Litigators

We enjoy giving our readers the occasional peek behind the Biglaw curtain. Last month, for example, we shared with you the internal interview manual that Sullivan & Cromwell provides to its attorneys who conduct on-campus interviews at law schools.

Today, in a similar spirit, we take an inside look at the annual review process for attorneys at Skadden Arps. We’re into the fourth quarter of 2011, so these reviews are not far away.

In this special report, we’ll provide general observations on the Skadden review process, highlight noteworthy comments from leaked attorney evaluations, and show you a few reviews in their entirety (redacted to remove lawyer and client names). This information should interest Biglaw associates who want to know what partners look for junior lawyers, and it should also appeal to partners at other firms who want ideas on how to structure annual reviews.

If you’re interested in learning more about performance reviews at one of the world’s biggest and best law firms, please keep reading….

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I received a fair amount of mail this past week asking about transitioning to in-house positions from firm life. I tried to offer useful responses when time permitted. I certainly appreciated all the kind words, and I feel for those enduring the struggle of a job search, especially in this economy. Many folks share in the struggle, and many folks have struggled before you — myself included. It doesn’t make it easier, but it will get better. The words “going in-house” presuppose that you have a choice: to go. For most people these days, the choice is to go where you’ll be able to cover your budget. And that doesn’t always translate to getting the job you want.

I do not view this column as a place to preach, I view it as one side of a dialogue. If you feel moved to write to me and ask for advice or ideas, I will certainly do my best to respond to your email. I knew going in to this that by publishing my real name I was setting myself up for abusive comments from a small group of people. It’s all good; I have been a long time reader of Above the Law. But I also knew that, far more importantly, folks who really wanted or needed to discuss topics that I write about might contact me. To that end, let’s talk about choosing the right person for the job….

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I’m a man who likes to drink. In public. Often to the point of intoxication. So I’m not here to judge anybody who goes out and gets drunk. I’m not a hypocrite.

But I will say that it’s been a while since I went out on an epic bender. Something about getting older. You just feel the vomitous black-out coming on and it’s hard to push beyond that barrier.

Well, it’s hard for me. Maybe not so much for Laura L. Flippin. She’s a lawyer, a partner at DLA Piper. The Washington Post reports that last month she got charged with public intoxication.

The police report states that Laura Flippin’s blood alcohol level was .253, which is flippin’ epic…

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There’s a six-year-old trapped inside of me, pounding on the inside of my skull and screaming to get out. (Many of you would say that the quality of these columns proves that I don’t manage to keep the kid fully contained. Yeah, well: It’s a good thing you’ve never heard any of my jokes.)

My inner six-year-old likes to understand things. He likes e-mails and memos that start at the beginning; use short, declarative sentences in the middle; and conclude somewhere near the end.

He likes easy rules that he can understand and then immediately put to use, so he remembers the rules in the future. It was surely my inner six-year-old who developed the “one rule you as a witness must remember” when you’re having your deposition taken: “Listen carefully. Pause. Answer narrowly.” To the six-year-old’s eye, that’s the essence; “the rest is commentary.”

My inner six-year-old recently realized that outside counsel have it easy: For each entity they represent, outside lawyers typically communicate with just one person who serves as the “client.” Although the outside lawyers may meet many corporate employees, the outside lawyers view themselves as speaking to the “client” when they talk to the in-house lawyer who’s supervising their matter on a daily basis. That’s the one key point of contact.

My inner six-year-old realized that this isn’t true for in-house lawyers. In-house lawyers have three clients….

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Ed. note: Welcome to the inaugural installment of House Rules, a column for in-house lawyers by our newest writer, David Mowry. David’s column will appear on Wednesdays.

“I am going in-house.”

When I first said these words to my former law firm colleagues, they connoted a sea change in my career: a coveted position with a prestigious international corporation, no more billable hours, and no more partner pressure.

I am fortunate to practice with smart, engaging, and truly collegial and competent lawyers. And no more billable hours — I do wake up happy every day.

