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.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

Here’s an interesting rumor that’s making the rounds:

I have heard through the grapevine that some large law firm(s) [possibly Hogan Hartson] in Washington are desparately in need of corporate associates — from junior associates on up. Apparently the idea is to offer around $30,000 as a bonus to lateral. This shows the real need for corporate lawyers in the capital, especially since the latest wave of raises makes DC associates $15,000 poorer than their New York-based colleagues (or DC-based associates who work for New York-based firms). Lots of work in the corporate departments right now.

Can anyone confirm?

Alberto Gonzales 3 Alberto R Gonzales Attorney General Above the Law blog.jpgPoor Alberto Gonzales. Even Romy and Michele had a better time at their reunion. From the AP:

A small group of student protesters, including one wearing a black hood and an orange jumpsuit, heckled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as he posed with old classmates Saturday during their 25-year Harvard Law School reunion.

“When the photographer was getting everybody set up and having people say ‘cheese,’ the protesters yelled: ‘say torture, instead,”resign’ and ‘I don’t recall,'” said Nate Ela, a protester and third-year student.

Law school spokesman Mike Armini said the impromptu protest was so small that some of those attending the photo shoot did not notice it.

We hate to quibble, but saying “torture” doesn’t make you smile. Your lips end up in a peculiar, puckered position (try it yourself). C’mon, HLSers — couldn’t you have come up with something more clever?
Students Heckle Gonzales at Harvard [Associated Press]

And We’re Back

computer desktop computer Above the Law blog.jpgDid you miss us? We hope so. But we also know, from reader emails and comments, that you greatly enjoyed the efforts of Laurie Lin and Billy Merck, who held down the fort in our absence. We thank them for their fantastic work.
We’re still in the process of catching up on legal news, blog reading, and email. It’s a Monday morning, so we need all the help we can get. If you have any suggested blog fodder, please send it to us by email. Thanks!

April 2007 calendar Above the Law blog.GIFWe’re going on vacation this week. It’s our first real vacation since we started at ATL (back in July 2006, a few weeks before the site launch in August).
While we’re gone, two guest editors will fill in for us. Both of them already contribute to ATL:

Laurie Lin, who writes Legal Eagle Wedding Watch; and

Billy Merck, who writes Morning Docket (in alternating weeks, with B Clerker).

We’re confident that Laurie and Billy will keep you entertained and informed while we’re away. Please help them out by submitting tips, story suggestions, and feedback, to the usual ATL address: tips AT abovethelaw DOT com.
Thanks for reading. See you in May!

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGWe’re interested in figuring out how many law clerks for the upcoming Supreme Court Term, October Term 2007, are women or minorities. But we don’t know all these folks personally (much as we might like to). So we need your help.
After the jump, you’ll see a list of the Supreme Court clerks for OT 2007. Check it out. Do you know any of these individuals?
Okay. It appears to us that of the 37 clerks, 14 are women. Is this correct? In terms of clerks with gender-ambiguous names, we’ve categorized the following as male: Aditya Bamzai (see here), and C.J. Mahoney (the “C.” stands for “Curtis”).
As for ethnicity, we’re speculating — based largely on surnames — that the following individuals are Asian American: Aditya Bamzai, Michael Chu, and Bert Huang (whom we know from college, so we’re pretty sure about him). But we’re sure that we’re missing other minority law clerks from our tally.
Can you help us out? If you know of any other OT 2007 clerks who are minorities, or if our tally of female law clerks is off, please note that in the comments (or send us an email).
Update: In case you’re wondering, we’re collecting this information for a freelance piece we’re working on. (In addition to writing for ATL, we freelance for various print publications on the side.)
The full list of OT 2007 clerks appears after the jump. Thanks in advance for your tips!

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “October Term 2007 Clerk Hiring: A Request for Information”

Rose Garden White House Above the Law blog.jpgIt’s a beautiful April afternoon (at least here on the East Coast). You shouldn’t be in front of your computer right now.
But in case you are, here are a few quick items of interest:
1. Columbia Faculty Hire Faces Human Rights Questions [New York Sun]

We went to law school with Matt Waxman (OT 2000/Souter). It’s unfortunate that he’s the subject of such controversy, because he’s a true mensch — and one of the “good guys” with respect to human rights issues. As the Sun notes:

“The criticism of Mr. Waxman as insensitive to human rights concerns is seen as paradoxical in some circles since he dissented from aspects of the Bush administration’s policy on detainees and argued that the Geneva Conventions should be the official policy for all those in military hands.”

2. Another Development in Sullivan & Cromwell v. Charney [Leonard Link]

There’s always something to say about the Aaron Charney / Sullivan & Cromwell litigation. In this excellent post, Professor Arthur Leonard offers some intriguing speculation about some recent (and bizarre) developments in the case.

3. Tampa stadium authority asks court for tighter security [ESPN.com]

The federal government is being represented by Jonathan Cohn (OT 2000/Thomas), another former O’Scannlain clerk, currently serving as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Appellate. Good luck, Jon!

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGIn the comments to our last post on clerkship bonuses, there was a claim that WilmerHale has raised its clerkship bonus to $35,000.
That claim is true. This email went out yesterday:

From: Dunbar, Andrianna
Date: Apr 19, 2007 5:52 PM
Subject: Clerkship Bonus Update

As part of our commitment to providing attorney compensation that is at or near the top of the markets in which we practice, the firm has increased its judicial clerkship bonus from $20,000 to $35,000. This increase reflects the value the firm places on hiring former judicial clerks, as well as our intention to continue to attract the best and the brightest legal talent. We are committed to making the firm as attractive as possible for former clerks, and we recognize that the amount of the clerkship bonus can be important.

We continue to hope that you will accept our offer to join us. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.


There was also a rumor that Skadden had raised its clerkship bonus to $60,000. As far as we know — we’re happy to be proven wrong — that comment was a joke (or wishful thinking).
If you hear of anyone else raising — either to $35,000 or, better yet, $50,000 (the new S&C and Simpson standard) — please email us. We will probably do an update on this in another week or two, depending upon the level of activity on this front. Thanks.

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]

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