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Las Vegas federal courthouse Lloyd D George federal courthouse.jpgDetails continue to roll in about Johnny Lee Wicks, the shooter during yesterday’s gunfight at the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas. Apparently Wicks set fire to his own house before heading to the courthouse. ABC News reports:

The senior citizen who is being blamed for a Las Vegas courthouse shooting that killed a security officer had set his condo on fire in a fit of rage before the attack.
Friends and family told ABC News that Johnny Lee Wicks, 66, was so upset that his monthly Social Security check was being reduced that he set fire to his home in a gated retirement community around 5 a.m. Monday.

Wicks had filed a racial discrimination suit against the Social Security Administration because his benefits were cut. The suit got tossed and, apparently, that is what set him off. Over on True/Slant, Michael Roston hopes that Wicks’s deranged understanding of race in America isn’t used by neocons as a polemic against tolerance:

Of course, I’m still trying to be hopeful that the fact that Wicks was a black man shooting at a federal building won’t also be worked into the kulturkampf by agents of conservative histrionics. Rush Limbaugh is taking a few days off after his brush with the medical system, so he won’t be going on air tomorrow to declare that crimes like this happen only in “Obama’s America.” If anyone else out there was thinking about saying something like that, please, don’t. Let’s just all be thankful that there weren’t any more senseless deaths from this tragedy today.

Hear, hear. Bullets don’t care about skin color. An Above the Law reader who works at the Lloyd George Courthouse provides an eyewitness account of the harrowing minutes during the shooting.
The story after the jump.

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Lawyer of the Year 2009 AboveTheLaw blog Above the Law ATL.jpgThanks to everyone who submitted possible nominees for our Lawyer of the Year award. We reviewed your 160+ comments and developed a slate of ten worthy candidates.

Before we reveal them, we’ll talk about a few folks we passed over. A number of you suggested Mike Leach, the lawyer turned football coach who was recently fired by Texas Tech University. Although Leach’s achievements on the gridiron are considerable, he’s more of a football figure than a legal figure, so he didn’t make the team.

A few of the lawyers you suggested, while certainly well-known, really belong to years prior to 2009. These include former New York governor and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace after his dalliances with prostitutes came to light; former administrative law judge Roy Pearson, of the infamous $54 million (originally $67 million) pants lawsuit; and prominent IP litigator Jeremy Pitcock.

Also named: Kathy Henry, a former Legal Secretary of the Day, whose alleged oversight could have cost PepsiCo a pretty penny — over a billion dollars (until the default judgment was vacated). But since she’s a legal secretary rather than a lawyer (or even a law student), we passed her over.

So who made the cut? Check out the nominees and vote for your favorite, after the jump.

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Thumbnail image for handshake with fingers crossed behind back.jpgIf Kanye West talked about this past fall recruiting season, he’d probably say: “Biglaw doesn’t care about the NALP people.” This fall, we saw firms give the suggested 45-day open offer period an extended middle finger. Harvard Law School’s career services dean had to lead a revolt against Sullivan & Cromwell. I even suggested that law students should try ignoring NALP, just like the big firms did.
Apparently, NALP isn’t going to take this industry-wide disrespect lying down. They’ve formed a commission! The commission is writing a report! And, by golly, we’re going to get some real, draconian … guidelines, worth at least the paper they’re printed on. Am Law Daily reports:

Among the recommendations, according to three sources familiar with the report: Setting a date, likely sometime in late fall, before which firms would be prohibited from making offers to prospective summers. That proposed structure would replace the current system, under which firms can make offers to prospective summer associates at any time after interviewing them and then must leave those offers open for 45 days.

