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

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Brokeback Lawfirm: A Bit of Monkey Business?”

Our March Madness contest, an NCAA-esque tournament for the title of America’s coolest law school, is now over. Congratulations to the very deserving winner:


In the final round, UVA went up against Columbia. It wasn’t even close:
UVA coolest law school University of Virginia School of Law Above the Law blog.JPG
After the jump, a few pieces of evidence in support of UVA’s coolness. Nice work, guys!

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Congratulations to America’s Coolest Law School: UVA!”

Alberto Gonzales 3 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Alberto Gonzalez Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re getting underway again, with the testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some random audience member just shouted out: “Hi Senator Kyl!”
2:39: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who missed much of the morning session due to a funeral, is leading off the afternoon questioning. He reads a brief introductory statement (and barely looks up from his notes). Grassley gloats over how the DOJ tried to prevent a witness from testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, on which he also serves, but got slapped down by the courts.
(Wow, that accent is REALLY Midwestern. Anyone wanna go to the mal?)
2:49: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) wants to know what safeguards were in place to prevent improper political considerations from entering into the process re: which U.S. Attorneys to fire. He’s very animated, angry — he frequently raises his voice.
AGAG says that he relied upon people he trusted — and repeatedly mentions the Deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty, and the big role the DAG played in this process. It seems to us that Gonzales wants to make McNulty the fall guy.
(Not a bad idea — McNulty is leaving the DOJ soon, anyway).
3:02: OMG, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) — a Republican, and a conservative one at that — just ripped AGAG a new one. Several new ones, actually. Some quotes:

“You should be judged by the same standards as these U.S. attorneys were judged, and suffer the same consequences.”

“Mistakes were made, and mistakes should have consequences.”

“[T]his was handled incompetently… Communication was atrocious.”

“The best way to put this all behind us is your resignation,” so we can “start with a clean slate.”

“I like you as a man, as an individual, but mistakes have consequences.”

OUCH. OUCH OUCH. Alberto Gonzales = pinata.
If this is what a Republican has to say, wait ’til the Democrats are up to bat next….
4:08: Sorry, our attention wandered… Lots of questioning about matters not related to the U.S. Attorney firings (because this is, after all, technically a general DOJ oversight hearing). E.g., Sen. Kyl asking about offshore gambling outfits; Sen. Specter asking about whether there’s any federal law enforcement angle to the Virginia Tech shootings.
Now, a ten-minute recess.
Earlier: Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 2)
Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 1)

Alberto Gonzales 2 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re picking up with where we left off, in our liveblogging of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
10:50: Sen. Herb. Kohl is REALLY going after AGAG. He cites poll data showing that approximately half of the American public wants Gonzales to resign.
Kohl is in essence asking: Why are you still here? He suggests to Gonzales that these poll results matter, because American people’s perceptions of the DOJ and whether justice is being done are very important.
Gonzales has a good line here: “You’re right, Senator. This is not about Alberto Gonzales.” He then says it’s about the work the DOJ is doing (to “protect our children,” of course).
11:00: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) tosses a bunch of softballs in AGAG’s direction. He’s the most friendly questioner of the morning thus far. He also notes that some time ago, a Democratic senator predicted that Gonzales would be gone as AG within a week. “And yet here you are, still Attorney General, a month later. And I’m glad to see that.”
11:08: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is up now. Her lilac blazer stands out in the sea of dark suits.
Feinstein tries to zero in on the precise extent of Gonzales’s involvement. Great line: “Who was the Decider?”
We love ourselves some DiFi!
Okay, time for a 10-minute recess — the first of the morning.
And now we’re back. More discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 2)”

Here are the results of the various reader polls we conducted concerning Adriana Dominguez, the Brooklyn Law School student who appeared nude in a video for Playboy TV:
Adriana Dominguez poll results.JPG
These results make sense to us. Dominguez’s participation in the Playboy really has no bearing upon her character and fitness, with respect to her bar admission. It wasn’t criminal, and we don’t live in the Victorian Age.
As for her legal career, if she’s a talented lawyer, who cares if she has, er, certain other abilities? Sure, one might question her judgment; but this was one mistake, and nobody’s perfect.
(But yeah, maybe she’s not that hot. And just because her doing this nudie video shouldn’t preclude her bar admission doesn’t mean people can’t look down on her for doing so.)
Earlier: Adriana Dominguez: What Do YOU Think?
The Jurisdiction Stripper: Two More Polls

Alberto Gonzales Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.JPGWe’re liveblogging Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s desperate fight for his political life testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is just getting underway. Our commentary will be added continuously to this post (until we eventually migrate to a new post). So just refresh your browser for the latest.
9:35: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), SJC Chairman, has been reading a lengthy introductory statement. It’s way harsh on AlGo.
(Nice tie, Senator Leahy — alternating mint and forest green stripes. And a crisp white shirt — not a button-down-collar, thankfully. Politicians dress so much better than judges.)
9:41: Leahy gets in a dig about the White House being content to turn U.S. Attorney’s Offices into outposts of the Bush Administration.
The camera cuts to Gonzales, whose lower lip juts out defiantly — and he shakes his head vigorously, to show disagreement with Leahy’s statement. Will the famously mild-mannered Gonzales actually display some cojones?
More discussion after the jump.

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