Bad Ideas

Good morning. David Lat is in Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand for the weekend for what has been euphemistically called “elective surgery.” Rest assured, D-Lat will return Monday, safe, sound, and happy to blog, if having to sit on a comfy pillow to do so, and we should all be supportive of the very difficult decisions involved.
In the interim, Lat has asked me to fill in a few posts this Friday, and I’ll start by introducing myself. My name is Ted Frank. Some fifteen years ago, I correctly identified the sequence at which Victoria, William, Xavier, Yolanda, and Zachary were seated at a circular table, filled in all corresponding ovals correctly, and was rewarded with a wheelbarrow of money to attend law school in a variety of bad neighborhoods in Connecticut and Massachusetts and Illinois. Because law interested me as a public-policy mechanism, I picked up a copy of The Economics of Justice while I was in a Chicago bookstore visiting that school, and smitten enough to decide to go there on what they called a “Public Service Scholarship.” A year of clerking and a dozen years of BigLaw taught me that litigation incentives actually create miserable public-policy results, and I’ve been writing about this problem on Walter Olson’s Overlawyered blog since 2003 and the Point of Law blog since 2004. In 2005, the American Enterprise Institute invited me to run their Liability Project directing research on the tort system and its effects; it’s a pay-cut, but the issue is important to me, and then there’s the whole Jewish guilt thing over not yet having done the public service I had hypothetically been awarded a scholarship for. And all of this has culminated in today’s guest-blogging opportunity on Above the Law, surely the highlight of my career, and worth a tenth of a point if Lat ever scores my wedding. More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Guest-blogger checking in”

hp logo revised.gifWe are guilty of dereliction of duty. We’ve neglected to write about the Hewlett-Packard leak investigation scandal, now unfolding in all of its glory before Congress. (Yes, that Congress: a body that knows all about unethical behavior, illegal conduct, and mind-blowing stupidity.)
We’ve been avoiding this scandal for two main reasons. First, it’s a story that Peter Lattman and the WSJ Law Blog have really owned from the get-go. In fact, today Lattman is hanging out in Washington — our usual base of operations — to cover the House committee hearings on Capitol Hill. (Guess we’ve traded places; we’re up here in New York, a few blocks away from Lattman’s office.)
Second, L’Affaire HP has been such a total s**t show — from the very start, but somehow managing to get worse each day — that blogging about it presents no challenge. There’s very little opportunity for us to add value. Reading wire reports about the scandal is already pretty mortifying (and entertaining). Do you really need a side order of obnoxious commentary when the entree itself is so rich?
But HP is the big news story of the day. It’s one that our big brother is covering extensively. And we’ve received a bunch of emails asking for our thoughts on it. So fine, we will write about the HP spying scandal.
Actually, guess what? We just did. Fancy that!
DealBreaker’s HP coverage
WSJ Law Blog’s HP coverage
House Pursues Inquiry as H.P. Counsel Quits [New York Times]

porno judge.JPGOkay, maybe he should be “Judge of Yesterday,” since this was in yesterday’s paper (and was picked up by How Appealing yesterday too). But it’s Saturday, and we’re still working hard to entertain you, so stop your quibbling.

A judge who repeatedly viewed pornography on the computer in his chambers apologized Friday after receiving a public reprimand from the Florida Supreme Court for violating judicial ethics.

Circuit Judge Brandt C. Downey III of Clearwater told the high court he was “sorry” after Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis called his conduct “truly shocking” and an embarrassment to his friends, his family, the judiciary and the citizens of Florida.

It may have been, er, somewhat imprudent for Judge Downey to check out porn in chambers. But at the risk of sounding like libertines, we have to ask: What’s the big deal? Millions of Americans enjoy pornography.
As for the workplace aspect, we say: If he’s keeping up with his judicial workload, who cares about de minimis use of his computer for, um, other activities? Is it that different from, say, making flight arrangements online for your Hawaiian vacation, while on your lunch break?
To put it another way: What’s wrong with a judge admitting he shares something in common with at least 14 percent of American men? (A figure that’s surely on the low side, due to the study’s reliance upon self-reporting.)
What’s next? Judges getting censured for banging their own gavels? What century are we living in? Or, for that matter, what country — a theocracy?

[At the hearing, Judge Downey] added that he believes God has forgiven him. He said his family and friends also have forgiven him and urged him to seek re-election, but he declined to avoid further embarrassment and publicity, Downey said.

So we don’t think judicial porn viewing is such a big deal. These allegations are far more problematic:

Downey allegedly showed inordinate interest in a young state attorney, asking her to approach the bench to tell her that she “looked nice today.”

He also was accused of asking another female lawyer to approach the bench for personal conversation and sending her an e-mail saying “it was nice seeing u in court looking so pretty.”

“What were you thinking?” Lewis asked.

