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

We’ve learned a little more about the talented creator of the NYU Law Revue videos that we’ve recently highlighted. His name is Ryan Landes, and he’s a 3L at NYU, who will be working at a firm in L.A. after graduation. Given his gift for film, it’s not surprising that he’s headed to Hollywood (where perhaps he’ll bump into Eric Krautheimer at The Ivy).
Despite the demands of law school, Ryan finds the time to pursue film as a hobby. Here’s a droll little video he did for last year’s Law Revue, poking fun at Early Interview Week (EIW) on the NYU campus.
(The big joke in the sketch is a little dated. But is it ever possible to have too much of Aquagirl?)

EIW [YouTube]

harold koh harold hongju koh.jpgThat’s the prospect repeatedly pushed in a two-part profile of Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh, from the Yale Daily News. The profile has been discussed extensively in the legal blogsophere (see links below).
Oh goodness. We could say something snarky and dismissive (e.g., “Hell to the N-O”). But we will comport ourselves with the dignity you expect from a leading gossip blogger.
We will merely refer you to what others have already said on the subject. E.g., Professor Stephen Bainbridge (“Koh’s appointment to the SCOTUS would be an unmitigated disaster.”); Professor David Bernstein (Koh is “a highly partisan liberal Democrat under whose tenure as dean conservative and libertarian students have felt increasingly uncomfortable”); and commenters at the WSJ Law Blog (“a severe narcissist,” “a political zealot,” and “[Harvard Dean] Elena Kagan would be a better choice”).
(Our favorite comment, from a WSJ Law Blog reader: “Other than that he’d be a sure vote for declaring Gitmo detainees have a constitutional right to Social Security benefits, I do not see the appeal.”)
So we’re holding our tongue. We do not want to have our YLS degree revoked after the fact.
A few more thoughts, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Justice Harold Hongju Koh?”

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGWe will soon be posting an update to our earlier, draft report on clerkship bonuses. Thanks to everyone for all the tips, corrections, and additions. If you have info to share, please email us (subject line: “Clerkship Bonus”).
In the meantime, here’s another useful little resource for you. It was sent to us by a tipster with this message:

Looks like the NY Law Journal JUST picked up on the trend of listing the $160,000 firms. Don’t they know that every associate in the city already got this list from Abovethelaw?

Indeed. But in case you’d like to refresh your recollection (or want your salary information with an MSM seal of approval), the NYLJ listing of $160K firms — aka the “List of Pride,” the opposite of the “List of Shame” — appears here (free subscription may be required).
NY First-Year Salaries: Who Pays $160,000 [New York Law Journal via nylawyer.com]

smiley face with bomb Above the Law blog.gifThe Cravath partner who uses Scotch tape to Biore herself during a deposition. The Sullivan & Cromwell partner who allegedly tells a gay associate to “bend over” and pick up a document. The partner that you’re probably working for right now, who makes one insane demand after another.
What is UP with these people? How can they be so clueless? Why are they completely unable to appreciate how their words and actions will be received?
One theory about why powerful partners act the way they do can be gleaned from this NYT op-ed, by Richard Conniff, author of The Natural History of the Rich. Conniff suggests, in a nutshell, that power turns people into inconsiderate a**holes. Here’s an excerpt:

Researchers led by the psychologist Dacher Keltner took groups of three ordinary volunteers and randomly put one of them in charge. Each trio had a half-hour to work through a boring social survey. Then a researcher came in and left a plateful of precisely five cookies. Care to guess which volunteer typically grabbed an extra cookie? The volunteer who had randomly been assigned the power role was also more likely to eat it with his mouth open, spew crumbs on partners and get cookie detritus on his face and on the table….

The researchers went on to theorize that getting power causes people to focus so keenly on the potential rewards, like money, sex, public acclaim or an extra chocolate-chip cookie — not necessarily in that order, or frankly, any order at all, but preferably all at once — that they become oblivious to the people around them.

Are you one of those associates who does whatever a partner asks of you, quickly and without complaint, no matter how unreasonable? You may be part of the problem:

[T]he people around them may abet this process, since they are often subordinates intent on keeping the boss happy. So for the boss, it starts to look like a world in which the traffic lights are always green (and damn the pedestrians). Professor Keltner and his fellow researchers describe it as an instance of “approach/inhibition theory” in action: As power increases, it fires up the behavioral approach system and shuts down behavioral inhibition.

So next time a certain partner asks you to coordinate an armada of town cars to ferry deal documents to her at home, “Just Say No.” You’re standing up not just for yourself, but for generations of unborn associates.
(Okay, this advice would probably get you fired. But wouldn’t it be satisfying to tell her off? It might almost be worth losing your job to say to her, “I graduated from a top law school. I got offers from every top firm I applied to. Do I look like a Dial-A-Car dispatcher?”)
The Rich Are More Oblivious Than You and Me [New York Times]

Monica Goodling 5 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgSome of you have taken issue with our worship of Monica Goodling, the Justice Department lawyer who finds herself at the center of the firestorm over the U.S. Attorney firings. We’ve praised her as an up-and-coming DOJ diva; but some of you have argued that a true diva wouldn’t take the Fifth.
Fair enough; and normally we might agree. But Goodling isn’t hiding behind the Fifth Amendment like a shrinking violet. Instead, she is invoking it boldly, defiantly. And she’s going on the offensive against the Democrats who have cast aspersions on her simply for availing herself of constitutional protections.
From the Washington Post:

In a letter to House Democrats, Goodling’s attorneys lambasted Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and his counterpart in the Senate, Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), for questioning whether Goodling was hiding criminal activity by refusing to testify before Congress.

