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KL Gates logo.JPGWe have some good news and some bad news for incoming K&L Gates associates.
I’m feeling charitable, so I’ll lead with the good news. Our sources report that everybody is officially set to start on January 4th. The firm called people over the weekend to mention some final, minor details, but people will have a job on the first business day of the New Year.
Yay! Doesn’t everybody feel good?
Okay, now the bad news. One of those minor details was a big old salary cut for incoming first-year salaries. The cut will really put K&L Gates first years on the low end of the Biglaw salary pool.
UPDATE: The salary cut does not apply to all incoming first-year associates. Details after the jump.

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broken ankle softball suit.JPGThis story actually broke last week, but I wanted to make sure you guys saw it. The Daily News reports:

A Queens softball player is suing the city, claiming she busted her ankle because her high school coach never taught her how to slide.
Alina Cerda, 15, says she’s been sidelined for seven months and wants the city Education Department and Francis Lewis High School coach Bryan Brown to pay.

Cerda busted her leg during — wait for it — a sliding drill.
I feel bad about making fun of a fifteen-year-old girl. Don’t worry, I am going to make fun of her — I just want you guys to know I feel bad about what’s about to happen.

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Jones Day Logo.jpgWe like to keep track of “new partner” announcements here at Above the Law (under our “New Partner Watch” feature). Partnership decisions often shed light on the current state of a firm, its prospects for the future, and its priorities.
How many new partners did a firm make? How does the number of new partners this year compare to past years? In which practice areas did it make new partners? How many of the new partners are women or minorities?
As we’ve discussed before, many firms have cut back dramatically on making new partners, thanks to the recession. See here for examples of firms that have cut their new partner classes by 25 percent, 50 percent, or more.
At other firms, however, it seems to be business as usual — like Jones Day.

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2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPG* If you’re a regular ATL reader, this Bloomberg article on law firm bonuses being squeezed won’t hold many surprises. [Bloomberg]
* Being naked in your own home is a crime. [The Post Chronicle]
* In 2007, a National Enquirer reporter spotted Tiger Woods visiting a church parking lot for some non-religious ecstasy. Los Angeles firm Lavely & Singer negotiated a deal with Enquirer’s parent company, American Media, to put Tiger Woods in Men’s Fitness instead of tabloids. [Wall Street Journal via ABA Journal]
* Pobrecita. Sonia Sotomayor doesn’t like being a celebrity and no longer has time for dating. [Associated Press]
* An Austin lawyer will be making a $46-million withdrawal from the John O’Quinn estate on behalf of the Texas legend’s former clients. [United Press International]
* Perhaps Dechert will be hiring in 2010? [Philadelphia Inquirer]
* R.I.P., actress Brittany Murphy. [TMZ]

douche douchebag small.jpgDuke Law School dominated our Douchiest Law School contest earlier this year, beating out Harvard to take home the title.
At the time, some complained that Duke Law and Duke’s undergrad population were being conflated. [Ed. note: As a Duke '03 grad, Kash is mildly offended by that argument.]
One commenter wrote:

Does no one understand that Duke law is way way way way different than Duke undergrad!?!?!? WTF … I went to Duke undergrad and hated just about every person there; however, Duke law students are a pretty cool and laid-back bunch. ATL readers are pretty dumb if they don’t get the difference.

This is a fairly abstract claim. How do you define a douche? How do you determine who is “douchier” or compare “douchiness”? Is the concept captured by what Justice Stewart said about hard-core pornography — you know it when you see it?
An ATL reader was kind enough to send us concrete photographic evidence with which to judge. Exhibit A from the Duke Law library, and a poll, after the jump.

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pink slip layoff notice Above the Law blog.jpgEd. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of modern American unemployment. In this case, the good is that unemployment decreased in 36 states in November. The bad is that first-time claims were higher than expected last week.

We try to be optimistic (see, e.g., the Law Shucks Bonus Tracker), but it’s tough. Take that "good" news, for example. Not only does that mean that unemployment was up in 14 states (we’ll ignore DC and PR for now), but it’s hardly "good" news that the unemployment rate was "only" 10.6%, as was the case in Kentucy, which was down from 11.3%.

Commenters love to debate what got us here, but the general public isn’t happy about what’s being done to fix it. A majority of Americans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the economy (and healthcare, but that’s beyond the scope of this column). Those two issues have caused his overall approval rating to plummet as well, down to 50%, from 69% less than a year ago. He’s keeping a positive mindset about the whole mess, though, saying that he’s more concerned about how he’s positioning the country for the future and giving himself a "B+."

Obviously, he’s down with his alma mater’s stance on grading curves (read: grade inflation). At least he didn’t throw big-firm lawyers (directly) under the bus like he did our bank clients, blaming the recession on "the irresponsibility of large financial institutions on Wall Street that gambled on risky loans and complex financial products, seeking short-term profits and big bonuses with little regard for long-term consequences."

This column covers the gamut of law-firm economic developments, and we were fully expecting to not be writing about any layoffs per se this week.

Whoops.

