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

Aaron Charney headshot Aaron B Charney Aaron Brett Charney.JPGThings have been quiet lately on the Aaron Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell front, but this week brings an exciting event. This Thursday, April 12, in New York Supreme Court, Justice Bernard Fried will preside over the Mother of All Hearings: an omnibus hearing at which the parties’ various motions and cross-motions will be argued.
Happily, we will be up in New York on Thursday. We will attend the hearing and report on the proceedings.
So it’s full speed ahead in Charney v. S&C. Contrary to what some predicted — including ourselves, at various points in time — this case doesn’t look like it will be settling anytime soon. This raises the question:

How long will this litigation be dragged out?

(Which raises another question: How is Aaron Charney supporting himself in the meantime? We’re guessing he has ample savings, from his years at S&C, and perhaps some support from his family. But if you have more specific knowledge, please drop us a line.)
One of you suggested a poll, and we like the idea. Please cast your vote:

tax taxes Above the Law blog.jpgWe just finished our taxes (or our accountant just did), so we have taxes on the brain. Remember, everyone: tax returns are due on April 17 this year, instead of the usual April 15. (To learn why, click here.)
Considering the time of year, it’s appropriate that our Lawyer of the Day is one George E. Harp. Harp accomplished the impressive feat of losing two cases in Tax Court — his client’s, and his own — on the same day.
Congratulations, Mr. Harp!
(Okay, perhaps it’s not THAT impressive a feat. Harp seems to be one of those nutty tax protestors, with no viable arguments in defense of his failure, or his client’s failure, to file a tax return.)
A Tough Day in Tax Court: Lawyer Loses Two Failure to File Tax Return Cases — His Client’s and His Own [TaxProf Blog]
Tax Returns Are Due April 17 This Year [TaxProf Blog]

Washington Monument Above the Law blog.jpgA quick shout-out to a juicy story that we haven’t written much about so far (and no, it’s not ’cause we have anything to hide). It’s the tawdry tale of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, aka the “D.C. Madam.”
From ABCNews.com:

Alleged “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey has given an exclusive interview to ABC News [for an upcoming investigative report on "20/20"]….

Last October, federal prosecutors charged Palfrey with racketeering offenses in connection with the business, which she contends was a legal operation. From 1993 to August 2006, Palfrey ran a high-end escort service in the nation’s capital, charging a flat fee for 90-minute “dates” with women between the ages of 23 and 55 whom she termed independent contractors.

There has been some speculation that her clients may include high-profile figures — politicians, pundits, and other inside-the-Beltway types. Palfrey has done nothing to discourage such buzz:

Palfrey has claimed that her service’s clients were “upscale” and “came from the more refined walks of life.” In March, she made headlines by briefly offering to sell the phone records of her company, Pamela Martin and Associates, to the highest bidder. She withdrew the offer after a federal judge ruled the government could confiscate any proceeds.

We can’t wait until the phone records become public (as they inevitably will). To paraphrase what they say about politics, the ensuing scandal will be “just like Heidi Fleiss — for ugly people.”
“D.C. Madam” Speaks with ABC News [ABC News via DCist]

laptop computer web surfer Above the Law.jpgYes, we have seen Georgetown Law Professor David Cole’s recent Washington Post op-ed, complaining about students using their laptops to surf the web during class. This led him to ban laptops from his classroom.
It’s provoked lively discussion in the blogosphere. See, e.g., PrawfsBlawg; Obscure Store; WSJ Law Blog. So we’re creating this post to facilitate some comments discussion here at ATL.
(But we weren’t terribly excited to see the piece. It’s actually very similar to a New York Times op-ed that our contracts professor, Ian Ayres, wrote back in 2002.)
Laptops vs. Learning [Washington Post]
Lectures vs. Laptops [New York Times]
Laptops and law-school learning [PrawfsBlawg]
Georgetown Law Prof David Cole: “No Laptops for You!” [WSJ Law Blog]
Law professor: Why I don’t allow laptops in class [Obscure Store]

Okay, we changed our mind. As some of you suggested, having disqualified NYU and the University of Michigan, we will stage a semifinal between the two schools they previously defeated: UT Austin and Columbia.
So here are the new “final four” match-ups (the new Texas-Columbia contest, and the existing UVA-Georgetown one):

We’re all in favor of school spirit. We encourage you to email the poll to others and encourage them to vote.
But please do not employ scripts, clickbots, or other non-human voting tools. Thank you.