Of course, all good stories must have a conflict; mine was that I was taking a job as a transactional lawyer. I had always viewed transactional work as the “dark side,” and outside of my comfort zone of years in litigation. The more I thought about the transition, however, the more I realized how my perspective as a litigator would serve me well as a contract negotiator….

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We’re now in late September, so you know what that means. The first Monday in October, which starts the new Term of the Supreme Court of the United States, is just around the corner.

With that in mind, the Heritage Foundation wrangled a high-powered pair of panelists to offer their thoughts on October Term 2011:

What did Messrs. Clement and Shanmugam have to say about the upcoming SCOTUS Term?

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Last week, more than a dozen high-profile mass torts attorneys lost a San Francisco jury trial against a small technology company. The jury decided the attorneys had illegally breached a document review contract during the high-profile Chinese drywall class-action litigation.

On September 19, the 14 defendants in Cataphora Inc. v Parker were ordered to pay $317,113 to the technology company in lost profits, plus attorneys’ fees.

“These guys are the worst of hypocrites that you can possibly find,” said Roger Chadderdon, technology counsel at Cataphora. “They claim to be trying to help the little guy, but what they’re doing is trying to put more money in their own pockets. Everybody knows that, but this is a case that illustrates it beyond what I have ever seen.”

Clearly, tempers are still running hot. We’ve got more from both sides of the dispute, and a quick refresher on Chinese drywall, after the jump….

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I’m fast approaching the two-year anniversary of my move in-house, and I don’t often look back wistfully on my former life as a partner at one of the world’s largest law firms.

But last Tuesday was different. Please bear with me.

For 25 years, I practiced, and tried to develop new business, in the complex litigation space. I worked at a firm that wasn’t interested in defending companies in one-off pharmaceutical product liability or Automobile Dealers’ Day In Court Act cases. Those cases were frequently insured (and the carriers often wouldn’t agree to pay our rates) or otherwise too small to fry. But the moment one of those silly little cases morphed into something real — a mass tort or a Dealers’ Act class action — we were chomping at the bit to get retained.

It’s tricky to market into that niche: “I don’t want your ‘drug caused an injury’ case until you have 1,000 of them. Then, even though I spurned you before, I want you to hire me to displace (or, at a minimum, supplement) your existing counsel on the cases.” The existing lawyer already knows the facts and the law, and ignorant you, who showed no interest before, now wants to butt in. How do you pitch that?

I figured the answer was to develop a reputation at the point where small cases transmogrified into big ones: the filing of a class action, the filing of enough cases that a motion for multidistrict litigation became likely, and advising companies how to respond when “60 Minutes” or “20/20″ called for an interview. I thus spent an awful lot of time writing about those topics and speaking at any conference that would give me a lectern and a worthwhile audience.

Then I moved in-house and changed my focus entirely. Until last Tuesday . . .

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* Police suspect that a client may have been the one to plant a bomb in attorney Erik G. Chappell’s car. Stay far away from family law, folks. [New York Daily News]

* “How come there’s not a school where people can go if they want to become trial lawyers?” How come you don’t know we already have 200 other law schools? [National Law Journal]

* I hope they signed a prenup, because AT&T and T-Mobile have added two more firms to their huge Biglaw wedding party — O’Melveny and Kellogg Huber. [Am Law Daily]

* “A lawsuit has been filed . . . by a female law clerk who alleges that [a] judge slapped her in the buttocks with a legal file.” And Lat wonders why law clerks hate their jobs. [Billings Gazette]

* LiLo may be behind on her court-ordered service hours, but surely she should be credited for the community service of wearing low-cut tops. [New York Post]

* Ninth Circuit Judge Pamela Rymer, RIP. [San Francisco Chronicle]

There’s one guy in your outfit who understands the need not to write stupid e-mails: That’s the guy who just spent all day in deposition being tortured with the stupid e-mails that he wrote three years ago.

That guy will control himself. He’ll write fewer and more carefully phrased e-mails for the next couple of weeks. Then he’ll go back to writing stupid stuff again, just like everyone else.

You can’t win this game; no matter what you say, people will revert to informality and write troublesome e-mails. But you’re not allowed to give up. What’s an in-house lawyer to do?

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