Using “u” instead of “you” in an email? Now THAT warrants censure.
(Final observation: What is up with these Florida state court judges? See Wednesday’s Judge of the Day.)
Judge Apologizes, Gets Reprimand for Viewing Porn in Chambers [Associated Press via How Appealing]
Earlier: Judge of the Day: Richard Albritton Jr.

sports night.jpgOur series of interview anecdotes, which we kicked off yesterday, continues. And today’s tale illustrates that sometimes the rudeness comes not from the interview candidate, but from her hosts:

As a law student applying for summer associate jobs, I had a post-interview lunch at [a large New York law firm] with a young male associate. As is traditional, he brought along a fellow associate as his wingman. (Why is that the protocol, anyway? Is it so it doesn’t feel like some weird date? Are firms afraid the associate will tell the truth if alone with a candidate over lunch?)

Anyway, the associate and his wingman proceeded to IGNORE me the whole time, catch up on their respective lives, and talk to each other about the NFL and the various prospects for the season, like it was going out of style. I thought I was at lunch with Bob Costas and John Madden.

I made some pointed comment about how these interviews must be great for associates to catch up with each other, but it went right over their heads. Not only that, but they walked AHEAD of me through Times Square, both going and coming, yammering about the Jets — as I struggled after them in my suit and high heels. When we returned to the lobby, they just stared at me awkwardly, until I offered a “Well, unless someone upstairs needs me, I’ll be going.”

I declined an offer from that firm.

Earlier: Interview Horror Stories: The Roll Recycler

mountain of bread rolls.JPGThe evening air is turning crisp. The kids are back in school. You’re starting to think about where to spend Thanksgiving. That’s right, everyone: Autumn is here. (Official start of fall this year: Saturday, September 23.)
In the legal world, everyone knows what fall means: job interviews. Second- and third-year law students are interviewing for summer associate positions at law firms. Third-year law students, as well as recent law school graduates, are interviewing for prestigious judicial clerkships. (You can find out the latest clerk hiring info here.)
To celebrate the season, we’re going to share with you some of the more interesting or amusing interview stories we’ve heard. To make a contribution, please email us (subject line: “Interview Story”).
Please note that your story doesn’t have to be a tale of disaster. Stories about interviews that are weird, cute, or heartwarming are also welcome.
We’ll kick things off with this little anecdote:

I don’t mean to be the etiquette police; I’ve committed many a faux pas over the years. And I understand that not everyone grows up in privileged surroundings where they learn, from an early age, which fork is which.

But I found this lunch behavior rather odd, coming from an interview candidate who went to a top college and is now at a top law school. Presumably she has attended some formal events, semi-formal events, or business meals, where she has had the chance to observe others.

So here’s the story. We’re at an interview lunch. The candidate takes a roll from the bread basket. She butters it. She takes a bite out of it. And then she PUTS IT BACK IN THE BREAD BASKET.

None of us said anything; but everyone noticed. I could not believe my eyes.

One of the other associates at the table takes out her Blackberry — perhaps also a breach of etiquette, but quite common in this town — and taps out a message. A few seconds later, my Blackberry vibrates. I apologize for the interruption — “I’m waiting for an urgent message from a client” — and check my email.

It’s a message from my colleague across the table. Subject line: “Bread.” Message text: “Did she just do that?”

It’s time for Above the Law to perform our mitzvah for the day — what’s known in the publishing trade as “service journalism,” or “news you can use.”
Today we offer job applicants this friendly advice: After you remove a piece of bread from the communal bread basket, it is considered yours. Never return it to the basket. As John Locke might have said, by “mixing it with your labor” — by lifting the roll out of the basket, and placing it on your bread plate — you have converted that communal property into your own.
So please, when it comes to rolls in the bread basket, “no backsies.” We know that people are starving in sub-Saharan Africa. But your buttered, half-eaten roll of sourdough will never make it to them. Thank you.
Cf. Seinfeld, The Muffin Tops. For those of you not familiar with that classic episode, excerpts from the script appear after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Interview Horror Stories: The Roll Recycler”

crooked teeth.jpgThe anecdote we’re about to share with you is on the vulgar side. So if you’d rather not be exposed to such crudeness, just skip this post. (Mom and Dad, this means you.)
We heard this story recently over drinks — but we have the permission of the storyteller to publish it. So if you ever hang out with us, you need not fear that what you tell us will appear in these pages. Our default rule is that social conversations are “off the record.” If we’re in a social setting and hear something juicy we want to publish, we always ask our source for permission first.
In contrast, as we’ve previously stated, emails you send us are presumptively usable for blogging purposes. We’ll just keep you anonymous as our source (unless you ask to be identified).
Although this story may seem outrageous to you, it is NOT an urban legend. We actually did some fact-checking — just like real journalists — and verified the accuracy of this account with one of the participants.
If you have tender sensibilities, stop reading here. But if you’re willing to read a rather rude but entertaining story, then click ahead to the jump page.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How Not To Come Out to the Partners At Your Firm”

robert johnston robert gilbert johnston.jpgAbove the Law bills itself as “a legal tabloid.” And no tabloid would be complete without a sex scandal. Our scandale du jour emanates from the Windy City, home of John Marshall Law School. The Chicago Sun-Times reports:

When students returned to John Marshall Law School this month, everyone was talking about the lawsuit against “The Colonel.”

