Litigators

Gregory Berry

As mentioned briefly yesterday, a New York state court judge just dismissed the celebrated lawsuit of Berry v. Kasowitz Benson. As you may recall, a former Kasowitz first-year associate named Gregory Berry, who entered the legal profession after “conquering Silicon Valley,” sued his former firm for over $77 million. In his kitchen sink of a complaint, filed pro se, Berry tossed in some 14 causes of action, including wrongful termination, fraud, and breach of contract.

It appears that Berry’s “superior legal mind” failed to impress Justice Eileen Bransten of New York Supreme Court. Ruling from the bench, she dismissed his entire case, with prejudice.

But that’s not all. Her Honor was displeased when Greg Berry walked out of her courtroom before the hearing was over, while she was still putting her ruling on the record. So later this month, he’ll have to appear before Justice Bransten again and explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt….

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This is not the case for Biglaw partnership (and hasn't been for quite some time).

As mentioned yesterday in Non-Sequiturs, the white-shoe law firm of Milbank Tweed, in a recent press release about its new partnership class, gave a special shout-out to Atara Miller. It identified Miller as “likely the only Orthodox Jewish woman partner at a major Wall Street firm” (emphasis in the original).

The release continued: “Milbank has four other Orthodox partners who cope with the same issues, but each of them has a wife to run the household and children, while Ms. Miller takes on those duties at home.”

A big shot in Biglaw, and a baleboste to boot — that’s nice, very nice. But is it accurate to assert that Miller is unique?

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Cops learn to hate people. Basically everyone they encounter is a criminal, so cops soon come to believe that everyone is a criminal.

Litigators — or perhaps litigators who are repeat players in a particular field — learn to hate people. Personal injury insurance defense counsel come to believe that all plaintiffs are lying fakers. Personal injury plaintiffs’ lawyers come to believe that all insurance defense counsel are tightfisted jerks who never pay a claim.

Maybe this is natural. If you spend eight hours every day repeatedly doing the same thing over the course of many years, you become what you do. It’s hard to break out of your role.

But this can cause trouble for in-house litigators. If you become what you do, consider who in-house litigators learn to hate . . .

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If you look back at the great law firm departure memos of years past, you’ll see that almost all of them were written by associates. When partners leave Biglaw, they tend to do so in rather staid fashion, presumably because they have less to complain about (although query whether that’s always the case; see, e.g., A Partner’s Lament).

Every now and then, you’ll come across a colorful farewell message penned by a partner. One such email, sent out last Friday by a longtime partner leaving a major law firm, is now making the rounds. Here’s a teaser: “I have realized that I cannot simultaneously meet the demands of career and family. Without criticizing those who have chosen lucre over progeny, let me just say that I am leaving the practice of law.”

Wow. So who’s the partner in question, which firm did he just leave with such flair, and what’s he planning to do next?

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Fiscal year end for us is officially this coming Saturday. Until then we’re expected to be on call 24/7. While it might seem draconian, we’re a sales-based technology company, and the push is on for the “Field” to get their year-end orders completed. I readily admit that being “on-call” just four times per year (three quarter ends and one year end), rather than “all year all the time,” is not a bad deal.

When I was in private practice, you were expected to respond top clients ASAP, if not sooner. It didn’t matter where you were or what you were doing, you had to respond. I brought that attitude with me when joining my current employer. This not only took many of my clients by surprise, but by putting myself out there as a go to attorney 24/7, I find that very few clients actually take advantage of that proposal. Truth be told, I am able to “disconnect” on vacation weeks, and I have forewarned anyone tempted to call me at home that if it isn’t a true emergency, I’ll just put my two-year-old on the phone and let them discuss the latest happenings in rugrat world….

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It seems that founding partner John Quinn isn’t the only one at Quinn Emanuel with a surplus of Benjamins right about now. On Friday, the litigation powerhouse announced its 2011 year-end bonus scale — and, for the most part, it’s more generous than the benchmark Cravath bonus scale.

We say “for the most part” because, for associates billing under 2100 hours, the scale is below Cravath — but just slightly. And it’s our understanding that not many QE associates bill less than 2100 hours anyway.

Let’s take a look at the details….

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[We were going to call this post something like "Associate Bonus Watch: Susman Godfrey Beats Cravath Too." But then we felt bad for singling out Cravath for paying unsatisfying bonuses, when so many other Biglaw firms have followed suit. So we went with a tamer title instead.]

Just as it did last year, the powerhouse litigation boutique of Susman Godfrey announced associate bonuses that put the bonus scales of most other firms to shame. Happy Holidays, Susman Godfrey associates!

(By the way, Susman is a firm that celebrates the season in high style. The holiday party of its New York office, catered by acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud, is already legendary, even though it’s of fairly recent vintage.)

So, the Susman bonuses — what are we looking at here?

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A story I often tell is about the first time I took a deposition. I got there early, and I thought that the most important thing was to control the witness. I didn’t realize the first time around that the way you control somebody is not by intimidating them. But I adjusted the chair that I was sitting on so that I’d be really tall, and could look down imposingly on the witness. But I raised it so high that as soon as I sat down, I toppled over and fell backward.

Amy Schulman, executive vice president and general counsel of Pfizer, in a New York Times interview about her leadership style.

(Additional excerpts and discussion, after the jump.)

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Tom Wallerstein

Yeah, some people thought I might be nuts for leaving litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel. But the prospects of starting my own firm and building a practice from the ground up were too compelling to ignore. Nearly two and a half years have passed since Colt Wallerstein LLP opened its doors, and still not a day goes by when my partner and I aren’t humbled by our good fortune and our decision to “trade places”: that is, move from Biglaw to start a litigation boutique in Silicon Valley that focuses on high-tech trade secret, employment, and complex-commercial litigation.

I graduated from law school in 1999, and the legal market was very different then. Getting into a “top” law school pretty much guaranteed a job, and most of my law school friends and I had multiple offers and no real concern about landing a Biglaw job, if that’s what we wanted. Offer rates hovered around 100%, and of course the lucrative summers consisted mostly of long lunches at five-star restaurants, luxury box seats at baseball games, open bars, and very little work.

Those were the days….

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I’m one this week! Happy birthday to me!

Though it feels like only yesterday, I published my first column at Above the Law on November 18, 2010. I’ve published two posts every week since then (except when Monday holidays excused my labors), so I’ve cranked out about 100 of these little ditties over the last 52 weeks.

I’m tired. But I’m one!

How can I celebrate?

It seems like a good day to reminisce. What did I do right over the last year? What did I do wrong? And what have you, my readers, contributed that I can share with the world on this, my happy day?

Let me tackle the issues in that order….

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