Above the Law

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Holy crap, it worked. Not the ads or the begging or a pointless debate with an implacable owner, but simply going through the legal system actually worked. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled six federal trademark registrations for the Washington Redskins. The office held that the marks could not be protected because they are “disparaging to Native Americans.”

You see, not everything in this world is subject to the whim of a rich white man who doesn’t care about the people he’s offending. We are a nation of laws, and sometimes those laws even win!

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A famous criminal defense lawyer was asked about how to hire a lawyer for a criminal defense case. Imagine, he was asked, that a relative was charged with a serious crime in a place where he didn’t know anyone. How would he go about finding a lawyer for his friend?

The answer — hire the best lawyer in the next town over.

A good criminal defense attorney will have relationships with the local prosecutors. She’ll know the local judges. And when you hire a criminal defense attorney, you assume that one thing you’re getting is a favorable presentation to those prosecutors and judges. The trouble is, that lawyer may have more of an interest in her professional standing in the community than in your case.

If you’re really in trouble — life is on the line kind of trouble — that criminal defense lawyer’s advice was to hire someone who knows what they’re doing and is willing to ruffle feathers on your behalf. Everyone is a little beholden to their own community. Find someone from another community.

There’s a nice example of that principle in action in a complex white-collar case in the Wall Street Journal this week.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “If You Have a FERC Problem, Maybe Don’t Hire a FERC Lawyer”

In an era when “disruption” is celebrated, the world of large law firms is one of the last redoubts of conventional wisdom. For a uniquely rule- and precedent-bound profession, this makes sense. Biglaw’s conventional wisdom has the added virtue of being reliable. For example, we can count on Cravath taking the lead — at least chronologically — on bonuses, and for DLA Piper to have the most random Third developing-world offices.

Another reflection of conventional wisdom is the way in which Biglaw lends itself to — and revels in — superlatives and rankings. There tends to be a generally acknowledged and perennially dominant player (or a few) in most practice areas: Wachtell Lipton for M&A, Weil Gotshal for Chapter 11 work, Patton Boggs for lobbying, and so forth. There’s no doubt that many worthy firms get overlooked.

Last year we took a look at which firms’ practice groups were considered “underrated” by peers in the field. Among the notable 2012 nominees: Cahill for corporate law, Arnold & Porter in litigation, and Proskauer for its bankruptcy and tax practices.

We wondered whether the same practice groups were still considered by practitioners to be unfairly underrated. Or are there other firms deserving more recognition?

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Paul Cravath does not approve of this post.

Light years away and in the distant future, perhaps some alien grad student in Defunct Planet Studies will stumble onto the ATL archives. He’ll conclude, not unreasonably, that the legal industry was a sort of oligopoly. That there were only a handful of firms: Skadden, Cravath, Latham, Quinn Emanuel, Tannebaum Weiss, and those few others that get such a disproportionate amount of our attention. And of course, there were only 14 real law schools.

This singular obsession with “prestige,” this mindset that the most elite firms and schools are the only worthy ones, is detached from the experiences of the vast majority of lawyers practicing at the 50,000 other firms and the students at the 180+ other law schools. Back in December, we had a little debate about the effect of prestige in the legal industry. In the spirit of the “prestige obsession is bad” side of that argument, we thought it would be worthwhile to see which firms and schools outside of the very top tiers are, according to insiders, great places to work or learn.

Over the course of 2012, we received close to 10,000 responses to our ATL Insider Survey, where lawyers rate their firms based on compensation, culture, morale, training, and culture, and students and alumni rate their schools based on academics, social life, clinical training, career services, and financial aid advising. Based on our survey, the most highly rated firms and schools also happened to among the most prestigious (e.g., Stanford, Davis Polk), but there is certainly not a correlation between prestige and insider rating.

After the jump, we’ll see which schools outside of the T14 and which firms outside the Vault 50 were rated the highest by their own people….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the ATL Insider Survey: Overlooked Firms and Schools”

* “[L]awyers aren’t trained as accountants,” but Gibson Dunn, Freshfields, Drinker Biddle, and Skadden may have some splainin’ to do when it comes to Hewlett-Packard’s M&A blowout with Autonomy. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Looks like it’s time for some holiday musical chairs: Dorsey & Whitney’s managing partner Marianne Short will be leaving the firm at year’s end to join UnitedHealth as its chief legal officer. [Twin Cities Business]

