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

Alberto Gonzales 4 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.gifToday is Friday, the favorite day of the week for high-profile government officials to announce their departures. E.g., Sandra Day O’Connor; Monica Goodling; Cully Stimson.
Might Alberto Gonzales resign as Attorney General today? We doubt it. Coming on the heels of yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, where AGAG took a real beating, it would look too reactive. It would be much more likely for some other DOJ official — e.g., Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty — to step down late this afternoon.
But a Gonzales departure is probably more likely now than ever. Over at Slate, the needle on the “Gonzo-Meter” — which measures the chance of an Alberto Gonzales departure — has moved farther to the right. The Slate folks explain:

We are bumping the meter up to 95. It may take the attorney general a few days to recognize that he did not exactly pull off a rout. But if the president was indeed waiting for his boy to turn this thing around today, the president must have been sorely disappointed. If anything, Gonzales probably lost support today. And if he persuaded even a single soul of his great competence, we’ll eat our meter.

Time for an ATL reader poll:


Gonzo-Meter: Al, You’re Not Helping [Slate]

Kevin Newsom Bradley Arant Rose White Above the Law Blog.jpgAll of this porn talk is making us feel dirty. So let’s turn our attention to more wholesome subjects.
Like the squeaky-clean Kevin Newsom, a devoted husband and father, and one of the country’s best appellate advocates. Newsom — who clerked for our former boss, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain (9th Cir.), and Justice David H. Souter — currently serves as the Solicitor General of Alabama. The American Lawyer recently picked Newsom as one of the country’s top young litigators:

Kevin Newsom is only 34 and now practices far from the appellate hotbed of Washington, D.C., where he once worked as a Covington & Burling associate. Although he’s lost the three cases he’s argued so far before the U.S. Supreme Court, the former clerk for Justice David Souter nevertheless draws raves from leading appellate advocates. “He’s really, really good,” says Carter Phillips of Sidley Austin; another Supreme Court regular says that Newsom writes briefs with a novelist’s sense of language. His fellow Supreme Court clerks voted him the lawyer they’d hire if they needed an advocate. As Alabama’s SG, Newsom has argued nine cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He’s won seven—and the other two are pending.

Well, we’ve just learned that Newsom is moving on from the SG’s office. From a tipster:

Alabama SG Kevin Newsom will be joining the Birmingham law firm of Bradley Arant Rose & White. BARW now has three former SC clerks working in their appellate litigation section and appears to have cornered the market on this kind of work in the southeast.

Overall, this has been a good legal year for the state. UA law just jumped to 36 in the US News rankings, and earlier this year we hosted Richard Epstein and Justice Alito (Cass Sunstein, Justice Breyer, & Justice Thomas visited last year). Emory may be seen as the most undervalued law school, but we will have more grads on the COA this upcoming year (4).

We have confirmed this news with Newsom, so it’s more than just rumor. Check out his gracious statement to ATL, after the jump.

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Adriana Dominguez 2 Brooklyn Law School Playboy Above the Law blog.JPGRegular readers are very familiar, perhaps more than they’d like to be, with Adriana Dominguez. She’s the third-year student at Brooklyn Law School who appeared nude in a video for Playboy TV. You’ve seen a lot of her [quasi-NSFW] in the pages of ATL.
We recently had an interesting telephone conversation with a source inside Playboy concerning Ms. Domginuez. Our source had this to say:

“This is really a non-story. So she posed naked while still in school — big deal. It’s not like she was getting triple anal!!!”

Guess that’s the “gold standard” of the porn industry. If you’re reading this over lunch, our apologies.

“This has no relevance to her bar admission. What bar would bother looking into this? All she has to do [to be admitted] is pass a test and not perjure herself.”

Our tipster thinks this is all much ado about nothing — a trumped-up story. And a story, our tipster speculates, that was manufactured by Adriana herself:

“Adriana wanted to get a little notoriety, sell a story. She was reaching out for fame…. [The New York Daily News] didn’t call her; she hired someone to call them.”