Robert “Gil” Johnston, the venerable former dean of the university, was sued by his ex-mistress, Virginia Smith, whom he started dating while she was a law student in 1983. Among other claims, she said Johnston beat her, promised to marry her, then, after his wife died, married someone else.

Generations of students have noted a resemblance between Johnston, with his cotton candy white hair and goatee, and Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Col. Sanders.

Johnston’s attorney said the former dean admits the affair, but denies any abuse on his part.

Of course, Robert Johnston isn’t the only university dean to get with a student. Affairs between law school students and faculty or administration members are, shall we say, not uncommon.
But this isn’t the end of the story. More salacious details appear after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Sex Scandal Is Finger-Lickin’ Good”

lingerie.jpgBut it might as well be one. A tipster sent us this anecdote, following up on our Cristina Schultz coverage:

Towards the end of my first year at the University of Texas School of Law, one of the first-years stopped showing up to class. But then she showed up at an end-of-year party for her section, and folks asked what she was doing.

“Modeling,” she says.

“Oh, really? Are you modeling for department stores or something?” respond her former classmates.

“Nope, lingerie.”

“Huh, that’s interesting. Like for a catalog or something?”

“Nope,” she responds calmly. “I go to hotel rooms and men masturbate while I strip down to lingerie.”

That conversation ended pretty quickly.

Lest you find this discussion crass, please bear in mind: An ambitious young woman making her way in the world, with little to trade on but her beauty and sensuality, is one of the great themes of literature. It’s in everything from Daniel Defoe’s Roxana (1724), to Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (1900), to Jessica Cutler’s Washingtonienne (2005)…
(Feel free to add other examples in the comments. We will add them to our reading list, since we are strangely obsessed with these narratives. Maybe we’ve been reading too much Camille Paglia.)
Earlier: The Stanford Law Escort: And She Lived Happily Ever After

don't feed the animals.jpegSadly, today’s summer associate story isn’t as exciting as the misadventures of the amateur stripper. Rather, it’s an all-too-familiar tale: summer associate goes to firm event; summer associate gets rip-roaringly drunk; summer associate acts crazy.
But hey, we’ve got to make do with what we’ve been given. And lately you guys have been somewhat delinquent as tipsters. Tut tut!
So here’s today’s tale of idiocy and woe:

I received this story thirdhand, so I can’t vouch for it that strongly. But I’ve heard it from multiple people, and I believe it to be true, at least in broad outline. (If I’ve gotten a few details wrong, maybe your readers can correct me.) [Ed. note: Please see the comments to this post.]

It involves a summer associate at a big firm in Los Angeles (maybe Latham or O’Melveny, but I can’t remember). This guy went to a firm event and got very, very drunk. In his inebriated state, he started to hit on the wife of one of the permanent associates — very aggressively.

This behavior was out-of-character for the SA, a milquetoast-ish kid of Indian ancestry. But he was drunk off his ass, and you know how people can get when they’re hammered.

The permanent associate, after enduring the summer associate’s rude treatment of his wife for quite a while, finally told the SA — politely but firmly — to back off. At this point, the summer completely lost it. He flipped out and started yelling at the associate, repeatedly and maniacally, “I have a knife!” and “I’m going to kill you!”

And hey, guess what — the summer DIDN’T get an offer. It’s nice to know that when it comes to summer associate misbehavior, firms draw the line somewhere (e.g., death threats).

Heh. Who knew South Asian guys could be so much fun? And you thought they were only good for winning spelling bees! (Oh, and getting Republican presidential aspirants into deep doo-doo…)
Earlier: Prior summer associate stories (scroll down).

paper moon.JPGRemember Cristina Leeann Schultz, a.k.a. the Stanford Law escort? The federal government alleged that she “paid off more than $300,000 in student loans, [working] under the stage name of Brazil, a call girl who roamed the country to turn ‘high-priced hottie’ tricks.”*
Perhaps Brazil — er, Ms. Schultz — is inspiring future generations of female law students to explore, um, other professional opportunities. Check out our latest summer associate story:

[A] summer associate at McGuireWoods in Richmond apparently was feeling unfulfilled by her list of assignments for the summer. So she headed down to the Paper Moon strip club for Amateur Night. For anyone who hasn’t sampled Richmond’s professional nudie scene, it’s pretty terrible. I can only imagine the horror of amateur night.

Anyway, said summer associate — I believe she goes to school at [redacted] — got onstage, did her thing… and WON. Sadly, her secret remained safe through the end of the summer, and no one ever really found out.

Until now.

We congratulate this multi-talented law student. Any summer associate can throw on a pantsuit. But how many can throw one off?
So can you top that? We’re still on the prowl for more silly summer associate stories. You know where to reach us.
* What, pray tell, is a “high-priced hottie” trick? Is this a term of art within the world’s oldest profession?
Stanford Law Grad, U.S. Clash Over Cache of Cash [The Legal Reader]
Stanford Peers Empathize with Alleged Prostitute [The Stanford Daily Review]
Earlier: Low-Hanging Fruit: Summer Associate Stories, Please

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