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google book search.jpgAs we mentioned in Morning Docket, Google reached a settlement with publishers and authors to finally bring the Dewey Decimal System into the digital age.

Most lay people think that lawyers serve an annoying, anti-common sense role in society. But every now and again lawyers perform the important function of keeping “the law” safe from the forces of the free market and human progress.

Google wants to digitize the collections of the world’s greatest libraries in order to make them searchable. This is called “progress” and desperately needs to happen. But authors and publishers also need to protect their works — and make money off of them, if possible.

This issue demanded an out of court settlement, and lawyers from Keker, Debevoise, and other firms got the job done.

Under the settlement:

Authors and publishers will get 63 percent of revenue generated by Google’s electronic book database from the sale of online books and advertising. As part of the $125 million, Google will pay $34.5 million to set up the Book Rights Registry, which will collect the money and give it to the copyright owners. Another $45 million will go to authors and publishers that had their books uploaded without permission. Plaintiffs lawyers will take home $30 million.

Mmmm … fairness: the kind of fairness that cannot often be achieved through trial. Authors and publishers get 63% of the revenue (which, when you break it down will probably come out to 2 Lincolns per title). But, much more importantly, they will get the publicity that comes when people can actually read their book that is no longer popular enough to print. Google can then go about the business of bringing the entire digital world under their imperial control. And the lawyers got paid off too.

And nobody had to come up with a ridiculous “fair use” precedent that could have crippled the rights of authors for years to come.

Yay attorneys, yay settlements.

Google to Pay $125 Million in Settlement Over Book Digitization [Law.com]

Major Universities See Promise in Google Book Search Settlement [Authors Guild]

Proposed Settlement

Thelen LLP new logo.jpg[Ed Note: This post was written for ATL by "Heller Drone," who created the blog Heller Highwater in response to a lack of information concerning Heller Ehrman's dissolution. We asked Heller Drone for helpful advice to offer Thelen associates and staff. Good luck to everybody dealing with these difficult circumstances.]

Being capsized is often something quite jarring and comes upon you suddenly and painfully, say like food poisoning or an episode of The View. And despite the fact that you can see that iceberg in the distance, a soon-to-be ex-staffer of a BigLaw firm can’t always anticipate each and every wave that will buffet his or her lifeboat. Here are words of advice for our colleagues at Thelen and perhaps other firms which are in the process of dissolving:

Get Organized

You don’t necessarily need a blog but it is a nice way of communicating to a large group without hosting a website on your domain, etc. Blogging is a very “turnkey” operation and with platforms such as Blogger or WordPress or Typepad you can be on your way to your first post in less than five minutes. Any stressed and harried soon-to-be unemployed staffer can do it.

Besides a blog, set up some form of networking such as Facebook or better yet LinkedIn. This will allow former staffers to communicate with each other once the firm’s email system is offline.

Know Your Rights as an Employee

Do your research – and if you don’t know where to start enlist a paralegal or associate to assist. Realize that labor laws differ by state and this includes vacation accrual, how to file a wage claim, etc. Make sure you understand clearly anything you are being asked to sign and ask to make a copy of the document, take it home and review it first if possible. Do not sign any of your rights away during what can be a very emotionally trying time.

More tips after the jump.

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Five Things Hellerites Wished They Knew At The Start”

political-pictures-ron-paul-popular-vote-myspace.jpgWe received 836 responses to Monday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on whether you’ll be volunteering your services on Election Day, and the results are pretty remarkable. Over 40% of practicing attorneys who took the survey said that they would be helping out:

  * 23% will be working as election monitors.

  * 11% will be staffing call centers.

  * 7% will be members of a legal response team.

  * Another 7% are still deciding whether to volunteer.

Law students are even more active, with 46% planning to work as election monitors, 6% staffing call centers, and 9% supporting a legal response team.

Interestingly, Obama supporters were much more likely than McCain voters to spread their time around for Joe the Voter, with 30% working as election monitors (vs. 15% of McCain voters), 12% staffing call centers (vs. 4%), and 9% working in legal response teams (vs. 5%).

Formal law firm support also had a pretty substantial impact on attorney participation in next Tuesday’s efforts, especially among attorneys staffing call centers:

  * At firms counting the work as billable time, more than two thirds of attorney respondents will be volunteering their services (31% as poll monitors, 30% in call centers, and 7% in response teams).

