And be careful about what you place in the trash. Law firms have paper shredders for a reason; use them. Consider this your practice pointer for the day.
Earlier this month, an ATL reader sent us a collection of documents relating to Sullivan & Cromwell’s on-campus interviewing program at the University of Michigan Law School. For the record, our tipster didn’t have to go dumpster diving for this find. The documents were contained in a black binder that was conveniently placed on top of an outdoor recycling bin, where it caught our reader’s eye. (As we all know from California v. Greenwood, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in stuff you leave in the trash.)
So, what was in these documents? The contents will be of interest to partners and associates at other firms, as well as law students going through the OCI process right now….
The big decisional news out of New York today is the guilty verdict in the Brooke Astor trial. Anthony Marshall, the son of the late socialite and philanthropist, was convicted in a scheme to defraud Mrs. Astor.
But we also have news of another notable ruling. Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall the case of Jeremy Pitcock, the successful intellectual-property litigator who was fired from Kasowitz Benson in December 2007. The firm issued an unusual statement saying that Pitcock had engaged in “extremely inappropriate personal conduct.”
Pitcock sued Kasowitz for defamation. Kasowitz turned around and sued Pitcock, alleging in its complaint that he “subject[e]d at least twelve of the firm’s female employees…. to a pattern of unwelcome sexual advances.”
Now a judge has ruled in both of the cases. From Nate Raymond of the New York Law Journal:
A nearly two year-long public brawl between Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman and a former partner it fired for sexual harassment could be quieting down now that a Manhattan Supreme Court judge has dismissed both parties’ lawsuits.
Justice Martin Shulman (See Profile) last week found “unavailing” and “unpersuasive” the arguments made against the firm by intellectual property lawyer Jeremy Pitcock, who sued for defamation, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
The judge also found Kasowitz Benson failed to show how Mr. Pitcock had damaged the firm.
Executive summary (or West headnote): “A pox on both your houses.”
Yesterday Aaron Charney, the former Sullivan & Cromwell associate now suing his former employer for sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation, filed an amended complaint against the firm. To download copies of Charney’s latest filings, follow these handy instructions.
Some background about the new complaint, from an article by Anthony Lin in this morning’s New York Law Journal:
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Bernard Fried dismissed Charney’s original pro se complaint without prejudice earlier this month, ruling that some of the ex-associate’s allegations and attachments were irrelevant and potentially violative of disciplinary rules. The judge gave Charney leave to replead his case.
Though Charney, now represented by four lawyers, excised the material cited by the judge, he added new allegations concerning events that took place after his initial complaint was filed, in particular a Jan. 31, 2007, settlement meeting.
Remember our post from last week, hinting at the possibility that false affidavits were created in the Aaron Charney / Sullivan & Cromwell litigation? Well, a few more details — or allegations, at least — are drifting in.
Check out this order by Justice Bernard Fried:
In 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.”…
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…..???
One of you posted this in the comments, and we subsequently verified it with sources at the firm. Late last week, this announcement was made internally at Sullivan & Cromwell:
I am pleased to announce that Vince DiBlasi, Andrew Gerlach, Tracy Richelle High, Jessica Klein, Keith Pagnani, Melissa Sawyer, Karen Seymour, and Fred Rich, as Chair, have agreed to serve on a new working group focusing on the recruiting process and the associate experience. The group has been charged with looking at all aspects of our recruiting strategy and process, and, in conjunction with the Associate Development Committee, our approach to associate career development and every aspect of the associate experience at the firm.
We have no higher priority than continuing to attract the most promising law students, and then to provide them, and all our current lawyers, with training, professional opportunities and an overall experience that is second to none. I would be grateful if each of you would share your own ideas and suggestions with any member of this group.
Some of you will accuse us of seeing everything through an Aaron Charney lens, but we’ll pose the question anyway: Could this be a response to the public relations fallout from Charney v. S&C?