Very interesting. More from our source at Playboy, after the jump.

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We’re always interested in public opinion about the litigation between Aaron Charney and his former employer, Sullivan & Cromwell. We currently have this poll running:


But not many of you have voted — and we have a suspicion as to why.
So here’s a new and improved version, which we hope will generate higher voter turnout:

Oona O'connell law student Above the Law blog.jpgWe’ve told you all about Adrienne, the Boston College law student who did a sexy swimsuit spread for a magazine. And we’ve been all over (hehe) Adriana, the Brooklyn Law School 3L who romped naked before the camera for Playboy TV.

But let’s set the record straight. The phenomenon of law students taking it off for the camera is nothing new.

Well before Adrienne and Adriana, there was Oona O’Connell. From a tipster:

“A first year associate at my firm told me about this… He went to U. Miami and knew a fellow law student who posed for Playboy.”

“Apparently, her name is Oona O’Connell (which could be either the name of her first pet or the street she lived on as a kid, if my porn-name generator is correct). She is a 3L at the University of Miami Law School, and she’s also a Hawaiian Tropic model. Apparently she was in the May 2006 issue of Playboy, and she may shoot a ‘feature’ for an upcoming issue.”

“The only female nudity at MY law school took place when the student ACLU girls went topless to protest a local nudity ordinance. They were not airbrushed. OY.”

More about this comely young law student, including links to her Playboy pics, after the jump.

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Martin Lipton Marty Lipton Wachtell Lipton WLRK Above the Law blog.jpgHere’s some news about an unusual move at our former employer, Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz (at right: founding partner Marty Lipton).
From the American Lawyer (via the WSJ Law Blog):

After losing two partners in recent months, Wachtell Lipton has quietly hired Michael Segal, the former cohead of executive compensation and benefits at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, who will start on Monday.

The move is an unusual one for Wachtell, which has rarely sought out lateral partners. In the firm’s 42-year history, just two other partners have lateraled into the firm. In 1997 antitrust partner Ilene Knable Gotts joined from Foley & Lardner. And in 1977, tax specialist Peter Canellos (now of counsel) joined as a partner from Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Some random observations:

1. After the recent losses of executive comp partners Adam Chinn (to an investment banking boutique) and Michael Katzke (to a career in social work — good for him), the firm had to make a high-profile hire in this niche. It’s a specialized area that is critical to WLRK’s flagship M&A practice.

2. For many years, Wachtell’s general policy against lateral hiring extended to associates as well. But they’ve been taking on lateral associates with increasing frequency in recent years. So if you’re working at another firm, but like the idea of a 100 percent bonus, send in your résumé.

3. Antitrust queen Ilene Knable Gotts, one of the two lateral partners mentioned above, is a diva with a capital “D.” And she works insane hours, even by Wachtell standards (as do her associates).

In addition, here’s an interesting profile of WLRK founder Marty Lipton, from our friends on the other side of the pond. Good stuff.
In a Rare Move, Wachtell Brings on a Lateral [American Lawyer]
US Top 50/New York: What Marty Says [Legal Week]
Wachtell Lipton Hires a Lateral! [WSJ Law Blog]

Alberto Gonzales 3 Alberto R Gonzales Attorney General Above the Law blog.jpgAttorney General Alberto Gonzales made a make-or-break appearance yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We covered his SJC testimony extensively. See here, here, and here.
If the Gonzales testimony were a Broadway show, today would be the morning after opening night, when the all-powerful Ben Brantley theatre critics weigh in. And based on the reviews (see links below), the Al Gonzales Show is the biggest disaster since Dracula the Musical. Will someone please drive a stake through the heart of AGAG’s tenure?
As you know, we love drama, and we love surprises. We were secretly hoping that Gonzales — who has never been a great public speaker (we’ve seen him) — would deliver a bravura performance, one that would resurrect his career, leaving his critics stunned and speechless. We were looking for a home run, a tour de force like Clarence Thomas’s Senate testimony, as described by Camille Paglia:

Make no mistake: it was not a White House conspiracy that saved this nomination. It was Clarence Thomas himself. After eight hours of Hill’s testimony, he was driven as low as any man could be. But step by step, with sober, measured phrases, he regained his position and turned the momentum against his accusers. It was one of the most powerful moments I have ever witnessed on television. Giving birth to himself, Thomas reenacted his own credo of self-made man.

