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

The ALS Association’s “Ice Bucket Challenge” has been wildly successful, raising more than $107 million to support the nonprofit and its great work fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The success even prompted the association to file trademark applications for “Ice Bucket Challenge” and “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” (ultimately withdrawn, so as not to stop other worthy causes from using the challenge).

As we reported last month, the Ice Bucket Challenge has been very popular within the legal profession. Even your Above the Law editors got into it. I was challenged by Travis Lenkner of Gerchen Keller Capital, the litigation finance firm, and I responded to that challenge by making a donation in lieu of icing myself. I then challenged my colleague Staci Zaretsky, who responded by dumping ice on herself (and contributing too).

We were joined by many other lawyers and law students in this endeavor. Here’s a round-up of Ice Bucket Challenges from around the legal world….

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Sleep with the case files, Your Honor, and not with the interns.

For some judges, especially judges coming out of private practice, taking the bench means a better lifestyle and shorter hours. But other judges work hard — very hard.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit is famous for his work ethic — and for how hard he works his clerks. Judge Mark Bennett of Iowa warns clerkship applicants, “I am looking for a clerk that is willing to work harder than they have ever worked in their life…. If they are one of those life must be balanced folks please don’t waste my time and don’t bother applying.”

Some chambers are well-equipped for long hours. They come with kitchenettes for cooking, showers for bathing (generally reserved for the judges), and couches for napping. And maybe more than napping….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judges Of The Day: 2 Jurists Spanked For Having Sex In Chambers”

Professor Tim Wu

* Could Columbia law professor Tim Wu become New York’s next lieutenant governor? He has a shot, according to the Times. [New York Times]

* Which same-sex-marriage case is the best vehicle for Supreme Court review? [BuzzFeed]

* A federal judge takes the wheel in steering Detroit into the future. [American Lawyer]

* Is it “shameful” of the ALS Association to attempt to trademark the phrase “ice bucket challenge”? [ABA Journal]

* Jury deliberations are expected to begin today in the corruption trial of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell. [Washington Post]

* Voter ID laws are back on trial, this time in Texas. [New York Times]

* Speaking of Texas, the state seeks to stay a recent ruling that struck down the requirement that abortion clinics comply with standards for ambulatory surgical centers. [ABA Journal]


Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

Labor Day weekend is here. So let’s talk about… labor! In the Biglaw salt mines.

In response to our earlier Flashback Friday posts about associate compensation in the 1990s, we received a few requests for information about billable hours back then. People wanted to know how hard associates had to work back in the day for that $83,000 starting salary.

It’s a good question. You hear anecdotal evidence going in both directions. Sometimes people who have been in the profession for a long time talk about how hard they had to work before technology made things so much easier, recalling the bad old days of never-ending, hard-copy due diligence or document review. On other occasions, though, old timers reminisce about the good old ways when law was more of a profession and less of a business; sure, lawyers earned less, but they had lives — or , at least, better work-life balance.

Which picture holds more truth? Here’s some data….

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Deepak Gupta

It’s an intimidation model. It’s a way for corporations to go after their critics and those who fund them.

Deepak Gupta of Gupta Beck PLLC, lead appellate lawyer for Steven Donziger in Donziger’s never-ending litigation with Chevron, commenting on the oil giant’s hardball tactics and aggressive litigation style (for a lengthy Rolling Stone article about the case).

Let’s give a round of applause to these great firms.

Earlier this week, the American Lawyer released the results of its annual survey of Biglaw midlevel associates (third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates at large law firms). We’ll start with the good news: midlevels seem to be quite happy. The average composite score for satisfaction hit 4.08 — the highest in a decade, and higher even than last year’s healthy figure.

But just like last year, which revealed a significant gender gap in terms of job satisfaction, this year’s rosy news comes with caveats. The latest survey shows, for example, that women, African-American, and LGBT lawyers are less satisfied than their non-minority counterparts in terms of measures like training, fairness of evaluations, and partnership prospects.

Now let’s move on to the juicy stuff: the firms with the happiest — and unhappiest — associates. Plus a new ranking from Am Law, focusing on which law schools best prepared their students for Biglaw life….

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It’s always sunny – or raining money? – in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia: it’s all about the Benjamin. The city abounds in tributes to its famous founding father, Benjamin Franklin. It even boasts a museum devoted to his life and times.

And maybe Philly will be all about the benjamins, plural — as in hundred-dollar bills. There’s speculation afoot that the new going rate for first-year associates in this city could rise to $160,000.

What’s the basis of the speculation? And could a Philadelphia pay raise have implications for other markets?

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Judge Richard Posner isn’t amused.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket and on Twitter, yesterday’s Seventh Circuit arguments weren’t fun for the defenders of Wisconsin and Indiana’s same-sex marriage bans. The three judges, especially Judge Richard Posner, were tough — very tough.

Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed, a leading chronicler of marriage-equality litigation, described the proceedings as “the most lopsided arguments over marriage bans at a federal appeals court this year.” Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress called it “a bloodbath.”

That’s no exaggeration. Let’s check out the specifics….

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Burger King bounty for Biglaw.

* Judge Posner dished out a whole lot of benchslaps at yesterday’s Seventh Circuit arguments over Indiana and Wisconsin’s bans on same-sex marriage. [BuzzFeed]

* Major U.S. and Canadian law firms chow down on Burger King’s whopper of a deal with Tim Hortons. [Am Law Daily]

* A recent Delaware court ruling on attorney-client privilege might allow in-house lawyers to speak more freely about wrongdoing at their companies, according to Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon. [DealBook / New York Times]

* The corruption trial of former Virginia governor continues; yesterday Bob McDonnell’s sister took the stand. [Washington Post]

* A favorable evidentiary ruling for Aaron Hernandez. [Fox Sports]

* And good news for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, the two law professors running for governor and lieutenant governor of New York: the Times dissed their opponent, Andrew Cuomo, with a non-endorsement. [New York Times]

* I recently spoke with one of my cousins Joao Atienza of the Cebu Sun Star, about Above the Law and the world of legal blogging. [Cebu Sun Star]

When it comes to the debate over the wisdom of going to law school, I fall somewhere in between. I’m not as optimistic as Jordan Weissmann of Slate, but I’m not as pessimistic as Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, two of my colleagues here at Above the Law.

Back in June, when I reviewed employment data for the law school class of 2013, I sounded some cautiously optimistic notes. I wondered whether a stable job market and shrinking law school classes could produce better employment outcomes for many law grads.

Could the jobs picture be even brighter than “stable”? Check out what looks like a big expansion of the U.S. Department of Justice’s prestigious Attorney General’s Honors Program, along with other opportunities to work as a lawyer for the federal government….

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