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

piggy bank Above the Law blog.jpgIf you look up the term “private equity” in Black’s Law Dictionary, the entry reads: “Lucky bastards who make three times as much as you do, even though you graduated from college at the same time.”
But perhaps lawyers should think warm-and-fuzzy thoughts, as opposed to envious and resentful ones, about private equity types. Today’s DealBook has an interesting item about how private equity deals are keeping law firms busy — including a number of shops outside the private equity “Holy Trinity” of Simpson Thacher, Cleary Gottlieb, and Ropes & Gray.
The DealBook item is based on an article in the current issue of the American Lawyer, which contains this tidbit about lateral moves from Simpson:

An unintended consequence of our level of market share in private equity is that as private equity firms have grown, they’ve all developed in-house legal staffs, starting from zero, five years ago,” says Simpson partner Alan Klein. “They’re trying to populate those staffs with our associates.”

Seven lawyers left Simpson for private equity shops last year, according to Corporate Counsel, a sibling publication of The American Lawyer. Partly to stem defections, Simpson raised associate salaries in January, prompting a raise-a-thon among its competitors.

Remember when D.C. bar president James Sandman, of Arnold & Porter, posed this question?

“I don’t understand what causes a firm be the first to increase the salary of a brand-new lawyer from an already eye-popping $145,000 to $160,000. There is no competitive advantage in doing so. Other firms will surely follow suit, and the firm that led the market will quickly be indistinguishable from the rest of the pack.”

Well, there’s your answer, Mr. Sandman. Simpson isn’t competing with you and other non-NYC firms; it’s competing with private equity and investment banks. And your profits per partner are just collateral damage.
More Law Firms Crowd into Private Equity Deals [DealBook]
Corporate Scorecard: Gargantuans at the Gate [American Lawyer]

In ATL’s March Madness, NYU currently enjoys a sizable lead over their uptown competition at Columbia. So they probably don’t need the electoral boost that might result from this delightful video, produced as part of the annual NYU Law Revue:

Our observations:

1. It’s all in the casting: “Columbia” is a brilliant choice. She’s the twenty-something, female embodiment of John Hodgman. If the whole “law” thing doesn’t work out for her, she should look into acting.

2. “Harvard” and “Yale” are super-cute!!! Of course, we’re assuming that in real life they are NYU law students (and perhaps future NYU law hotties).

3. The video includes a photographic cameo by one-half of FELDSUK. Awesome! (And we love how NYU has brilliantly spun Professor Noah Feldman’s high-profile defection to Harvard.)

Congratulations to the NYU Law crew that put together such an excellent video. Nice work, guys!
P.S. Did they get any help from their brilliant colleagues at NYU’s famous film school?
Update: The answer to that question is no. A tipster tells us that the creator of the video is a mere law student, who produced this video without film school help. This source also adds:

The ad makes fun of NYU as well: we have no waitlist, and can’t use Macs for exams. The video turns against NYU.

Get NYU [YouTube]

Monica Goodling 5 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgBut so is the mainstream media. The articles about this high-ranking Justice Department official, at the heart of the controversial U.S. Attorney firings, just keep on coming.
We can’t get enough of the coverage. We are completely intrigued — and quite taken by — Monica M. Goodling. She’s the most fascinating and appealing personality we’ve encountered since Alexandra Korry and Shanetta Cutlar (whom we also adore — what can we say, we love strong women).
In the face of widespread media and blogosphere criticism of Monica Goodling, we intend to stake out our position as the leading pro-Monica outlet. It’s all too easy to rank on her non-Ivy League background or her strong conservative beliefs. We will provide a counterbalance to the negativity, by vigorously praising and defending Monica Goodling in all of her fabulosity.
The latest Monica Goodling profiles are by Jonathan Last, for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and by T.R. Goldman and Emma Schwartz, for the Legal Times. Here are some excerpts from Jonathan Last’s article:

Now 33, [Monica Goodling] graduated from Messiah College, an evangelical Christian school, in 1995. After a year at the American University Washington College of Law, she enrolled at Pat Robertson’s Regent University Law School in 1996 – the year it received full accreditation from the American Bar Association. She graduated from Regent in 1999. That November, Goodling went to work for the Republican National Committee as a junior research analyst in the opposition research shop. When her boss, Barbara Comstock, left the RNC to head the Office of Public Affairs in the Ashcroft Justice Department, Goodling went with her.

