Ed. note: This is the latest installment of the ATL Interrogatories. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.
Paul Steven Singerman is Co-Chair of Berger Singerman and concentrates his practice in troubled loan workouts, insolvency matters, and commercial transactions. Paul is active throughout the United States in large and complex restructuring, insolvency, and bankruptcy cases. Although Paul is best known for his representation of debtors in complex restructuring cases, he is also experienced in representing creditors’ committees, lenders, large unsecured creditors, asset purchasers in § 363 sales and trustees. Much of his work has involved companies with international operations or European or Asian parties-in-interest.
1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?
If you’re a legal geek who loves theater (I know I am), these are exciting times. Here in New York, you can check out a play in which a legal luminary’s daughter appears naked. Down in D.C. in a few weeks, you can attend Arguendo, the SCOTUS-themed play by Elevator Repair Service that’s being staged by the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. (I saw the play last year and enjoyed it.)
That’s not all. Also coming to Washington: a new play featuring a Supreme Court justice as its star….
Give this man a federal judgeship.’ That sounded as if I were desperate, which I was . . . .
– Judge Leslie Southwick, in response to a Washington Post headline during his confirmation struggle.
In The Nominee: A Political and Spiritual Journey, Judge Leslie H. Southwick chronicles the long path to his current seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Southwick is a former Mississippi Court of Appeals judge, former deputy assistant attorney general in the first Bush Administration, and Iraq war veteran. He was recommended by Mississippi senators for a Fifth Circuit vacancy in 1991 and 2004, for a district judgeship in 2004 and 2006, before his final nomination in 2007. He initially appeared to be an uncontroversial nominee. However, a fierce partisan battle in the Senate threatened his eventual success. The Nominee follows Southwick’s tortuous path, relying on the judge’s day-by-day personal notes.
Southwick’s account is fascinating on its face. He drops names on every page, and it’s exciting to trace the earlier steps of those who would become legal luminaries in later years. For those only generally familiar with the way that federal judges get made — a process resembling in unsettling ways how sausage gets made, Southwick notes — the book provides an education in both the official and the unofficial processes. The book will certainly satisfy in excruciating detail the curiosity of anyone who wonders exactly how stubbornly political the judicial confirmation process has become.
Notably, the book shows just how long the process can be. Before he clears the Senate Judiciary Committee vote, before his nomination even reaches the Senate floor, Southwick writes that the day “was a double anniversary of my seeking a position on the Fifth Circuit. In my diary, I wrote, ‘Tuesday, 10 July. Sixteen years today since this started,’ meaning that I learned on July 10, 1991, that Judge Charles Clark was retiring. In addition, the 1991 date was exactly sixteen years after I wrote my July 10, 1975, letter applying to clerk for Judge Clark.” Judges, whether made the right way or not, are not made overnight.
None of this is what makes the book most worth reading, though — and it certainly is worth reading . . . .
* Per Am Law, Mayer Brown just posted its highest profits ever. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the NSA’s thunder from down under, the Australian Signals Directorate, was spying on it. [New York Times]
* For Asian American women, Biglaw’s “bamboo ceiling” may be just as tough to crack as its glass ceiling. What’s that? Find out by reading Helen Wan’s book, The Partner Track (affiliate link). [Washington Post]
* Controversy alert: Michael Dunn was convicted of four out of five charges, including three counts of attempted murder, in Florida’s “loud music” trial, but the jury was hung on the murder charge. Lame. [CNN]
* Virginia is for lovers — gay and straight alike. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen (E.D. Va.) just struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage (but stayed her ruling pending appeal). Happy Valentine’s Day! [Washington Post]
* Did a Biglaw firm make a big-time mistake by blowing a deadline to appeal a $40 million verdict? [Law360 (sub. req.)]
* Speaking of screw-ups, making them in the e-discovery realm can be costly — a lesson that California is learning the hard way, to the tune of $32 million. [ACEDS]
* Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin thought he’d be acquitted; he thought wrong. [ABA Journal]
* George Washington wasn’t a member of the one of the 8 magic groups — but his story still illustrates the truth of The Triple Package (affiliate link), according to Washington biographer Logan Beirne. [Fox News]
* Authorities have made an arrest for the package bombing that killed a retired Tennessee lawyer and his wife. [CNN]
* In continuing Seventh Circuit benchslappiness, Judge Richard Posner got feisty with an attorney for Notre Dame who kept interrupting him. If this lawyer keeps it up, Posner’s going to treat his client like Alabama did a year ago. [Chicago Tribune]
* Comcast wants to buy Time Warner, pending DOJ approval. The DOJ wants to talk to Comcast, but they’re only available to talk between 10 and 10:15 on alternating Wednesdays. [ATL Redline]
* California and New Jersey have banned gay conversion therapy programs. Is that the best way to combat these schemes? [New York Times]
* A look at getting started as an entrepreneur. See, there’s hope after bailing on practicing law. [Big Law Rebel]
* Daria Roithmayr of USC Law thinks The Triple Package (affiliate link), the new book by Yale’s Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, doesn’t hold water. I mean, since when are we holding academics to writing “scholarship” as opposed to “controversy bait”? Professors need to eat, after all. [Slate]
* A cop who got in trouble for bashing Obama online thought he was protected by the First Amendment. The court disagreed. [IT-Lex]
I observed that while this photo wasn’t as funny as the one from our last caption contest, sometimes subtler photos inspire better captions. Check out the finalists for this caption contest and see if you agree….
You can tell a lot about a person from his or her bookshelf. Their intellect, their interests, their seriousness, their sense of humor — all can be revealed by bookcase contents. Who among us has not, while visiting the home of a potential love interest, surreptitiously (or openly) ogled the bookshelves?
This brings us to the photo for our latest caption contest:
I am. (Hey, no one forces you to read this stuff.)
But to what end do I mix apples and wheelbarrows?
I live on the Elysian plain of in-house life: Freed of the demands of generating business; able to foist tedium off on the sad sacks who work at law firms; thinking strategically about the most significant issues facing the company; permitted (indeed, required) to work closely with a business. “‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.”
But there are occasional drawbacks to working in-house, and I try to share those with the world when I notice them. Three recently came to my attention. . . .