
2. NYU defeats Columbia, 58-42
NYU makes better law school revue videos than Columbia (at least if you compare this video to this one). And if law revue quality can be viewed as an indicator of school spirit, then NYU’s success in March Madness thus far should not be surprising.
3. Georgetown defeats Chicago, 55-45
The coolness of Posner and Easterbrook couldn’t save Chicago from falling to the Hoyas.
4. UVA defeats Stanford, 51-49
The talented rappers of Charlotteville eke out a narrow victory, in the only close contest of the bunch.
********************
The polls for the Final Four will be available shortly. So check back soon!
Earlier: ATL March Madness: Law Schools, Round 2
ATL March Madness: Law Schools, Round 2 (continued)

Eric Krautheimer 2 Eric M Krautheimer Aaron Charney Sullivan & Cromwell Above the Law blog.jpgWe previously solicited tips about Sullivan & Cromwell M&A partner Eric Krautheimer, of Aaron Charney v. S&C fame. Alas, we didn’t get much.
Until now. Someone who knows Eric Krautheimer reasonably well has come forward with some helpful information, which sheds some light upon this powerful partner, and places his alleged conduct in context.
Check it out, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Brokeback Lawfirm: Eric Krautheimer Is a Nice Guy”

Thanks to the commenter who drew this to our attention. Click on the image below for a larger, clearer version of Monica Goodling’s former Regent University webpage:
Monica Goodling page 1b Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.JPG
Yesterday we declared our intention “to stake out our position as the leading pro-Monica outlet… by vigorously praising and defending Monica Goodling in all of her fabulosity.” We described Goodling as a “fascinating and appealing personality” — and this ancient homepage only increases her allure.
Why do we say this? Find out, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Portrait of Monica Goodling As a Young Woman”

If Karl Rove’s rap performance has caused you to harbor grave doubts about the ability of white guys to rap, this video — a “Beastie Boys” parody, produced for the 2006 Virginia Law Libel Show — may restore your faith:

The inside jokes will be lost on non-UVA types. But the dancing and rapping are impressive, especially coming from law students, and the production values are solid. Nice use of freeze frames.
(Our favorite joke: the “Isis” reference.)
Ch-Check it Out — The Virginia Law Libel Show [YouTube]
Earlier: Say Hello to ‘MC Rove’

Are you an in-house counsel concerned about skyrocketing legal fees? Hire TMZ.com to audit the bills you get from outside counsel.
Yes, TMZ — the celebrity gossip website. As they show in their recent dissection of the legal bills submitted by Debra Opri to Larry Birkhead — one of Anna Nicole Smith’s former lovers, who claims to be the father of her daughter Dannielynn — they’re pretty good at finding dubious charges.
Then again, you don’t need to be a forensic accountant to locate the questionable items in Opri’s gargantuan bill:

bloomin onion Blooming Onion Outback steakhouse Above the Law blog.jpgLarry Birkhead got a Fed Ex on Saturday, and it was not good news. It was a bill for legal services from Debri Opri, the lawyer he fired two weeks ago. The total: $620,492.84.

Opri billed her services out at $475 an hour. Here are some of the charges…

- On February 24, 2007, while Opri and Birkhead stayed at a private residence in Ft. Lauderdale during the Florida hearing, Opri billed $600 for Seafood World. We’re told she brought four trays of lobster to the house. The bill says, “Dinner gift/Ft. Lauderdale house stay.” But it was no gift to Larry. That same day, she billed $211 for items at Publix grocery store.

- Opri billed Birkhead $4,265 for Cingular roaming service while she was in the Bahamas.

- March 8, 2007, Opri billed $161.65 for an Outback Steakhouse dinner. And get this — the bill was for $111.65. Opri left a $50 tip and billed Birkhead, who wasn’t even there!

Tipping $50 on a $100 tab, and passing the charge through to your client? Seems inappropriate.
But that Bloomin’ Onion is pretty delish — despite rumors that it’s what really killed Anna Nicole Smith….
Debra Opri Bills Birkhead King’s Ransom [TMZ.com]

email e-mail message microsoft outlook Above the Law.jpgThis past weekend’s NYT Week in Review had an interesting article on how they don’t make U.S. attorneys like they used to. Here’s the lede, which discusses the email habits of some of the fired United States Attorneys:

The e-mail is pleading, imploring and often so very careful. In messages sent to their bosses at the Justice Department, federal prosecutors react to their firing.

