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

Magician Tarot Card Above the Law blog.jpgFrivolous litigation: it’s an international epidemic. Yesterday, the Canadians; today the Japanese.
From the AP:

A group of Japanese magicians sued TV broadcasters on Tuesday for revealing closely guarded secrets behind a series of coin tricks, a news report said.

Forty-nine magicians are seeking $16,000 in damages from Nippon Television Network Corp. and TV Asahi Corp. for airing shows last year that revealed how magicians perform tricks involving coins…

Personally we have our doubts about these “magicians.” If they’re truly so magical, why must they resort to judicial process?
Why not just cast spells? Like a tongue-shutting curse, which could have stopped the secrets from being divulged in the first place?
Magicians Sue Over Revealed Tricks [Associated Press via Drudge]

Aaron Charney headshot Aaron B Charney Aaron Brett Charney Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law ATL.JPGThe good news just keeps on coming for Aaron Charney, the former Sullivan & Cromwell associate who is now suing his former employer, alleging anti-gay discrimination and retaliation.
Yesterday Justice Bernard Fried handed down two decisions that were, on the whole, quite positive for the plaintiff. And now we learn of Charney’s alma mater, Columbia Law School, giving a shout-out to their 2003 graduate:

This may not be that unusual this year, but the final exam in Prof. Elizabeth Emens’s Employment Discrimination class at Columbia included as its issue spotter a closeted gay associate named Adam Cross, who worked at a law firm Sampson & Goliath (abbreviated S&G).

Among the mishaps that happened to our pal AC was an older male partner who told him to bend over and pick something up, stop “prancing around the office,” and handed him a document he wiped his “sneeze” with and said “I’m sure you’d like that.” Another partner accused him of having a relationship with another male associate that was “not natural.”

(We’ve heard of some pretty weird stuff in our day — but who gets off on bacteria-drenched mucus? Gives new meaning to the term “golden shower.”)
Our source concludes:

Most law school alums have to wait years before being memorialized by their alma mater.* But CLS has already honored Aaron Charney!

Does this mean that ABC will no longer feel the need to endow a professorship at CLS in gay legal studies, after prevailing in (or settling) his litigation with S&C?
In any event, our congratulations to Aaron Charney on this latest honor!
* So, so true. Unless you win a million dollars on TV, like our fabulous former schoolmate, Yul Kwon.
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Aaron Charney (scroll down)

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGIn late March, we made a special shout-out to Squire Sanders & Dempsey. It hadn’t participated in the latest round of associate pay raises, and several of you had complained about that to us. So we highlighted their presence on the LIST OF SHAME.
Weeks and weeks passed. But now, after taking its sweet time about it, the firm has followed suit. From a tipster:

Squire Sanders raised salaries last Friday. In Miami, they joined Holland & Knight, among others, at $130k for first years (a $15k raise). They raised senior associates by $20k.

All associates in Miami are still well behind Weil Gotshal and Boies Schiller (at $160k), somewhat behind Hunton & Williams and McDermott Will (at $145k), and just behind Greenberg Traurig (at $135k). Apparently, they’re content to be third-to-fourth tier. But something is something.

No idea how the raises shook out at other offices, but I do know that they occurred.

If you happen to know what Squire Sanders did in its other offices, please add comments to this post.
Earlier: Skaddenfreude: What’s Up With Squire Sanders?

Remember Judge Sam Sparks, of the Western District of Texas? He’s a colorful judge with a robust sense of humor, as well as a low tolerance for lawyer shenanigans and quarrels.

Back in 2004, Judge Sparks compared bickering lawyers in his court to kindergarteners. His saucy order made the email rounds, first in Texas, then around the country.