  * The percentage of volunteers drops slightly, to 60%, at firms that consider the work pro bono but non-billable (31% poll monitors, 18% call center staff, and 11% in response teams).

  * But at firms that give no credit at all, only 34% of respondents have decided to volunteer on Election Day (24% as poll monitors, 2% in call centers, and 8% in response teams).

Quite a few firms will be giving credit. 27% of respondents said that they can indeed count their service toward their billable hours, including associates at Cleary Gottlieb, Cooley Godward, Davis Polk, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Goodwin Procter, Hogan & Hartson, Katten, Kelley Drye, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham, Morgan Lewis, MoFo, Orrick, Paul Hastings, Ropes & Gray, Shearman & Sterling, and Skadden. Another 12% of respondents will count their work as pro bono, but not billable time.

That said, though, roughly a third of respondents said that their firms would not be providing any credit for volunteering next week, and about a quarter of you weren’t sure.

In addition to firm support, there’s quite a bit of peer support going around. More than half of attorney respondents noted that their firm colleagues were also volunteering next Tuesday. 41% said that both partners and associates were pitching in, while 11% said that other associates were signing up, but not partners.

Actual participation may be even higher though, as 38% of respondents weren’t sure whether other attorneys at their firms were getting involved. Only 9% of respondents said that neither their peers nor their partners would be volunteering next week.

So, overall, it looks like next Tuesday’s going to be a pretty quiet day at the office. Probably a good day to do some volunteer work. (You can still sign up here or here.)

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

[Ed Note: Do you have a question for next week? Send it in to advice@abovethelaw.com]

pls hndle copy 2.jpgATL -

I’m new at my firm (small firm in Midwest, not BigLaw), and apparently people here dress up for Halloween. The head partner has sent a bunch of emails reminding everyone to wear their costumes on Friday, Oct. 31 and the secretaries are going nuts talking about it. What should I go as? Or should I not dress up?

All Dressed Up For Nothing

Dear All Dressed Up For Nothing -

Your firm differs little from Biglaw; every shop I know treats Halloween as a day of unbridled merriment and levity. Deals come to a screeching halt, associates throw documents off their desk and set up jack-o-lanterns and duplicating and graphics department mail people cast their bitter feuding aside to hold hands and dance around the cafeteria bonfire. To keep up with your firm’s apparent enthusiasm for the holiday, so you’ll need a costume that projects an image of the associate (and future partner!) they want you to be: bold, slutty and borderline offensive.

If there are devout Latter Day Saints at your firm, consider going as a Yearning for Zion FLDS member. Wear a stunning number from FLDS Crafts and spend the day carrying around a sister wife blow up doll and eight Cabbage Patch Kids. Commiserate with LDS colleagues about the long commute to work in a covered wagon.

Another sure-fire hit is donning a blonde wig and a slutty nurse costume. When your supervising partner asks what you’re dressed as, reply “Your wife.”

Finally, if you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a costume, wear a suit and turn the pockets out. Smear grease on your face, clutch a crumpled Lateral Link brochure with your fingerless gloved hands. Make a matilda using a golf club and tie a Thelen gym bag to the end. You’re all set to go as a homeless person. Now that’s scary.

Happy Halloween!

Your friend,

Marin

Elie’s advice after the jump.

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Nightmare on Main Street”

google book search.jpg* Google Book Search is now on the path to officially kill the public library. Google will pay $125 million to settle two copyright lawsuits, and will move forward with making millions of books available online. [Bloomberg]

* A Nevada judicial candidate has sued the Las Vegas Review-Journal, claiming the newspaper defamed him and cost him the election. [Courthouse News Service]

* Austrian man drives drunk to protest drunken driving charges. [Reuters]

* One of President Bush’s biggest contributions from the last 8 years is a more conservative federal judiciary. And they’re young ‘uns, so they’ll be around for a while. [New York Times]

* Four months in prison for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. And he owes the city $1 million. [Associated Press]

* Nixon Peabody steals welcomes 25 more lawyers from Taylor Wessing’s Paris office. [American Lawyer]

law firms bankrupt associates sad.JPG* A little bankruptcy humor seems appropriate today. [Bankruptcy Bill]

* HLS student sets his law degree on fire. Actually, I’m not talking about myself. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Should M.B.A candidates receive a deduction for the cost of their degree? [TaxProf Blog]

* If you’ll be in New York on Thursday night, and if you’re interested in what it’s like to be an out LGBT attorney, here’s a discussion that might interest you. [LGBT Community Center]

* Win a date with Kashmir Hill? Oh, Lat and I are included too. If you’ll be in D.C. on Thursday night, please stop by Georgetown Law, and bid aggressively for item #16. [Georgetown Law Equal Justice Foundation]

Thelen LLP new logo.jpgThelen has officially announced they will dissolve.