After spending two years in Public Affairs, Goodling was detailed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia for a two-year stint in order to get the “field experience” typically required for the attorney general counsel’s job. She served only six months. (The head of EDVA at the time was Paul McNulty, who, having since become a deputy attorney general, also played a role in the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys.)

According to my research, Goodling was the lead attorney on three felony cases while at EDVA. All three ended in plea agreements; none was of particular importance. To give a sense of the magnitude of her work, the highest-level defendant was sentenced to four months in jail; the other two were given three years of supervised release – one of these also received a $100 special assessment. Nevertheless, upon her return to Justice, Goodling assumed the senior counsel and White House liaison posts. So much for the best and the brightest.

OUCH. Mr. Last, that’s no way to treat a lady!
More discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Monica Goodling: Yes, We’re Obsessed”

survey reader survey study Above the Law blog.jpgThanks to everyone who took the Above the Law reader survey (now closed). We appreciate your taking the time to tell us — and our advertisers — a little bit about yourselves. Special thanks to those of you who offered us comments and feedback on ATL.
The survey results are similar to those from the one we conducted about six months ago. Here are the highlights:
Gender: 64 percent male.
Median age: 29.
Education 72 percent of you have a JD, and 99 percent are college grads. You’re a smart bunch.
Average annual household income: $118,000. This figure is about 20 percent higher than it was six months ago ($99,000). Our thanks to Simpson Thacher.
Occupation: 50 percent of Above the Law readers are lawyers or judges; 14 percent are law clerks; 19 percent are students.
Consumer habits: ATL readers are an appealing group demographically:
• 32% have taken a flight for business in the past 30 days
• 47% have taken a flight for leisure in the past 30 days
• 54% have gone to the movies in the past 30 days
• 55% have managed their investments online
• 41% have used the internet to research cars over the past 6 months
If you’d like more information about advertising on ATL, please click here. Thanks!
Earlier: Some Interrogatories from Your Friends at ATL
ATL Readers: ‘Handsome, Clever, and Rich’

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.JPGWe don’t post that much on the weekends — but this item is time-sensitive. We have some big news to share, and we don’t want to get scooped.
So remember, you heard it here first:

Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell is on the brink of settlement!!!

We realize that we’ve prematurely predicted settlement before. But this time around, we have the news on very reliable authority.
Aaron Charney and S&C have been engaged in marathon settlement talks for most of this weekend. And, according to a source close to the discussions, they’re very close to an agreement. The parties are said to be “zeroing in on a figure just north of $1 million.”
Exciting stuff! We’re glad to see the parties working things out — but we will obviously miss writing about this story.
More details, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Brokeback Lawfirm: Riding Off Into the Sunset?”

law school 2b tournament brackets.GIFIf you’re tired of endlessly arguing over which law school is best, we have a suggestion for you: Cast your vote in ATL’s Law School March Madness!!!
We’ll close the second round of the tournament on Tuesday, April 3, at 3 PM (Eastern time). The law schools in the lead at that point in time will become your Final Four.
To vote in the Chicago-Georgetown or UVA-Stanford contests, click here. To vote in the NYU-Columbia or Texas-Michigan contests, click here. To review the brackets, click on the thumbnail on the right.
Good luck!
Earlier: ATL March Madness: Law Schools, Round 2 (Part 1)
ATL March Madness: Law Schools, Round 2 (Part 2)

Jennifer Elrod 2 Judge Jennifer W Elrod Fifth Circuit Texas Above the Law blog.jpgAs we mentioned yesterday, Judge Jennifer W. Elrod, a state trial court judge in Texas, has been nominated to the Fifth Circuit. The Texas Lawyer has an interesting article about Judge Elrod:

Houston lawyers who have tried cases before [Judge Elrod] say she has earned a reputation as a fair and smart state district judge.

“I think the most disappointing factor about her getting nominated is losing her off the bench in Harris County,” says Stephen Boutros, a Houston plaintiffs attorney.