* The court-ordered mediation between Hostess and the bakers’ union broke down last night. If Judge Drain approves the company’s liquidation plan, the Twinkie may disappear from whence it came. [Reuters]

* Remember the students from Texas Southern who sued because their contracts prof allegedly “curve[d] them out of the class”? Yeah, that got dismissed faster than you can say R2K §90. [National Law Journal]

* You shall not pass — or use Lord of the Rings characters in online gambling games! J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate is suing Warner Brothers for $80M over improper licensing of the late author’s characters. [Bloomberg]

* Please don’t tickle me, Elmo. One week after an accuser recanted his allegations against puppeteer Kevin Clash, another one filed suit over an underage sexual relationship. [Media Decoder / New York Times]

* There’s nothing like some man-on-man sexual harassment to get you going in the morning. Sparks Steak House paid $600K to settle charges lodged by 22 male servers over an eight year period. [Corporate Counsel]

* Seems like this pulchritudinous plaintiff’s contract case is still kicking, and Emel Dilek testified that sleeping with the boss was “absolutely not” one of her roles during her time at Mercedes-Benz. [New York Post]

* Lululemon and Calvin Klein have settled their patent spat over elastic waistbands on yoga pants. Here’s hoping the Canadian yoga-wear company turned this lemon of a lawsuit into lemonade. [Businessweek]

* What do divorcées do in their spare time? They go to Florida’s $350M courthouse to spray paint it with broken hearts and notes for the judge who presided over their proceedings. [Riptide 2.0 / Miami New Times]

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been receiving interesting reports about Dewey & LeBoeuf. They were nothing but vague rumblings for a while, but they’ve now reached the point where we have enough to write about.

So let’s check in and ask: How do things stand at this major, top-tier law firm? In other words, “Where’s LeBoeuf?”

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I never had the inclination, or the physical strength, to attack Mr. Bloch.

Henry Shields Jr., the Drinker Biddle partner accused in a lawsuit of assaulting opposing counsel at a deposition. Shields, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy, maintains that he was the victim of the assault rather than the perpetrator.

(To read more about how a deposition devolved into a fracas, see our prior post.)

Have you ever been to a deposition that got physical? Maybe some fisticuffs, or a little shoving? No? Well, obviously you’ve been hanging out in the the wrong conference rooms.

A complaint filed in Santa Monica Superior Court and reported on by Courthouse News Service accuses a Drinker Biddle partner of “robust, unlawful force” that resulted in opposing counsel breaking his wrist. The alleged assault happened at the Beverly Hills office of the Excelus Law Group, a small law firm based in southern California. Attorney William W. Bloch claims that Drinker Biddle’s Henry Shields refused to leave his conference room after a deposition, and then assaulted him — with “some kind of martial art move.”

Shields and other Drinker Biddle attorneys who were there deny all of these allegations. And affidavits submitted by Drinker Biddle attorneys, as well as the actual deposition transcript, seem to paint a different — and much more hilarious — version of events…

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* And finally, a law student sues a law school for its allegedly misleading post-graduate employment information. [Law School Transparency]

* A “leading business lawyer in Germany,” reportedly a partner at Linklaters, allegedly attempts to evade paying taxes on his new lederhosen. Now is the time on Spockets when we dance. [Roll on Friday]

* Score one for anonymous emails! [Law & Technology]

Paul Simon

* DSK gears up to blame the victim. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Female lawyers arguing over women having children and taking maternity leave. I think I’m going to read this post, go with my boys to see The Hangover 2, and then hit up Rick’s. [Vault]

* First-time Tennessee bar exam takers who graduated from the University of Memphis Law School passed the bar. All of them. As Successful Troll might say, congratulations to all of the soon-to-be-employed Memphis Law grads! [The Commercial Appeal]

* A patent attorney from Drinker Biddle helps Paul Simon out with a song. [Reliable Source / Washington Post]

* Deporting immigrant same-sex partners is just cruel. [In The Arena / CNN]

Here at Above the Law, we try to offer practical tips for how to succeed in the legal profession. See, e.g., our recent posts about how to take vacation in Biglaw, or the best time for starting your own law firm.

Together with another company that provides useful advice and insight to lawyers, the Practical Law Company, we produced a webcast, We Know What You Should Do This Summer. A panel of career experts tackled topics of interest to law students who want to succeed over the summer — and beyond.

Prior installments of the webcast appeared here and here. Now let’s look at the latest segment….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Webcast: Career Advice for This Summer (Part 3)
Government jobs; balancing work and play in Biglaw.

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