But Alberto Gonzales is no Clarence Thomas — and his days as AG are numbered. Gonzales isn’t Spanish for “Souter”; it’s Spanish for “toast.”
Al, the President’s Man [Slate.com]
On a Very Hot Seat With Little Cover and Less Support [New York Times]
Gonzales Rejects Call for His Ouster [Associated Press]
Senators Chastise Gonzales at Hearing [Washington Post]
Gonzales Says He Didn’t Know Why Two Were Fired [Washington Post]
Roughed Up on the Hill [Washington Post]

Hastings UC Hastings College of Law Above the Law blog.jpgActually, make that the “Very Bad Ideas” file.
Our personal preference is to ignore such people and things (which is what we’ve been doing until now). But several of you have emailed us about this incident, which has been covered in the MSM; so interest in it is obviously high.
Here’s what one source had to say:

As you may know, Hastings College of Law was evacuated [on Wednesday] as a result of an asinine post on autoadmit threatening Virginia Tech like violence, which, it turns out, was posted by a Boalt 1L. It turned out to be a tasteless joke, but the problems it has created seem to be never ending, including an ID checkpoint in front of the campus, the cancellation of numerous events including a journal symposium, and now, unacceptably, our bi-monthly ration of free beer and the Law Revue that was to follow it.

So read the links collected below, and discuss in the comments if you’re so inclined. Thanks.
Autoadmit (aka the Ciolli/Cohen Discussion Board) “Strikes Again” [Brian Leiter's Law School Reports]
Lockdown: Virginia Tech Copycat Threat Causes Hastings Evacuation [Hastings News]
Hastings Scare: Threat on Web Shuts Law College [San Francisco Chronicle]
Copycat Threat Shuts Hastings Law School [San Francisco Chronicle]
Threats Taken Seriously at SF Law College [Bay City News Service]

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGApparently Sullivan & Cromwell is no longer the only Biglaw shop paying a $50,000 clerkship bonus. According to multiple sources, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett — which in January kicked off the latest round of base salary increases for associates — has followed suit.
If S&C were the only member of the $50K club, competitor firms could afford not to follow suit. We agree with what this tipster had to say (prior to the Simpson Thacher match):

“What I gather from this general reluctance on the part of NY firms to match S&C’s $50K clerkship bonus is that there’s an emerging view within the legal market that S&C’s decision to ‘surge’ their bonus rate is, in some sense, an anticipation that they’re going to have a tough recruiting season this fall.”

“This clerkship bonus craze has nothing to do with clerks — and anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken. What firms do care about is a bunch of newbie 2Ls (who are a month or so away from wrapping up 1L year right now), with nothing more than a pedestrian understanding on how Firm A differs from Firm B, going to S&C’s website and seeing that they offer $50K and then going to, say, Davis Polk’s and seeing that they offer less than a third of that.”

“My hunch is that if one more top firm matches S&C, then the rest will soon follow. The big question is who moves first — and when.”

We concur in this analysis. Now that Simpson has joined Sullivan & Cromwell, resisting the clerkship bonus trend will prove more difficult (at least for other top ten New York firms). Expect places like Cravath, Davis Polk, and Cleary Gottlieb to fall into line.
Have you heard of anyone else matching? Please email us (subject line: “Clerkship Bonus”). Thanks.
Earlier: Skaddenfreude: A Clerkship Bonus Special Report

Remember our post from last week, hinting at the possibility that false affidavits were created in the Aaron Charney / Sullivan & Cromwell litigation? Well, a few more details — or allegations, at least — are drifting in.
Check out this order by Justice Bernard Fried:
Charney order 1.JPG
Second page, after the jump.

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