One federal prosecutor, Margaret M. Chiara of Michigan, notes that her office’s firearms prosecutions are up, and that her firing “makes me so sad.” Another prosecutor, David Iglesias of New Mexico, asks a senior Justice Department official for a telephone conversation to set a day of departure, promising that “my call will be pleasant and respectful.”

Another fired prosecutor, Paul Charlton of Arizona, sends an urgent e-mail message to the Justice Department, asking that its spokespeople help explain to the news media why he was being fired, instead of his speaking to reporters himself.

The dismissed prosecutors sound like jilted lovers, trying to salvage whatever dignity they can after the abrupt termination of a long-term relationship.
Two quibbles with the article. First, one of the sources quoted, Professor Bruce Green, is identified as “a former assistant federal prosecutor.” He should have been identified as a “former federal prosecutor,” since that’s what he was (or a “former assistant U.S. attorney,” if one wanted to be more technical about it).
(The taxonomy of titles relating to U.S. attorneys and AUSAs is so frequently messed up. For example, former line attorneys get called “former U.S. attorneys” with regularity. It’s a pet peeve of ours.)
Second, Carol Lam, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California (S.D. Cal.), is credited with the Jerry Lewis investigation. We’ve been through this already, people: you’re thinking of Debra Wong Yang. See here and here.
Please get your Asian female prosecutors straight. Thank you.
Gone Is the Swaggering Prince of Prosecution [New York Times]
Carol Lam: Not Targeted Over the Jerry Lewis Investigation [Patterico's Pontifications]
Earlier: All Asian Female Prosecutors Look Alike — to Chuck Schumer

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGLast week, we asked you for information about the clerkship bonus policies of large law firms. We also made a few phone calls and sent out a few emails, to obtain information from the law firms themselves.
A summary of our findings:

1. No large law firm has matched the new Sullivan & Cromwell clerkship bonus of $50,000, at least as far as we’ve been able to confirm.

(a) There was a rumor about Paul Weiss matching S&C, but no one has confirmed it to us.

(b) We aren’t counting Kellogg Huber, which pays a $100,000 clerkship bonus, and Susman Godfrey, which pays a $50,000 clerkship bonus, since they’re really boutiques.

(c) We aren’t counting intellectual property firms, some of whom pay $70,000 bonuses for Federal Circuit clerkships, because they are a world unto themselves.

Update: As this commenter notes, if you have two years of clerkship experience, then Weil is where it’s at: $70,000 ($35,000 x 2).

2. As one Biglaw partner pointed out to us, it’s early to be thinking about clerkship bonuses, because we’re not yet at the point in the year when law clerks change over (typically in the summer or fall). So hopefully some firms will match S&C before it’s all over.

3. Any firm worth its salt should offer a clerkship bonus of at least $35,000. This is what numerous big firms already do, and it should be considered the “market” rate. A bonus of anything less than $35K is chintzy and lame.

Firm by firm details, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Skaddenfreude: A Special Report on Clerkship Bonuses”

Earlier today, we shared with you two videos from the NYU Law Revue. In the comments to one of these posts, a vigorous “NYU vs. Columbia” debate ensued.
If you’d like to compare NYU and Columbia on the quality of their law revue videos — a critical measure of law school quality, to be added to next year’s U.S. News rankings — here’s a Columbia Law Revue video for your consideration:

Our observations:

1. We have great admiration for Columbia Law School (and will be visiting CLS to give a talk in the near future). We harbor no anti-Columbia bias. But this video strikes us as kinda lame.

2. Some of the actors, including the Cabaret-inspired emcee, are quite appealing. But the production values leave something to be desired, and some of the jokes are head-scratchers.

3. We must confess, though, that we did laugh at several points — e.g., the Wachtell Lipton quip. Furthermore, after a minute or two, we started to really enjoy the video, in a “so bad it’s good” sort of way.

These are just our personal opinions. Feel free to share yours in the comments.
Columbia Law Revue – EIP [YouTube]

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