Above the Law

Recent Headlines from Above the Law

 

Now we’ll unmask this superhero.

Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall the tale of Aquagirl. She’s the former Cleary Gottlieb summer associate who, while in a state of inebriation, stripped down to her underwear at a Chelsea Piers charity benefit and jumped into the Hudson River. This might have been an effort to demonstrate her swimming prowess (she was on the swim team in college), but ultimately she had to be rescued in a boat by either the Coast Guard or the NYPD. Her exploits are now the stuff of legend, the bar by which summer associate misadventures are measured.

In these pages, we’ve referred to Aquagirl simply by her nickname, in keeping with our general policy of anonymizing summer associate stories. But that policy admits of exceptions. We will now unmask Aquagirl because she’s back in the headlines for newsworthy conduct — this time heroic rather than scandalous….

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As we noted in today’s Morning Docket, the American Lawyer just published an interesting article with a provocative title: Cleary’s Litigation Slump. In the piece, Michael Goldhaber notes some high-profile defeats recently suffered by Cleary Gottlieb, which he cites in wondering whether the super-elite law firm might be losing its courtroom mojo.

The article struck me as a bit unfair to Cleary. Here’s why….

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Say farewell to Cooley Law — j/k, it’ll always be Cooley.

* Cleary Gottlieb lost some historic cases during the first half of 2014, including one for $50 billion, but not to worry, “the firm is proud of the work Cleary lawyers do every day.” [Am Law Daily]

* The Fourth Circuit is refusing to issue a stay in Virginia’s gay marriage case, so the state will be for all lovers starting next week unless SCOTUS decides to step in. [National Law Journal]

* Thomas M. Cooley Law School has now officially become the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. If only a new name could clear its reputation. [MLive.com]

* It’s not every day that a law student with a criminal history is arrested on murder charges, but Tuesday was that day for one student. We’ll have more on this later. [San Antonio Express-News]

* “Glass is built to connect you more with the world around you, not distract you from it.” Google sure is optimistic about Glass, but several states aren’t, and have already proposed driving bans. [WSJ Law Blog]

Earlier this month, we launched the ATL Law Firm Reputation Survey, asking those of you working in Biglaw to rate your peers and competitors. (Take five minutes and take our survey here.)

For our purposes, we split “reputation” into two distinct aspects: 1) the reputed strength and quality of a firm’s practice, and 2) the perceived desirability of the firm as a potential employer. For some, these factors will be functionally equivalent. For others, these are less overlapping considerations.

To date, we’ve received not quite a thousand survey responses and today we share some preliminary findings. What are you telling us thus far about which firms have the strongest practices? Which firms are some of the most coveted Biglaw employers in major markets?

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* You’d think a tax attorney would remember to file a tax return. You’d be wrong. [SF Gate]

* You think you have difficult clients? Try representing a sovereign hellbent on making political hay by contradicting every representation you make in court. [Reuters]

* Dov Charney out at American Apparel. And he seemed like such a nice guy… [Slate]

* The Central Park Five civil rights lawsuit has settled for $40 million — or roughly $1 million for each year the accused spent in prison. [New York Times]

* It’s a bad week for everyone affiliated with the Miami Heat. Now they’re losing to bloggers. [South Florida Lawyers]

* In an unfortunate follow-up, the effort to unionize some lawyers at Bloomberg has fizzled and the primary organizer has been fired with no severance and a baby on the way. Which is surely a complete coincidence and not related to his organizing activity at all. [Fortune]

* Former Delaware Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Berger has resigned and she is not bashful that it’s all to do with being passed over as chief justice in favor of Leo Strine. [Delaware Law Weekly]

* Save the date, D.C. The 2nd Annual Go Formal for Justice gala will be held October 18. [DC Bar Foundation’s Young Lawyers Network / Facebook]

* Yale Law grad and former Senior Counsel to the World Bank, Karen Hudes, wants you to understand that JFK was killed over the gold standard and that there’s a species of coneheads in control of the Vatican. We should do a Career Alternatives on her. Video after the jump… [Starship Earth: The Big Picture]

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Usually, the pursuit of “work/life balance” is just a fight between management and labor. Occasionally, it’s an internal conversation where an employee’s desire to succeed professionally is pitted against his or her desire to succeed domestically. Of course, there are always the people who believe they can “have it all,” as if work/life balance can be reduced to checking a number of accomplishment boxes in the most brutally efficient way possible.