Respect NALP’s authority!
Look, they have to try something. Because right now nobody is happy with fall recruiting.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “New NALP Rules Could Be on the Way”

Career Center AboveTheLaw Lateral Link ATL.jpgWhile layoffs dominated the law firm landscape in 2009, the worst of the downsizing seems to be behind us.  But it looks like 2010 will be bringing major changes to compensation structures at law firms.  Check out the ATL Career Center, powered by Lateral Link , for the latest information about which firms are moving away from lockstep compensation and how they are doing it.  In the last week, we have updated the firm snapshots for Kramer Levin, Mayer Brown, Kirkland & Ellis, Weil Gotshal, Cravath, Quinn Emanuel, Hogan & Hartson, Wachtell Lipton, K&L Gates, Cadwalader, Akin Gump, and Jones Day
Below are a few of the latest updates from the Career Center’s firm snapshots:
•   This firm announced it would be moving to a hybrid lockstep compensation structure.  Salaries will no longer be tied to seniority level, but based on a combination of objective and subjective factors.
•   This firm’s new compensation structure regroups associates into three seniority levels rather than class years.  Under the new plan, the firm will also withhold 15% of associates’ salaries until a year-end performance review. 
•   This firm is phasing in a new compensation structure over the next two years in which a larger percentage of each attorney’s total compensation will be in the form of individualized bonuses.
Use the Career Center’s firm snapshots and comparison tool to learn about other bonus news at firms around the country.  And as always, we encourage to send information about your law firm experience to [email protected].

terracotta warrior terra cotta army.jpgHow do you say schadenfreude in Mandarin? Babel Fish won’t tell me. In fact, Babel Fish doesn’t even have an option to translate German into Mandarin or Cantonese. (I think that’s BS — I’m sure you can get a good schnitzel in Beijing — but that’s beside the point.)
Anyway, back to China. The ABA Journal reports:

A new study supports the tales of woe told by recent law graduates in China.

It is more difficult to find a job in law than any other profession studied, the China Daily reports. The story cites a June 2009 study by China’s Academy of Social Science and the Mycos Institute, a consulting company.

Mmm … terracotta law students.
I wonder how much (if any) private debt Chinese law schools saddle their students with?
Additional details after the jump.

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2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGOn Monday, Dechert made its 2009 bonus announcement. It’s a match of the Cravath scale. The Legal Intelligencer reports:

Dechert’s bonuses for 2009, though lower than those paid out for 2008, are in line with what market-setting Cravath Swaine & Moore announced in November.
In a memo obtained by The Legal Intelligencer, Chairman Barton J. Winokur told associates the class of 2008 would receive $7,500, the class of 2007 would get $10,000, the class of 2006 would receive $15,000, the class of 2005 would be paid $20,000, the class of 2004 would get $25,000 and the class of 2003 and more senior associates would receive $30,000.

And just for good measure, Dechert will pay for a super bonus to a few lucky associates:

According to the memo, associates with “exceptional performance” will receive bonuses up to $25,000 above the outlined grid “and in a couple of truly extraordinary circumstances even more.”

These may not be Wachtell Lipton bonuses, but I’m sure whoever receives Dechert’s largesse will not complain.
The firm also announced that it would make raises — for the most part.
However, a couple of Dechert offices will be taking a huge salary cut.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Dechert Matches, Cuts Salaries in the Boondocks”

Google Phone Nexus One.jpg* Is it me or is Justice Scalia running his mouth a lot lately? [ABA Journal]
* The Las Vegas courthouse gunman has been identified as a 66-year-old man. [New York Times]
* Did you know you could use Twitter to harass lawyers you don’t like? [Legal Blog Watch]
* Senator Charles Schumer wants the Feds to pay any security costs New York incurs during the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and friends. [The Hill]
* Willkie Farr: now under new management. [Am Law Daily]
* Google Phone! Google Phone! [Engadget]

Los Angeles palm trees Above the Law blog.jpgIn light of the frigid temperatures we’ve been experiencing here in New York, Elie and yours truly have decided to visit sunny Los Angeles this Thursday, January 7. We’ll be doing two events, both of them free and open to the public (and featuring free food):
1. The Future of Big Law: A Debate
When: Thursday, January 7, 2010, 12 noon.
Speakers: David Lat and Elie Mystal, editors of Above the Law, will debate whether lockstep is the best system for associate compensation and promotion at large law firms.
Where: Room 1457, UCLA Law School, 71 Dodd Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095.
Cost: Free. Lunch will be served.
2. Reception at Corkbar
When: Thursday, January 7, 2010, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Description: Meet and mingle with the editors of Above the Law and other lawyers from the area during this informal networking opportunity.
Where: Corkbar, 403 West 12th Street, Downtown Los Angeles, CA 90015.
Cost: Free. Appetizers will be provided; no host bar.
These events are being sponsored by the Los Angeles Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society, the Libertarian Law Council, and the UCLA chapters of the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society.
Both events are free and open to all, but please reserve a spot by emailing [email protected]. Hope to see you there!