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New York University Law School NYU Law School Above the Law.JPGSometimes I find myself recycling my own material. I’ll make a joke in front of one group of friends, they’ll laugh, and I’ll use the same joke in front of a different group of friends. The second audience can’t know that I’ve already used the joke with a different audience, lest I be exposed as uninteresting and comedically lazy. One time I told the same joke at the same person’s birthday party two years in a row. Not good.
But I learned an important lesson, one I’m sure that an NYU visiting professor is also about to learn. While at Northwestern, this professor gave out practice contracts questions to his class there. This year at NYU, the professor decided to use some of the exact same practice questions, but this time on the actual exam.
Obviously, the students who had seen the practice questions had a huge advantage over the students who did not. That’s probably why the NYU administration got involved.
The email from Vice Dean Liam Murphy, after the jump.

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gwyneth Paltrow.JPG* If anyone ever wanted to give me anything free, I’d be more than happy to disclose it. Theoretically, that makes me a better person than Gwyneth Paltrow. Practically, my life is infinitely less fabulous. [Jezebel]
* I got your nose. Literally. [Bad Lawyer]
* Worst tax of the decade. [Going Concern]
* Top celebrity legal scandals of 2009. [Popsquire]
* The Washington Post is writing about the innovative curriculum at Washington & Lee after its principal architect, Dean Rodney Smolla, announces he’s bolting the school. The Post mentions his departure as a footnote. Gotta love the MSM sometimes. Thankfully, Ashby Jones is all over this. [WSJ Law Blog]
* There’s an instructional video on how to become a lawyer without a law — or undergraduate — degree. You know, I think the various state bars should just get it over with and adopt the Geico cavemen as their mascots. [How to Become an Attorney Without Law School]

The Tenth Justice Fantasy SCOTUS League.jpgEd. note: ATL has teamed up with the 10th Justice to predict how the Supreme Court may decide upcoming cases. CNN has called FantasySCOTUS the ” hottest new fantasy-league game.”
Hillary: The Movie did not have much impact at the box office, but it’s become quite a hit at One First Street. It’s so popular there that SCOTUS brought it back for a second showing, ordering a re-argument in the campaign finance case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The Hillary Movie case is a showdown between free speech and campaign finance laws. In 2008, the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of the FEC that Hillary: The Movie could not be shown on television right before the 2008 Democratic primaries under the McCain-Feingold Act.
Some have suggested that the case could bring down McCain-Feingold. The voters at Fantasy SCOTUS believe Justice Kennedy will swing to deliver the blow that will take it down.

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Holland & Knight Logo New.JPGHolland & Knight announced today that it would be moving away from lockstep associate compensation. But unlike the firms that have rushed to jump on the Orrick-style, three-tier “pure merit” model, Holland is adopting a hybrid approach. Here’s how Holland & Knight managing partner Steve Sonberg explained it to associates this morning:

The base salary of an associate will no longer depend solely on seniority and the number of hours billed by an associate during the preceding year. Instead, the firm will evaluate each associate on the basis of both objective and subjective factors.

The objective factors will continue to include the number of billable and creditable hours. The firm’s existing policy on creditable hours is not being changed. In addition to the number of billable and creditable hours, the firm will now also consider other factors that objectively measure an associate’s contribution to the firm and to our clients (e.g., collections, profitability, significant matter responsibility, and successful client development).

The subjective factors will include professional and career development (including client development skills), the quality of the legal services provided to our clients, and other contributions to our profession, our communities, and the firm. We are committed to providing an evaluation process that clearly communicates to associates what is expected of them.

Under the new model, this combination of subjective and objective factors will be used to determine what kind of raise associates receive from year to year.
Above the Law spoke with Adolfo Jimenez, the partner at Holland & Knight who oversees the firm’s associate program. H&K’s new compensation plan is very different from the ones we’ve been seeing lately, and we asked Jimenez why the firm decided to go in a different direction.

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balenciaga sues steve madden.jpgAt first we were of the opinion that Balenciaga’s “Lego shoe” was too hideous to merit copying. But then we learned that Beyonce has been spotted in a pair. If it’s good enough for Beyonce, it’s good enough for the rest of us, right?
That was apparently the thinking of Steve Madden, which produced a very similar-looking shoe. Balenciaga’s original is on the left; the Madden version is on the right.
But Balenciaga’s not taking this sitting down. Earlier this week, the company sued Steve Madden.
What claims are being made in the lawsuit? Come up with some guesses. Then read more (and comment) over at our sister site, Fashionista.
Balenciaga Sues Steve Madden [Fashionista]

school of sex.jpgWere you drawn to Biglaw because of a slight sadomasochistic bent? Then you may be interested in the [NSFW] School of Sex [NSFW]. As you might imagine based on the name, it offers lessons on sex, as well as erotic events.
Why are you reading about this on ATL? Because it’s a Friday. And, more importantly, because it was brought to our attention by “Sex Kitten” (she insisted on being identified by a pseudonym) — a Biglaw associate who moonlights as a manager there, arranging events for swingers.
No, her events aren’t aimed at Justice Kennedy. They’re for sexually experimental types.
Sex Kitten told Time Out that swinging is an excellent way to relax after a tough day at the law firm:

Swinging is stress relief. It’s a way to express yourself in a way that you might not be able to if you’re a conservative person. I spend the day in business attire, then when the weekend comes, if we’ve planned a party, I go home and change into…very little clothing.

She tells ATL:

I went to law school in New York City and currently work at a Vault 100 law firm as an associate. I was able hit my target billable hours every month until a recent slowdown at my firm. For this reason, I’ve been developing School of Sex to the point that it’s a viable backup career.

Is sex promotion a good career alternative? And how does a Biglaw girl balance client needs with orgies while building her business? We’ve got an interview with her, after the jump.

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