But occasionally, work/life balance becomes a battle ground for people to justify a number of “life” choices that have nothing to do with work.

That’s what we have here today. A memo went around one of the top firms in Manhattan from a woman claiming she needed an “I’m having a baby day” so she could go to a Katy Perry concert. Before I post it and open up the comments, I’m going to make some popcorn — that’ll give everybody some time to ramp up their outrage meters to 11…

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When it comes to Biglaw word-processing jobs, Williams Lea is the grim reaper. As we’ve chronicled in these pages, numerous leading law firms have outsourced their word processing and proofreading functions to this prominent provider.

This has led to layoffs — lots and lots of layoffs. Some affected employees have been sad, and some have been angry. One complained of the “callous disregard for the welfare of long-time Foley [& Lardner] employees” that a Williams Lea takeover displayed.

But could these changes be beneficial — not just for law firm bottom lines, but for the affected individuals? The latest law firm to outsource its WP and proofreading functions, one of the most prestigious and profitable firms in all the land, makes the case….

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Partnership: Biglaw’s ultimate brass ring.

Becoming a Biglaw partner does not necessarily mean you’ll live happily ever after. It doesn’t even guarantee financial security. Indeed, some partners end up filing for personal bankruptcy.

But that’s an anomalous case. Partnership at a major law firm might not guarantee you happiness — sometimes you have to leave the partnership to follow your bliss — but it generally brings with it tremendous pay and prestige.

That’s especially true of partnership at the nation’s 10 most prestigious large law firms. Most of them have only a single partnership tier — equity or bust, baby — and sky-high profits.

Who are the new partners at these 10 firms, and what do their selections reveal about Biglaw today?

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This is the latest in a new series of ATL infographics — visual representations of our own proprietary data, relevant third-party data, “anecdata,” or just plain jokes. This infographic is brought to you by our friends at Prestige Legal Search. Earn another $5,000 to $50,000 with their Rewards Program.

For the most part, Biglaw associate bonuses remain stuck at last year’s levels, reflecting expectations that firm profits will be flat at best. This might seem fair, with everyone feeling the pinch of the “New Normal” and so on. But when we take a small step back and see how these bonus numbers compare as a percentage of partner profits to the bonuses of just a few years ago, these bonuses are arguably pretty measly.

The current $10,000 “market” (i.e., Cravath-following) rate for first-years is just 0.29% of Cravath’s profits per partner (according to the American Lawyer). Back in 2007, first-year bonuses equaled 1.36% of PPP. In other words, the Cravath partnership was nearly five times more generous to its associates back then.

Obviously, Cravath is among the most profitable firms in the world. What are the implications of matching Cravath’s bonus scale for those firms with much lower profit margins? Today’s infographic takes a look at how big a hit to PPP partners willingly take in order to Keep Up With The Cravathians….

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If you still need to do holiday shopping for a lawyer or law student in your life, we’ve got you covered. Just check out our ATL Holiday Gift Guide (sponsored).

What about holiday gifts for secretaries or administrative assistants? In the past week or so, our lawyer readers have been writing to us seeking guidance.

With all due respect to Marin’s hilarious list, secretaries do not want “scented candles, Josh Groban CDs, or Cirque du Soleil tickets.” They want straight cash, homey.

But how much cash should you give? And what, if anything, should you give to paralegals and other support staff you work with? Let’s discuss, then take a few polls at the end….

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