And now he offers up this poetic order, in rhymed couplets:

Keystone Media Hancock order 1 Above the Law blog.jpg

The rest of this judicial ditty, including the punchline, appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge Sam Sparks Does It Again”

H Rodgin Cohen 2 Chairman Aaron B Charney Aaron Brett Charney Sullivan Cromwell Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law ATL legal tabloid legal blog.JPGWe’re having one of those days — computer problems, email troubles, etc. We never should have returned from vacation.
It’s a bad time for us to be so distracted, because there’s breaking news in the Aaron Charney and Sullivan & Cromwell litigation — two decisions from Justice Bernard Fried. A tipster sums them up:

FYI – Two written decisions were posted to the NY State Supreme Court Reporter website today. One is Charney v. S&C; the other is S&C v. Charney.

The first dismisses Charney’s suit, but with leave to replead. The second grants S&C a preliminary injunction, dismisses the first cause of action by S&C against Charney (breach of fiduciary duty), and directs Charney to answer the remaining causes of action.

Even though these opinions are hot off the presses, our fellow Charneybloggers are all over it. They score the rulings as, on balance, a win for Aaron Charney — and we are inclined to agree.
The indefatigable Professor Art Leonard has already produced a thorough and thoughtful analysis. He nicely summarizes the opinions and analyzes the implications for both sides. You can access his post by clicking here.
And Lavi Soloway — who, by the way, is now a father of two baby girls (congrats, Lavi!) — has also written up an impressive and detailed post. Check it out over here.
Charney Case Passes Hurdle; Sullivan Case Limping [Leonard Link]
Decisions Come Down in Charney Case [Soloway]
Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell [New York Supreme Court]
Sullivan & Cromwell v. Charney [New York Supreme Court]

Osama bin Laden Usama Bin Laden lookalike doppelganger Above the Law blog.JPGFalse arrests: they’re not just an American phenomenon. From ABC News (via Drudge, of course):

An Afghan tribesman with an uncanny resemblance to Osama bin Laden has now been arrested twice, both times following reported sightings and massive manhunts for the al Qaeda leader, Pakistani intelligence officials tell ABC News.

Over six feet tall and with the same angular nose as bin Laden, Sher Akbar comes from an Afghan village, Bagh e Metal, in an area where U.S. officials believe bin Laden has been hiding.

Best part of the article:

[A Pakistani intelligence] official said an extensive investigation involving Pakistani and U.S. intelligence officers found that the look-alike has no connection to bin Laden, but that local residents had tried to collect rewards based on Akhbar’s resemblance to bin Laden.

(And in case you’re wondering, no, this item did not come from The Onion.)
Look-alike Arrested Twice; Close But No Bin Laden [ABC News]

shopping bags Above the Law blog.jpgBack in August, we named Judge Deborah Tyner our ATL Judge of the Day. The Honorable Debbie ditched her judicial duties to go shopping, which struck us as absolutely fabulous.
Now Judge Tyner has a kindred spirit. Meet Cynthia Garris, a Virginia defense lawyer. From the Virginian Pilot:

A local lawyer has been disciplined by the Virginia State Bar for telling a judge she had to postpone a case because of a commitment in another court when in fact she went shopping instead.

Defense attorney Cynthia D. Garris received a public reprimand from the State Bar, according to an announcement Friday. The reprimand does not affect her law license.

Garris, whose office is at 132 W. Olney Road, told a Norfolk Circuit Court judge last summer that she had to postpone a case because of a court commitment in Williamsburg.

The judge later found out she had gone on a shopping excursion instead. The judge found Garris in contempt and fined her $250.

The judge may have acted hastily. What was Garris shopping for? If shoes were involved, the contempt finding was unwarranted.
Garris should get her $250 back. That money could buy a decent (but not fabulous) pair of shoes.
P.S. Cynthia, if you’re looking to join a big firm, take a look at Bryan Cave
Norfolk lawyer rebuked for delaying case to go shopping [Virginian Pilot]
Earlier: Above the Law Judge of the Day: Deborah Tyner

police car chase Scott Harris Above the Law blog.jpgAn astute observation about today’s opinion in Scott v. Harris, from Howard Bashman:

Here’s a first — A U.S. Supreme Court decision issued today has its own accompanying video: Talk about multimedia rulings! The Court’s opinion today in Scott v. Harris, No. 05-1631 — a dispute about the lawfulness of a high-speed police chase captured on video — appears online at the Supreme Court’s web site with this 91.7 MB RealPlayer video file. No word yet from the Court on whether the volume of U.S. Reports in which this decision will appear will include its own embedded video player.