Sigh. We’re sorry it had to turn out this way. But perhaps it’s oddly appropriate for a ridiculous poll to have a ridiculous ending
According to the folks at Vizu, and as noted by many commenters, both NYU and the University of Michigan were guilty of improprieties in their recent March Madness match-up. As a result, we are disqualifying NYU and Michigan from competition.
The two schools duking it out in the other semifinal, UVA and Georgetown, will BOTH advance to the finals. Here’s the tournament history:
law school 4a tournament brackets.GIF
Update: The commenters have convinced us. We’ve decided to let the schools that NYU and Michigan previously defeated, Columbia and Texas, face off in a semifinal. You can vote in that match over here.
Earlier: ATL March Madness: The NYU-Michigan Poll

Kiwi Camara KAD Camara Above the Law blog.jpgWe recently blogged about Kiwi Camara — the young, brilliant, controversial legal scholar — and his mysteriously disappeared job offer from George Mason University School of Law. Camara is a legal Doogie Howser who was 16 when he entered Harvard Law School. At HLS, he caused an uproar after dropping the N-bomb in a group outline. He has apologized repeatedly and profusely for that mistake; but it continues to dog him, years later.
The Washington Post originally broke the story about Camara’s GMU appointment falling through. But their story may have been erroneous, at least in one respect. The Post reported:

At George Mason’s law school, the faculty had authorized [Dean Daniel] Polsby to hire Camara as an assistant professor, but the dean wanted to first see what students, alumni and others thought. He scheduled a town hall meeting for last night, but the meeting was nixed after Camara’s application was withdrawn.

We contacted Camara for comment. He explained:

I was never instructed to withdraw my application, and I never did so. My candidacy was ended by George Mason…

Also, there was a week’s lapse between my job talk and when the faculty voted me an offer (to be precise, voted to authorize the dean to extend an offer). Surely they would have investigated before, rather than after, voting me an offer — and especially before going public and thereby triggering the recent media coverage.

Indeed. This is all very strange.
More discussion, including an interesting mini-scoop from Camara, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Kiwi Camara: We Are Still Confused”

As regular ATL readers know, around here we worship Monica M. Goodling, the former Justice Department lawyer who resigned last Friday. The DOJ won’t be the same without her.
We’d like to see how many of you share our opinion of Monica Goodling. Please take our poll:

H Rodgin Cohen 2 Chairman Aaron B Charney Aaron Brett Charney Sullivan Cromwell Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law ATL legal tabloid legal blog.JPGThe New York Law Journal recently published its “Book of Lists,” as an insert to a hard copy issue. We haven’t seen it ourselves, but a tipster highlighted some findings for us:

The ones that impressed me – considering the Aaron Charney litigation – were the surveys on most satisfied midlevel associates and most satisfied summer associates at large NY firms. As you can imagine, Sullivan & Cromwell did very poorly on these rankings.

For midlevel associates, they ranked No. 60, and had the largest number of respondents to the survey (88) of any firm on the list. For summer associates, they ranked No. 71, although several firms that ranked higher had a greater number of summer associates responding to the survey. On the pro bono services list, they ranked No. 45.

But they were No. 11 on size of NY office, and No. 14 on highest grossing.

You really should get a copy of this if you haven’t seen it – it would be grist for quite a bit of info on your blog.

We realize that rankings — e.g., the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings — can be pretty silly. But many people, ourselves included, still fixate on them. This isn’t exactly surprising. As Professor Miranda Fleischer recently observed, “we are all obsessed with measuring ourselves in some way, shape or form.”
(We haven’t located a copy of these rankings online — although, truth be told, we didn’t look very hard. If you locate them online, please let us know.)

It seems that LLM students are an endless source of stories — and not just those continually squabbling Harvard LLMs. In advance of our upcoming visit to Columbia Law School, here’s an amusing little anecdote about LLMs at CLS:

John Coffee John C Coffee Above the Law blog.JPGI was amused to learn last semester that Columbia Law Professor John Coffee is a rock-star to LLMs. Last fall Coffee held a review session before his Securities Law final. The review session was your basic, bland review of the material covered. The session ended and the class did the customary applause. I stood up to leave, when I saw a few “LLM gunners” approach Professor Coffee. I assumed they were just going to ask him questions, but then I saw him pull out a pen and began signing their casebooks.

I practically fell to the floor laughing. I know Coffee is a Corporate God, but come on. Do you really get your Con Law book signed by Larry Tribe or your Admin book signed by Tom Merrill? Besides, how could you worship someone that turned to teaching only after he failed in becoming a partner at Cravath?

[Ed. note: That last sentence is merely the speculative opinion of our tipster. Another CLS source tells us, "There are some who claim that, but I don't believe there is any real basis for it."]

Coffee is an extremely colorful professor. You really should do a small piece on him and you’ll get some interesting stories.

If you have anything funny or interesting to share about Professor Coffee, please feel free to email us (subject line: “John Coffee”). Thanks.

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