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

As the Supreme Court’s October Term 2013 fades into memory, and the bickering over Hobby Lobby subsides, let’s look ahead to October Term 2014 — and beyond. We know now the identities of all the OT 2014 SCOTUS clerks, as well as a growing number of the clerks for October Term 2015.

The clerk hiring contains some bad news for Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and other liberals who want Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire before it’s too late. The Notorious RBG has picked her posse for OT 2015, suggesting that she won’t be leaving the Court anytime soon.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First let’s look at the official list of Supreme Court law clerks for October Term 2014, starting up in just a few months….

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Former dean Larry Mitchell

Color me disappointed. The parties have reached a settlement in Ku v. Mitchell. We won’t get to hear trial testimony about a law school dean allegedly propositioning students and staff or trying to set up threesomes on a bed with Chinese silk sheets.

Okay, let’s rewind. Last October, Case Western law professor Raymond Ku filed a lawsuit against former Case dean Lawrence Mitchell and against the university. Ku alleged that he suffered retaliation after reporting to university officials that Mitchell had potentially sexually harassed women at the law school, including employees and students. In the wake of the lawsuit, Mitchell took a leave of absence as dean, then resigned the deanship (but remained on the faculty).

Today brings word of the parties settling the case. What are the terms of the settlement, and what do the parties have to say about it?

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Complaining about profits per partner as a metric is a favorite pastime of Biglaw partners. Sometimes it can look like sour grapes by partners at firms that don’t excel in the PPP department.

But, to be fair, there certainly are things to complain about when it comes to profits per partner. For example, PPP is an average that can sometimes conceal a great deal of variability. It tells you exactly what its name suggests — average profits per partner, i.e., total profits divided by the number of partners – but it doesn’t tell you what the average partner takes home in a year.

To get a better sense of compensation for an average partner, we’d need to know the “spread,” i.e., the ratio between the compensation of the highest-paid partner and that of the lowest-paid partner. Thankfully, there is (some) information on that.

How do partner compensation spreads look these days at leading law firms?

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River House

As we roll into the July 4th holiday weekend, it’s a good time for a Lawyerly Lairs post. What could be more American than great real estate? Great real estate once owned by a great American lawyer, in fact?

The River House is one of Manhattan’s most magnificent addresses. This elegant pre-war co-op, offering incredible views of the East River, has been rightly described as “one of the most luxurious, romantic and private apartment buildings ever built.”

As you can see from the building’s Wikipedia entry, its celebrity residents over the years have included Henry Kissinger and Uma Thurman. Legal eagles like Philip Bobbitt and Kermit Roosevelt [sorry, wrong Kermit Roosevelt] have also made their nests here. And this legal eagle, a Paul, Weiss partner whose penthouse is on the market for almost $15 million, might be the most high-flying of them all….

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Bryan A. Garner

This May, Thomson Reuters published the tenth edition of the estimable Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link). The most widely cited legal book in the world, Black’s is a must-have for every lawyer and law student.

Henry Campbell Black published the first edition in 1891. Starting with the publication of the seventh edition in 1995, Black’s has been edited by Professor Bryan A. Garner, the noted lexicographer, legal-writing expert, and author of such books as Garner’s Modern American Usage, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (the last two co-authored with Justice Antonin Scalia (affiliate links)).

I met with Garner during his recent visit to New York, where he taught his famous legal-writing course to various law firms and government employers. His voice was hoarse from a summer cold, but he generously soldiered through an interview with the help of some tea. Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation.

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On Monday, we noted the surprising news of a young partner leaving Wachtell Lipton to start his own boutique firm. Given the rarity of partner departures from the super-lucrative Wachtell, my colleague Staci Zaretsky described the news as “basically like seeing a unicorn.”

Why did Jeremy Goldstein, a 40-year-old partner in the firm’s executive-compensation practice, leave WLRK? The American Lawyer piece about Goldstein’s move painted a happy picture of a lawyer striking out on his own to be more entrepreneurial and to run his own business.

But we wonder if there’s more to this story than meets the eye….

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For almost a decade, the Forum on Law, Culture & Society has hosted fascinating conversations about legal issues with such luminaries as President Bill Clinton and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several Forum events over the years, such as a riveting panel discussion about the Casey Anthony case and screenings of legally themed movies at the Forum Film Festival.

For years, the Forum has made its home at Fordham Law School. But now the Forum is moving. Where is it going, and why?

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Yesterday we wrote about a managing partner’s abrupt departure from her firm — a departure that the remaining members of management noted in a somewhat snarky email.

At the time, we didn’t know where she was headed. Now we know her destination — and we can understand why some of her former colleagues might be bent out of shape over her leaving.

Where did this prominent partner land, and what might happen to the firm she left behind?

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Here at Above the Law, we love ourselves a good departure memo. If a great one makes its way into your inbox, please feel free to send our way.

People write departure memos so they can frame their farewells — explain why they’re leaving, provide their new contact information, and thank the people who need to be thanked. But what about if a partner — a managing partner, no less, and one involved in a summer associate scandal from a few years ago — just quits without explanation?

In that case, the remaining members of management write her departure memo for her. And oh what a departure memo….

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No such thing as a free lunch?

What’s not to like about a summer associate program? Most law students are down with free lunches, fun events, interesting work, and fat paychecks.

Sure, there are exceptions — like the summer associate who quit via firm-wide email earlier this month, declaring that he’d “rather be farming.” But, for the most part, summer associate positions are coveted gigs — especially because they might lead to full-time employment after graduation.

We recently mentioned that entry-level Biglaw hiring is on the upswing. But that’s true as a general matter, not across the board.

Which firm is taking us back in time and canceling its summer associate program in two offices?

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