The dueling opinions — Justice Scalia’s majority opinion, and Justice Stevens’s dissent — discuss the video extensively.
Some brief discussion, of the video and of the opinions, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Online Video Clips: Not Just for Porn Anymore”

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGLet the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin. The AmLaw 100 rankings — The American Lawyer’s closely watched, annual listing of the hundred largest law firms in the United States, ranked by revenue — are now available.
We’ll have more to say on the rankings later. Their release is a big story, deserving of multiple posts. They’re like the U.S. News and World Report law school rankings, but for the world of Biglaw, and they can be viewed from many different angles. Although the firms are ranked by revenue, the rankings are accompanied by other juicy data — including information about profits per partner.
For the time being, here’s the “money quote,” quite literally, from the WSJ Law Blog:

Wiley Rein broke the record for the highest profits per partner ever recorded by the magazine — $4.4 million. Why? The Washington, D.C., law firm represented patent-holding company NTP in its nearly five-year legal battle with RIM, and earned more than $200 million in fees from the case. It received approximately one-third of the $612.5 million settlement that RIM agreed to pay NTP to avert a potential court-ordered BlackBerry shutdown. The firm also shortened its name from Wiley Rein & Fielding after Fred Fielding left the firm to become White House counsel.

So New York’s Wachtell Lipton, which has sat atop the profits-per-partner rankings for many years, has been displaced. Interestingly enough, though, Wiley Rein didn’t beat Wachtell by THAT much, considering the massive contingency fee it received from the RIM-BlackBerry settlement. Wiley Rein had PPP of $4,435,000; Wachtell Lipton had PPP of $3,975,000.
(And if you look at the chart for Compensation — All Partners (subscription), WLRK still comes out on top, with $3.975 million per partner. Wiley Rein has a two-tier partnership, so its Compensation Per Partner figure, which reflects compensation paid to non-equity as well as equity partners, is only — only! — $2.7 million.)
The Wiley Rein windfall reminds of when Robins Kaplan got that huge, one-time payout for its tobacco-related work. In the AmLaw 100 rankings for 2000, based on 1999 revenue and profit figures, the Minneapolis-based firm boasted profits per partner of over $3 million — beating Cravath and all the other New York shops that year, except for Wachtell.
Do you have any juicy, AmLaw 100-related gossip? Tales of shameless attempts to manipulate the rankings? Stories about unhappy partners ranting over their firm’s placement over this morning’s coffee? Please send ‘em our way.
A table and links, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Skaddenfreude: Wiley Rein Dethrones Wachtell Lipton as America’s Most Profitable Biglaw”

Supreme Court 2 SCOTUS Above the Law Blog.jpgThis morning brings ive new rulings from the Supreme Court. Check out SCOTUSblog for the details.
There are some important ones among the bunch, including a decision in KSR v. Teleflex, a big-ticket IP case. But with one exception, the cases weren’t close. Two were decided by a unanimous Court, and two were almost unanimous (with one dissenter apiece).
The case that split the Court the most was the scintillatingly-captioned United Haulers Association v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management. Here’s Lyle Denniston’s squib:

[T]he Court divided 6-3 in deciding that a local government does not violate the Constitution when it requries all solid waste generated in the community to be processed at a publicly owned facility, so long as the ordinance treats private businesses the same whether they are local or out-of-state.

Because the Supreme Court divides over the stupidest crap.
Court rules on two patent cases, and on high-speed chase [SCOTUSblog via How Appealing]
Earlier: Dispatch from One First Street: KSR v. Teleflex

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