New York Observer

Should you drop out of law school? In last week’s debate, I argued against the proposition, and in favor of staying in school.

But the decision to drop out of law school works out well for some people. Take Stewart Rahr, the subject of a recent, interesting profile in the New York Observer.

Back in 1969, Rahr dropped out of NYU Law School, to work for his father’s pharmacy in Brooklyn. Where is Stewie Rahr today?

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Philip Bobbitt law professor Columbia Texas.jpgWe have a soft spot for Columbia Law School, especially after our excellent visit there on Wednesday (“our” = Lat + Kash). Thanks to the CLS Federalist Society, the sponsor of our talk, for the warm welcome.

We also have a soft spot for celebrity professors. Meet Columbia law prof Philip Bobbitt — no relation to John and Lorena Bobbitt, presumably — who was recently profiled in the New York Observer:

Through some combination of gossip, online stalking, hounding their teaching assistants and perusing the Facebook group “Phillip [sic] Bobbitt is Our Hero,” students piece together the following:

Professor Bobbitt, who is 60, arrived at Columbia only 18 months ago, after three decades at the University of Texas. He is an eminent scholar of the Constitution and used to teach modern history at Oxford. He’s a former member of the Carter, Bush I and Clinton administrations and an adviser to foreign heads of state.

Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair blurbed his latest book on terrorism, which both current presidential candidates have reportedly read. He’s the nephew of Lyndon B. Johnson. He can blow smoke rings, and sponsors a national poetry prize in honor of his late mother. Also: He rotates seasonally among his homes, and can’t shake his habit of a nightly cigar and scotch-and-soda.

Read more, including words of wisdom from the worldly-wise professor, after the jump.

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With the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions not far off, people’s minds are returning to politics. A few New York lawyers we’ve talked to are thinking about moving down to Washington, to serve in the next presidential administration.
They might like our latest piece for the New York Observer: a pseudo-sociological comparison of New York and D.C. lawyers. What makes them tick? How do they like to dress? Where do they go out to eat? What do they do in their spare time?
Check out the interactive feature, which captures the table of comparisons in the print version’s centerfold Observatory section. You can use the arrows to navigate through the different categories, and mouse over them (“mouse over” — is that a verb?) to see how the different cities stack up.
What did we get right, and what did we get wrong? Feel free to let us know, in the comments.
(Click on the image below to be taken to the article, then scroll down to the interactive feature. Enjoy.)
NY vs DC lawyers attorneys comparison New York Observer.jpgLat’s Field Guide to N.Y. vs. D.C. Lawyers [New York Observer]

New York Observer logo small Above the Law blog.jpgAssociate layoffs have been the big news in 2008 thus far. Appropriately enough, they’re the subject of our latest column for the New York Observer. Here’s an excerpt:

“It’s tough. People are scared,” [one] jettisoned Cadwalader associate said. “It’s so rare that this happens. The first-years are freaked out. People are wondering: Is this continuing on a rolling basis, or did they take one big hit? People worry about [the impact on] recruiting efforts, both on a lateral basis and for incoming law students.”

The associate, like the others laid off that day, was given barely more than a week’s notice: His last day of work would be the following Friday, Jan. 18.

He’s getting three months of severance, paid out every two weeks, just as when he was employed. But he’s no longer able to tell prospective employers he’s still at the firm, which he predicts will make his job search harder.

“It’s like dating,” he said. “When you’re with someone, everyone wants you; when you’re on your own, it’s that much harder.”

You can read the complete column by clicking here.
P.S. We’ve been writing this column for a few months now. The archives are accessible here.
Will Work for Dinner at Nobu [New York Observer]
Lawyers Column archives [New York Observer]

New York Observer logo small Above the Law blog.jpgIn our column for this week’s New York Observer, we help you plan an imaginary dinner party. A dinner party, of course, is only as good as the guest list. So we review which colorful characters of the legal world, who made headlines in 2007, should be invited to your festivities.
Think of it as a “year in review” piece, aimed primarily at people who don’t read ATL (since most of the names mentioned in the article will be familiar to regular visitors to this site). The potential guests under consideration: Charlene Morisseau, the sassy ex-associate who sued DLA Piper; Aaron Charney, who made S&C “bend over”; and internet celebrity Loyola 2L.
ATL bonus content: Due to space considerations, our write-up of Elana Glatt (née Elana Elbogen) wound up on the cutting room floor. But if you’d like to read it, we’ve reprinted it after the jump.
Culture of Complaint Spreads Through Law Firms [New York Observer]