Attorneys John M. Dowd and Jeffrey King wrote that Goodling’s assertion of her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination “can in no way be interpreted to suggest that Ms. Goodling herself participated in any criminal activity.”

“Your and Senator Leahy’s recent suggestions to the contrary are unfortunately reminiscent of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who infamously labeled those who asserted their constitutional right to remain silent before his committee ‘Fifth Amendment Communists,’” the attorneys wrote.

Yeah, that’s kinda awesome. Chairman Conyers, have you no sense of decency?
Attorneys for Gonzales Aide Criticize Congressional Democrats [Washington Post]

moon moons mooning Above the Law legal tabloid blog.jpgWe adore quirky lawsuits brought by high school students against school administrators. There’s something about the high school setting that fosters oddball litigation. E.g., “Bong Hits 4 Jesus”; Gifties v. Tards.
Here’s the latest such tale, from the AP:

A high school senior acknowledges he went too far when he mooned a teacher. But he thinks the decision of school officials to send him to a new school for the rest of the year was too harsh, so his family is suing.

Tyler Tillung, 18, mooned a teacher “suddenly and without thinking about the consequences” in February, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday. The teacher had declined to let him into a Feb. 21 school lip sync show that was full.

Lip sync shows: not just for show queens. Anyway, here’s the school’s response:

“Without knowing the allegations, we’re confident in the administration’s position on this case,” [School Board Attorney Jim] Robinson said. Palm Harbor principal Herman “Doc” Allen described the mooning as “disgusting” and the teacher as “traumatized.”

Traumatized? From seeing a little teenage ass crack? Seems like an overreaction.
(Unless the kid suffered from this problem. Then all bets are off.)
Fla. student who mooned teacher sues [Associated Press]

Alberto Gonzales 2 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.JPGAttorney General Alberto Gonzales may be slightly more secure in his position these days than in the recent past, when it was looking like “Gonzales” was Spanish for “canned.” But he’s not out of the woods yet — which is why speculation about possible successors continues.
Ben Wittes, writing for TNR Online, has some excellent insights. His overall take:

[B]etween a sinking administration that still demands loyalty above all else and congressional Democrats keen on using their new oversight powers, finding a candidate who satisfies both sides will be hard. The next attorney general must be someone acceptable enough to Democrats not just to get confirmed but to tamp down the fire Gonzales has witlessly set.

But he must also be enough of a conservative to satisfy the White House. And he needs a reputation for probity and moral seriousness sufficient to speak to the public and to Congress with the respect that Gonzales obviously lacks. It’s a tall order–a pinch so tight that it squeezes out almost all of the names being bandied about in public.

Wittes then marches through various possible nominees. Discussion continues, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Possible Replacements for Alberto Gonzales”

Columbia Law School CLS Above the Law blog.jpgAs we previously mentioned, we will be speaking at Columbia Law School next week, at the kind invitation of the Columbia Federalist Society.
Our talk is open to the public, so feel free to stop by if you’re in the area. Here are the details:

Wednesay, April 11, 5:30 PM 6:00 PM
Columbia Law School
Jerome Green Hall, Room 102
435 West 116th St. (at Amsterdam Avenue)

As one CLS student pointed out to us, our talk unfortunately overlaps (in part) with the Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court finals, scheduled from 4 PM to 6 PM. If you’d like to go to the Moot Court first, please feel free to sneak into our talk late. Needless to say, considering the star-studded bench — which we also plan to watch in action before heading off for our event — we won’t be offended by tardy arrivals.
Update: We’re happy to report that the time of our talk has been changed. We are now speaking at 6 PM, so there’s no need to choose between us and Moot Court.
Hope to see you next week!

Ring the alarm! This just in, from the Harvard Crimson:

Harvard Law Review Above the Law blog.gifThe Harvard Law Review is cited less and less in decisions by federal courts, in keeping with a trend across several major law reviews, according to a study published last month by staff at the Cardozo Law Review of Yeshiva University.

The researchers found that the Harvard journal was cited 4,410 times in federal courts during the 1970s, but only 1,956 in the 1990s, and 937 so far in this decade—despite an increase in the number of cases brought to courts.

It’s ’cause judges are citing Wikipedia so much these days — plus all those darn blogs….
Fewer Cases Cite Harvard Law Review [Harvard Crimson via How Appealing]
When Is It Appropriate to Cite to Wikipedia? [Concurring Opinions]
Courts Citing Blogs [Volokh Conspiracy]

Eric Krautheimer 2 Eric M Krautheimer Aaron Charney Sullivan & Cromwell Above the Law blog.jpgThis is completely unverified — nothing more than total rumor. We’re in the process of following up. But we thought we’d toss it out there, to see if any of you can confirm (or deny).
This is what we’ve heard, from a little bird:

Eric Krautheimer is probably going to be transferred to Sullivan & Cromwell’s L.A. office.”

Because Los Angeles has such different views on gay issues than New York. And out on the distant West Coast, still reachable only by Pony Express, nobody will have heard of this Aaron Charney guy.
As noted, this is UNCONFIRMED. We’ve left messages with Eric Krautheimer, S&C chairman H. Rodgin Cohen, and a firm spokesperson. We haven’t heard back from any of them. But if and when we do, you’ll be the first to know.
Do you have inside information about the truth (or lack thereof) of this item? If so, please email us (subject line: “Eric Krautheimer”). Thanks.
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Eric Krautheimer (scroll down)

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