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

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGIn some of the comment threads to our pay raise coverage, questions have been raised with respect to summer associates. For the firms that have recently raised associate salaries, people are wondering: Will summer associates be in on the fun?
Our take: Of course they will. Summer associates are traditionally paid at the rate of permanent or regular first-year associates, and we see no reason for that to change.
After all, firms are trying to woo summers. This is why they pay SAs ridiculous amounts of money to do “jack s**t” and go out to fancy lunches. Why would they want to alienate SAs, whom they are trying to convince to return to the firm on a permanent basis, by paying them according to a lower, outdated pay scale?
So if you’ll be summering at a law firm that just went from the $145K scale to the $160K scale, relax. You will surely be paid based on the new going rate. Unless your firm is completely lame, in which case you shouldn’t take their permanent offer. As the old saying goes, “Cheapness in one area suggests cheapness in all areas.”
Several firms that have just raised associate base salaries have officially informed their incoming summer associates that they will be paid according to the new scale. We reprint a representative memo, from Latham & Watkins, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Skaddenfreude: And What About the Summers?”

Ernest Murphy Judge Ernest B Murphy Above the Law blog.jpgIt’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… an ATL post not related to law firm pay raises!
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently issued a somewhat saucy opinion in a libel case brought by a state court judge, Ernest B. Murphy, against a New England tabloid, the Boston Herald. No, we don’t know who is more icky.
Given the demanding “actual malice” standard, libel cases can be tough to win — but in this case, the plaintiff prevailed. Judge Murphy won a $2 million verdict against the Herald. This verdict, as modified by the trial judge, was just upheld by the SJC.
Yesterday we sat down with the folks over at Gawker to chat about the case. Check out our IM conversation with them by clicking here.
Understanding The ‘Boston Herald’ Libel Case [Gawker]
Judge’s Libel Victory Against Paper Is Upheld [New York Times]
Murphy v. Boston Herald [Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (click on "Opinions" in lefthand column)]
Case Report for Ernest B. Murphy v. Boston Herald [MoreLaw.com]

Hogan Hartson LLP Above the Law blog.JPGThere is no longer any doubt: the nation’s capital is on the so-called “$160K scale.” Say good-bye (or good riddance) to the salary differential between (1) Washington-based firms, and (2) the D.C. offices of New York or California firms.
Why? The homegrown firm of Hogan & Hartson just raised associate base salaries, matching the $160K scale in its Washington, Baltimore, and Los Angeles offices (for the 1950 hour track, but not the 1800 hour track).
This means that the other top D.C. firms, like Arnold & Porter and Covington & Burling, have no choice but to follow suit. Failing to match, now that a true peer firm has done so, would give rise to mortification (and deservedly so).
The full Hogan & Hartson memo, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading West Coast Washington D.C. Pay Raise Watch: Hogan & Hartson Goes to $160K”


Richard Levin Richard B Levin Above the Law blog.jpgCravath isn’t big on lateral hiring. When they hired tax lawyer Andrew Needham away from Willkie Farr & Gallagher in 2005, he was their first lateral partner in more than six decades (per Wikipedia).
Nor has Cravath been into bankruptcy work. Even though many other white-shoe firms have entered that historically “icky” practice area, CSM has stayed on the sidelines.
Update/Correction: Actually, Cravath’s relationship with bankruptcy practice is a bit more complicated. And that last paragraph may be somewhat misleading. Click here for more.
At long last, Cravath is starting up a bankruptcy practice. And it’s bringing in a heavy hitter to get things up and running.
From a Cravath press release (just sent around the firm by email):

Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP has announced that Richard Levin (at right), one of the authors of the 1978 U.S. Bankruptcy Code, will join the Firm as a Partner on July 1, 2007 to head its newly established restructuring and insolvency practice.

Mr. Levin joins Cravath from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where he was a partner in that firm’s corporate restructuring department.

So Cravath is moving into bankruptcy work. Is this a bad sign for the U.S. economy — the Biglaw equivalent of, say, rising home foreclosures?
Update: Perhaps. Some thoughts on the subject are now up at the WSJ Law Blog. DealBook also has this post.
The complete Cravath memo, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: Cravath Snags Lateral from Skadden”

Gibson Dunn Crutcher LLP Above the Law blog.JPGYes, we have seen the comments stating that Gibson Dunn & Crutcher has raised associate base salaries for its non-New York offices. We have no reason to doubt this tip, or to question the authenticity of this memo.
But we still want to dot our i’s and cross our t’s. We’re in the process of getting confirmation from sources at the firm. If you’re willing to help us out, please email us.
Once it’s verified, we’ll post the GDC memo after the jump. Thanks.
Update: The memo, confirmed for us by multiple sources at the firm, appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “West Coast Pay Raise Watch: Gibson Dunn & Crutcher”