According to the release, Thelen:

[B]reached a partner departure covenant that restricts the number of partners who may depart the firm within any twelve month period.

In other words, the bank pulled Thelen’s line of credit, much like they said was not going to happen.

Most disturbingly, Thelen apparently does not think it is obligated under federal regulations:

Although not necessarily required, Thelen is seeking to pay its employees 60 days salary under federal and state WARN Acts. The firm is also seeking to pay all accrued vacation pay. The response to date from the bank is that it will fund employee salary through Nov. 30, but will not pay accrued vacation pay. Both of these issues are still under discussion.

We’ll see how that flies in court, which is undoubtedly where this will end up.

Read the full press release after the jump.

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Thelen LLP new logo.jpgAfter yesterday’s news that Thelen Chairman Stephen O’Neal was in talks to move to Howrey, the Thelen partnership met today.

That meeting is still ongoing, but early reports are that a partnership committee recommended dissolution to the full partnership.

The firm has been maintaining that they had a plan that would avoid dissolution ever since their proposed merger with Nixon Peabody fell through.

Update (5:05): As we understand it, Thelen has two different options from this point.

Option 1 is the plan they have arguably been pursuing: breaking up the firm practice group by practice group to interested parties. As we reported yesterday, this is the best option to save associate jobs. However, that plan is dependent on Thelen’s banks signing-off on the plan and maintaining their line of credit. Did Stephen O’Neal’s aggressive and ultimately public pursuit of his own lifeboat at Howrey scuttle that option? Once everybody is told that the managing partner could be leaving in ten days, why would other potential suitors compete for full Thelen practice groups? Instead, it’s easier to wait for an official dissolution and cherry-pick the rainmakers. This is what happened to Heller.

Option 2 is essentially what happened to Heller. If the full partnership accepts the recommendation and dissolves, this would likely trigger the WARN Act. As we know from the Heller situation, employees are entitled to 60 days notice. Many people predicted that Thelen would move to dissolve this week, last week one tipster told us that Thelen wanted to wrap up their operations before the end of the year. If true, that all but necessitates an official dissolution announcement this week. But, as Heller teaches us, just because you get 60-days warning doesn’t mean you get 60-days pay. We know that various Thelen associates were told that this type of dissolution was not going to happen. But … it appears to be happening.

Click here for Thelen’s official press release.

Thelen Launches Dissolution Vote [LegalPad]

Earlier: Weebles Wobble, But Does Thelen Fall Down?

locke lord logo.JPGWith all the attention focused on the 2009 summer class, and current associates getting laid-off, and full service law firms dissolving, we’ve kind of lost sight of the 2008 summer class. Many of them have still not made a decision about their future employment.

We’ve received reports from multiple tipsters that say Locke Lord’s Houston office made offers to less than 50% of their summer class:

I thought you should know that [Redacted] Locke Lorde in Houston, TX only extended offers to 14/30 of their 2L summer associates – including no-offers to some who had spent their 1L summer with them.

As we understand it, 27 of those summers were 2Ls.

Apparently the relationship between Locke Lord and their 2008 summers was one of mutual unhappiness. We’ve been told that of the 14 offers, only four have been accepted at this point.

You’d expect a little better than 4 out of 14 in this market.

A “profile” of one of the summers that did receive an offer after the jump.

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kramer levin logo.JPGThis is not the best time to be losing Bankruptcy rainmakers. But according to the ABA Journal, that is exactly what is happening to Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel. The three partners are: David Feldman, Eric Wise and Matthew Williams. David Feldman was formerly the co-chair of Kramer Levin’s bankruptcy group.