As for the composition of the working group, we have to ask: What’s up with the half measures, Rodge? If you want to put S&C’s best, jack-booted foot forward, why not throw Krautheimer and Korry on it too?
If you have any suggestions for the S&C committee, please offer them in the comments. We recommend weekly Leni Riefenstahl screenings to improve associate morale.
(The timing couldn’t be better — there’s a Riefenstahl renaissance afoot.)
We’ve reviewed the excerpts from the Aaron Charney deposition that were attached to Charney’s court filings from yesterday. We’ve culled out some highlights, so you can review them for yourself and reach your own conclusions.
(We realize, of course, that this is just Aaron Charney’s side of the story. But at this point, in the absence of deposition testimony from Gera Grinberg or any S&C lawyers, it’s all we’ve got. Obviously you should read it with the caveat that Charney isn’t exactly a disinterested witness.)
For starters, here’s Charney’s testimony about the alleged “we’ve represented the Nazis” comment by Sullivan & Cromwell partner Gandolfo “Vince” DiBlasi:
We’re glad to see that our last post on Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell — concerning Gandolfo “Vince” DiBlasi’s alleged boast that S&C “defended the Nazis,” and would “crush [Charney] like a bug” — gave rise to such a comment clusterf**k lively reader discussion.
This raises the question (which has already surfaced in the comments):
Is there any truth to this allegation?
We have emailed Vince DiBlasi (near right, glasses) with a request for comment. But we doubt he’ll get back to us.
So to figure out whether he actually said these things, we hereby request some character evidence — from you, our readers. If you have any firsthand information about DiBlasi — what he’s like as a person, as a boss, as an adversary — please email us (subject line: “Vince DiBlasi”).
Now, we’ve written a fair amount about alleged “villains” at S&C — in addition to DiBlasi, M&A partners Alexandra Korry and Eric Krautheimer. But now we’d like to hear about a “good guy.” A tipster wrote to us:
The S&C partner you should be soliciting info on is not Krautheimer or Korry but STEVE KOTRAN. Stephen Kotran [far right, no glasses] is by far the most fascinating character in this story. After all, Charney’s initial complaint makes clear that at every phase Kotran bucked the system (refused to do what his partners wanted him to do) in order to do what he felt was right.
This is storybook shit! How many partners at top-tier law firms are made of such stuff? I, for one, would love to know more about the man who appears to be the lone hero of this story.
And so would we. If you have inside info about Mr. Kotran, please email us (subject line: Stephen Kotran).
We thank you in advance for your thoughts on Messrs. DiBlasi and Kotran — and we look forward to reading them. Stephen M. Kotran bio [Sullivan & Cromwell] Gandolfo V. DiBlasi bio [Sullivan & Cromwell]
Perhaps you’re sick of reading about the aborted settlement talks between Aaron Charney and Sullivan & Cromwell. Presumably you’ve already read ourextensivecoverage of the March 15 court hearing, at which the settlement talks took center stage, as well as the reports of Lavi Soloway (who effectively functioned as ATL’s New York correspondent for the hearing).
But if your appetite for all things Charney-licious continues unabated, then be sure to read this excellent article, by Anna Schneider-Mayerson of the New York Observer. It doesn’t contain much new material, but Schneider-Mayerson does a superb job of explaining a rather confusing series of events at the hearing, in clear yet engaging prose. Enjoy! Update: We agree with the various commenters about the juiciness of this tidbit (and apologize for apparently missing it until now):
Michael Kennedy, an attorney for Mr. Charney, described an alleged “rant” by [S&C partner Gandolfo "Vince"] DiBlasi.
“That rant said, ‘Sullivan & Cromwell is invincible.’ That rant says, ‘We defended the Nazis, and nobody can do anything or cared. We’ll crush you like a bug,’” Mr. Kennedy said, quoting his client’s recollections at a Feb. 22 hearing in the New York State Supreme Court. “Those aren’t settlement negotiations; those are threats.”
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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