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New York Observer logo small Above the Law blog.jpgIt’s very quiet around here today. We’re guessing everyone is getting ready for Turkey Day and leaving early (or trying to get actual work done before leaving early, and therefore not visiting ATL).
But if you are looking for a way to kill time before your office closes for Thanksgiving, here’s some procrastination material for you: our latest column for the New York Observer. It’s about — surprise surprise — associate bonuses, and associate layoffs. The content of the column shouldn’t come as news to regular readers of ATL, but it does offer an overview of where we are now, as well as some thoughts about the future.
Also, while we’re in self-promotional mode (when aren’t we?), we were just interviewed by Rob La Gatta of LexBlog. You can check out the interview — in which we discuss future plans for ATL, unruly commenters, and the legal profession’s uneasy relationship with the blogosphere — by clicking here.
May It Please the Court? Massive Law-Firm Bonuses, Not So Much [New York Observer]
LexBlog Q & A: David Lat, Editor-in-Chief of Above The Law [LexBlog]

Aaron Charney headshot Aaron B Charney Aaron Brett Charney.JPGThe settlement of the litigation between Aaron Charney and Sullivan & Cromwell is not even two weeks old, but we miss the case already. So that’s why we decided to write about the case for our column in this week’s New York Observer:

So exactly how much did it cost Sullivan & Cromwell to make Aaron Charney go away? That’s the parlor game New York lawyers have been playing since late last month, when a settlement was reached between the white-shoe law firm and its former associate, who had sued S&C for sexual-orientation discrimination. Most memorably, Charney said that a partner dropped a document on the floor and told him to “bend over and pick it up—I’m sure you like that.”

Although it was a P.R. nightmare for S&C—where’s Michael Clayton when you need him?—Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell offered countless hours of entertainment and schadenfreude for the Big Law chattering class. The lawsuit was first filed in January, so it took nine months to deliver this baby.

From S&C’s perspective, Rosemary’s. You can read the rest of the column over here. (For the irony-impaired among you, please note that our “calculations,” with their mock precision, are not to be taken seriously.)
One more observation about the case, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Just How Far Did S&C ‘Bend Over’ for Aaron Charney?”

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft CWT Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid blog.JPGIn our latest column for the New York Observer, we shine the spotlight on a firm that has figured prominently in these pages lately:

Founded in 1792, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft is “the oldest continuing Wall Street law practice in the United States,” as its website proudly notes. Name partner George Wickersham was attorney general under President Taft, and name partner Henry Taft was the president’s brother.

In addition to being one of New York’s oldest firms, Cadwalader is also one of the most lucrative. Last year, it was the city’s third-most-profitable law firm, behind perennial leaders Wachtell and Cravath.

But in the past few months, CWT has hosted some rather surprising visitors—at least by the standards of a prestigious, white-shoe law firm.

Some of these visitors will be familiar to ATL readers, but one will not. You can read the whole piece — and view a rather odd photo of Cameron Diaz and CWT litigation chair Gregory Markel — over here.
Update: If you’re wondering about the identity of the Pimp, the mystery has been solved! Peter Lattman has the scoop over at the WSJ Law Blog.
Cadwalader’s Strange Visitors [New York Observer]

George Clooney 2 Michael Clayton senior associate special counsel Above the Law blog.jpgIn our column for this week’s New York Observer, we take Michael Clayton, the new legal thriller starring George Clooney, and use it as a jumping-off point for a discussion of the senior associate. Here’s an excerpt:

“Who is this guy?”

That’s what an icy general counsel (Tilda Swinton) wants to know about George Clooney—of all people—in the new legal thriller Michael Clayton. At the prestigious New York law firm of Kenner, Bach & Ledeen, Mr. Clooney’s title character has the nifty-sounding job of “Special Counsel,” as well as a snazzy corner office overlooking Sixth Avenue. But while he’s been at the firm for 17 years, he’s never made partner. As a salaried employee, with no management role or equity stake in the firm (as he bitterly notes more than once), Michael Clayton is what we politely call a senior associate.

So, who are these guys? Senior associates are typically associates who didn’t make partner. They’re generally viewed by their colleagues as perfectly competent worker bees, but not superstar material. They’re no longer in junior-associate hell, and they’re very well paid, but their predicament within the legal profession’s prestige-obsessed precincts is difficult: They’re indefinitely trapped in the purgatory of nonpartnership, with its attendant lack of dignity.

But is the “plight” of senior associates overstated? Read the rest of the piece by clicking here.

Hollywood Hugs Beta Males of Law [New York Observer]

Facebook logo MySpace Friendster Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgThat’s the question we tackle in our latest column for the New York Observer. Here’s an excerpt:

Among associates at large law firms, Facebook passed the tipping point sometime over the summer. Since the site opened to the public last year, adults everywhere have been joining—there are 40 million people already on Facebook, and about a million more every week. But lawyers seem to be particularly enamored of it (as is Microsoft, which is reportedly considering an investment that would value Facebook at as much as $10 billion).

It’s an expensive love affair…. Next year, the AmLaw 200 law firms are expected to hire 10,000 new associates. Let’s estimate, conservatively, that half of them spend one billable hour a week on Facebook. If we assume (again conservatively) an average hourly billing rate of $200, that comes to about $50 million a year in lost billable hours—and partner profits. Fifty million bucks will buy you a lot of Hermès ties.

You can read the rest of the piece by clicking here.
From Bluebook to Facebook: Social Site Seduces Firmland [New York Observer]

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