Justice Antonin Scalia headshot.jpg* Antonin Scalia listens to Bach while writing opinions. I wonder if he has one of the original recordings of Toccata & Fugue J.P. Stevens smuggled out of Weimar in the 18th Century? [105.9 FM, WQXR]
* If you are one of the Elect that has heard organ music oozing out of Scalia’s chambers, you’ll be happy to know that clerkship bonuses are still on. [Washington Briefs]
* Gibson Dunn was named the best litigation department in 2009. Congratulations. Take a bow, pop a collar. [Am Law Daily]
* Find Law needs to work on its definition of blogs. [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]
* Katrina survivors turned litigants take on New Orleans area hospitals. Wow. Just to be safe, I think Poseidon should lawyer up, I’m sure the Gulf of Mexico is next on the litigation list. [Overlawyered]

law firm holiday card contest AboveTheLaw Above the Law.jpgCongratulations to Akin Gump, winner of Above the Law’s inaugural holiday card contest. Check out their very funny and clever card over here.

The voting wasn’t even close. There were seven entrants, but Akin walked away with over 44 percent of the vote. It was the commenters’ favorite, too:

“I work at HayBoo [Haynes and Boone], and really like our card. But I was actually laughing (alone in my office) at Akin Gump’s. A little cliched, but still, well-executed.”

“Akin hands down. All others were simply dreadful.”

“OK, the Akin Gump ‘holiday’ card (we all know we are talking xmas cards here) is hands down the best by a very wide margin, although the Goodwin Procter ‘gift’ of a pile of blow on the mantle at the end of their e-card was a nice touch.”

(That does look like cocaine, doesn’t it? Check out the Goodwin Procter card here.)

Once again, congratulations to Akin Gump on a well-deserved victory!

P.S. We received a few nice late submissions, like Proctor Heyman (inspired by the Abbey Road album cover) and Howard Rice (donating the savings from sending electronic rather than physical cards to a charity chosen by readers). Unfortunately, we were unable to include them because voting was already underway. Check ATL early and often, so as not to miss our contests and other features.

Earlier: ATL Contest: Holiday Card Coolness
A Fun Law Firm Holiday Card

Joe Shenker Sullivan Managing Partner.JPGToday H. Rodgin Cohen officially moves his Subaru into the right-hand lane, making way for Joseph C. Shenker to take the pole position as Sullivan & Cromwell’s new managing partner. Rodge will still be around, but leadership of the firm shifts to Shenker. Both the New York Times and Am Law Daily have marked this momentous occasion with write-ups on Shenker today.
Reading about Shenker reveals that there are three kinds of people in life: people who work for Goldman Sachs, people who work with Goldman Sachs, and people who lose:

Mr. Shenker, whose practice ranges from mergers and acquisitions to real estate to tax and estate planning, may not be the highly connected banking lawyer that Mr. Cohen is. But he maintains a sterling reputation of his own, maintaining close relationships with real estate magnates and one of the firm’s most significant clients: Goldman Sachs.

It appears that becoming managing partner of S&C is just the latest in a long list of accomplishments in Shenker’s career.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Post-Rodge Regime at Sullivan & Cromwell:
Meet Joseph Shenker, S&C’s New Managing Partner”

Latham Watkins LLP lw logo.jpgBefore the holidays, we reported that Latham & Watkins planned on making a true-up salary raise, putting its associates back on the level they would have been on had Latham never frozen salaries in the first place.
Today, Latham made it official. Multiple tipsters tell us the firm just announced its 2010 salary structure:

It was announced in a short e-mail from the executive committee that included a link to a secure PDF with the info.

The old new payscale, after the jump.

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