“She often won’t rule in my favor, but it doesn’t matter,” says Boutros of Stephen Boutros LTD. “I would rate her the top judge I’ve ever been in front of. She understands the law. She can get a grasp of the issues in a matter of moments as if it were her own case.”

Boutros believes Elrod has the potential to follow in the footsteps of [Judge Patrick] Higgonbotham — a seasoned and respected judge who was a moderating force on the 5th Circuit — a court known as one of the most conservative federal appellate courts in the nation.

“She’s going to be an absolute centrist,” Boutros says. “She is intellectually honest and she’s not an ideologue.”

Judge Elrod sounds like a great pick. Our only disappointment: that President Bush didn’t nominate this Jennifer Elrod instead.
(But then again, in terms of qualifications for the Fifth Circuit, a JD from Harvard Law is probably more relevant than a 36D from Boobs ‘R Us.)
P.S. To those of you who think that we overuse the term “diva,” please note that we have NOT applied the term to Jennifer Elrod. Based on what we’ve heard, she’s extremely nice and down-to-earth, with a great sense of humor.
190th District Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod Nominated to 5th Circuit [Texas Lawyer]
Earlier: Some Judicial Nomination News

US News World Report law school rankings ratings Above the Law blog.jpgWe even got you a gift: the newest U.S. News & World Report law school rankings!
We previously linked to coverage at several other blogs of the USNWR rankings, which were leaked earlier in the week. But now the official rankings are available to all, both on the magazine’s website and at newsstands.
America’s Best Law Schools (2008) [U.S. News & World Report]

Cobra Kai Kobre Kim Above the Law blog.jpgThe legal ninjas of Cobra Kai Kobre & Kim are coming after our friends at DealBreaker. Yikes.
Good luck, guys! We’re pulling for you.
P.S. Our esteemed colleague, DealBreaker editor John Carney, is also a lawyer (who practiced at Skadden for several years). So he’s not as easily intimidated by scary lawyer letters as most other blog editors.
Update: Filing lawsuits against bloggers — all the cool kids are doing it!
Solengo Seeks Court Order To Strip DealBreaker Of Brochure [DealBreaker]
As Pitch Leaks to Web, a Hedge Fund Wants Quiet [DealBook]
Earlier: Will Our Big Sibling Get Sued?

Gandolfo DiBlasi 2 Vincent DiBlasi Gandolfo V DiBlasi Vince DiBlasi Above the Law Blog.JPGIn an interesting article in today’s Gay City News, Professor Arthur Leonard discusses the whole “Nazi-gate” controversy surrounding Sullivan & Cromwell partner Gandolfo “Vince” DiBlasi (at right).
Much of the article will be familiar to those who have been following the case closely. But here’s some good background (which previously surfaced in the comments, but merits highlighting here):

Explaining why he was so frightened that he destroyed [his] computer, Aaron Charney testified: “And when we got to the Penn Club, the content of that meeting and the threats that Mr. DiBlasi made invoking the fact that the firm had represented the Nazis and how — that nobody cared, and that people wrote a book about them representing the Nazis and no one cared.”…

Several books have discussed allegations that during the 1930s Sullivan & Cromwell attorneys were involved in representing businesses with interests in Nazi Germany, most prominently a 1994 book by John Loftus and Mark Aarons titled The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People.

Over at his blog, Professor Leonard offers more free-form reflections. Check out his breathlessly posed questions, which nicely capture the soap opera that the Charney case has become:

Why would anybody in the position of Gandolfo DiBlasi make any reference to S&C’s past representation of “the Nazis” – knowing that somebody in the room was taking notes – even if he believed that the meeting was covered by a promise of confidentiality? Will DiBlasi deny under oath that he said any such thing?… Will [Gera] Grinberg, whose job and residence in the US may be at stake, deny that DiBlasi said it? Will [Edward] Gallion, who was in the pay of S&C but owed his fiduciary duty to his client Grinberg and not to the source of his compensation, as these duties are parsed out under the ethical rules? And what motive could Charney have for making this up? Who is writing the script for this thriller? And will Sir Ian play “Gandolfo” in the docudrama…..???

Excellent queries. We look forward to finding out the answers in the weeks ahead.
Charney: S&C Waved Its Nazi Past [Gay City News]
The Latest Charney Sensation [Leonard Link]

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