Gibson Dunn’s press release heralding the new hires reinforced the trio’s rainmaking capacity:

“This group has an established practice and a tremendous reputation in the distressed debt arena and will give Gibson Dunn a strong foundation in this growing area,” said Michael Rosenthal, Co-Chair of the Business Restructuring and Reorganization Practice Group.

Update (3:51): As many commenters pointed out, bankruptcy superstar Luc Despins is leaving Milbank for Paul Hastings. According to the National Law Journal:

Luc A. Despins, well-known in the profession for his representation of the creditors’ committee in the bankruptcy of Enron Corp., is the latest marquee name to be poached as firms rush to ramp up restructuring practices in response to the worsening economy.

According to our sources at Milbank, no associates will be leaving with Despins. The firm could not be reached for immediate comment.

Bankruptcy lawyers are the new IP attorneys. They’re very much in demand.

Kramer Levin Bankruptcy Trio Jumps Ship to Gibson Dunn [ABA Journal]

Top Milbank Bankruptcy Partner Leaves for Paul Hastings [Law.com]

Gibson Dunn Adds Three-Partner Bankruptcy and Distressed Debt Group in New York [Gibson Dunn]

Scarlet Pumpkin Sign.jpgWe previously discussed Maryland’s Halloween sex offender ordinance, which requires convicted sex offenders to turn off their lights and display the sign (shown to the right) warning children to stay away on Halloween.

Missouri has a similar law. They require sex offenders stay inside between 5 and 10:30 p.m., prohibits them from participating in Halloween related activities, and wants them to turn down the lights and post a “no candy here” sign.

According the WSJ Law blog, District Judge Carol Jackson struck down parts of the law yesterday. In particular, the judge was concerned with the vagueness of the law:

Apparently, Judge Jackson was concerned that in some cases, parents could be punished for Halloween activities with their own children, such as “carving a pumpkin in the privacy of your kitchen with your 5-year-old child.” She questioned whether such parents might have to send their kids away on Halloween to avoid prosecution. “It’s not too much to expect criminal laws to be clear,” she said.

The judge did not note what many of our commenters already have: telling sex offenders to turn down the lights is a terrible idea.

Seriously, the whole thought process behind trampling civil liberties requiring these extra regulations for convicted sex offenders is the fear about sex offender recidivism. If we are truly worried that sex offenders are ticking time bombs waiting to explode all over little children, shouldn’t their houses remain well-lit at all times?

Also, why should sex offenders be forced to stay home on Halloween? It seems like a great time for them to fulfill their Megan’s Law requirements, just like Will Forte suggested.

Halloween & the Law: Targeting Sexual Offenders [WSJ Law Blog]

Earlier: The Scarlet Pumpkin

economy freezes over.JPGA firm-wide memo from Charlie O’Neil, managing partner of Chadbourne & Parke, announced that the firm was instituting a legal and non-legal hiring freeze in response to the economic downturn.

The lengths O’Neil went to try and bury this important piece of firm information are slightly amazing. The firm-wide email was entitled “How Are We Doing?” and the first 4 paragraphs read like the “Yay Us” emails we’ve seen from firms like DPW and STB.

However, in the sixth paragraph, O’Neil gets to the part where he talks about keeping control over firm expenses:

That said, expenses have been under constant review and we have taken a number of steps to better position us for the remainder of this year and next. Among the more significant is the decision to delay much of the planned technology upgrade. We recognize the need to improve technology and certain of the more important upgrades will continue. Others, including the upgrade to new desktop computers and software, will be postponed. We will review this decision in 2009 as the economic picture becomes clearer. Should conditions improve we will begin the upgrade sometime in 2009; otherwise it will be delayed until 2010. We will be issuing new guidelines pertaining to controls over Firm business expenses, including travel. We will also more closely monitor and limit certain other expenses which in a more robust economy might otherwise be acceptable We have also instituted a freeze on hiring legal and non-legal personnel. To the extent a practice area has need of additional legal personnel, we will seek to temporarily shift lawyers from a less-busy practice area to assist, rather than hiring laterally. We will take the same approach with non-legal personnel and departments. We welcome your thoughts on other cost saving measures.

Catch that? I bet O’Neil hopes you didn’t.

More after the jump, including the full Chadbourne memo and the firm’s response.

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Adventures In Burying The Lead”

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