Paul Hastings Janofsky Walker Above the Law blog.JPGWe have to step away from our computer for a bit. So here’s an open thread for discussion of either (1) more West Coast pay raises or (2) more increases in clerkship bonuses.
Also, the rumor from the comments that Paul Hastings has raised is confirmed. The verified memo appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Skaddenfreude: Paul Hastings; Late Afternoon Open Thread”

start snitching Above the Law blog.JPGWe are favorably disposed towards former Justice Department lawyer Ty Clevenger. We owe him a debt of gratitude, since he’s the person who first told us about Shanetta Cutlar — the crazy-ass colorful chief of the DOJ’s Special Litigation Section, and one of our favorite people to write about here at ATL.
Now Ty Clevenger is making waves once again — and some of you aren’t sure if it’s all that favorable. Several of you emailed us about his latest exploits. This message is representative:

Ty Clevenger is in the news again, this time making accusations about the politicization of the hiring process at the DOJ. See here and here.

Between his law school activities, Shanetta Cutlar, and this, he’s beginning to look like a little tattletale to me….

Tattletale? Or, more charitably, a person of great honesty and integrity (perhaps too much for his own good)? Or, more cynically, a shameless seeker of attention?
We don’t know Clevenger personally, so we won’t opine. But the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Many great whisteblowers throughout history have had mixed motivations — such as a desire for the truth to come to light, and a desire for personal fame and/or fortune.
But we can say this. If we ever hang out with Ty Clevenger, we sure as hell won’t jaywalk with him by our side. Or try to sneak through the express lane at the supermarket with more than 15 items.
Congress probes allegations of politicized hiring [CNN]
Congress considers broadening Justice Department inquiry [McClatchy]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Ty Clevenger (scroll down)

Latham Watkins LLP Above the Law blog.JPGThe word on the street was that Latham & Watkins was planning to match the recent West Coast pay raise, but would take its sweet time to announce it.
Well, it appears that Latham has been shamed into giving into the “hysteria” surrounding associate comp. Earlier this afternoon, various commenters reported that the firm has raised associate salaries in its California, Chicago, New Jersey, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. offices.
We have now verified the fact of a Latham pay raise, as well as this memo, with multiple sources. So you can take the Latham pay raise to the bank.
We reprint the memo after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “West Coast Pay Raise Watch: Latham Succumbs to ‘Hysteria’”

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGAs we reported on Friday, Morrison & Foerster recently announced a firm-wide increase in associate base salaries. But the MoFo raise came with a catch: a modification to the firm’s bonus structure (for associates outside New York).
Here’s the relevant language from the MoFo memo, which we recently got our grubby little hands on:

This increase in base compensation [for non-NYC offices] will, however, replace the contribution bonus that was otherwise payable for those who finished the year in good standing with 1950 billable/pro bono/firm legal service hours. For any associate otherwise eligible for that contribution bonus who ends the year making less than he or she would have under the former base compensation plus contribution bonus model, the firm will make up the shortfall in January of 2008. Additional details about the elimination of the 2007 contribution bonus will be posted on the Professional Development portal next week.

One source who sent this to us stated:

If you could use this memo to get your hands on other memos, particularly regarding what’s happening with bonuses, that would be quite helpful. I’m especially curious about Orrick’s alleged bonus structure, as reported in the comments section of your post, “West Coast Pay Raise Watch: MoFo sees Orrick’s San Francisco and Raises it a Sacramento.” Thanks.

So if you have a memo (or memos) explaining bonus structures at places like Orrick and O’Melveny, which recently raised associate salaries, please send ‘em our way. It would be helpful to compare how they stack up with Morrison & Foerster.
For those of you who are curious, the complete MoFo memo appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “West Coast Pay Raise Watch: Here’s the MoFo Memo”

golden retriever dog pet lawsuit estate litigation Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re not really big on pets. Taking care of them is a lot of work, and we can barely keep our houseplant alive. So stories like this one strike us as almost insane:

A man who had not written a will left a $2 million estate, but the most hotly contested item in court has been his golden retriever, Alex. The four-way dispute over the 13-year-old pet was so intense, an attorney was appointed to represent the dog’s interest.

A guardian ad litem causa canis, perhaps?

On Monday, the judge decided the man’s divorced parents should split custody, The Commercial Appeal reported.

“At first glance, the petition seems almost frivolous, but after speaking with all parties, it is evident that this is a highly emotional issue for all involved,” said Alex’s attorney, Paul Royal, in his report to the probate court.

You had it right the first time, Mr. Royal.
P.S. A former colleague who shares our aversion to pets once quipped, “There are at least ten good reasons not to get a dog. Reasons one through nine are fecal matter.”
Judge settles intense custody battle over dog [CNN]

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