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Phoenix X.jpg* Confused about how to handle new problems in 2009? Don’t forget to send your questions in to Pls Hndle Thx via advice@abovethelaw.com.

* Does running a legal blog help generate business? Probably not … [Drug and Device Law]

* A juror was dismissed for smelling really bad. What is really crazy is that the defendant appealed his conviction on the basis of the dismissed juror. I don’t even have a joke here. [Legal Blog Watch]

* … Overweight jurors, on the other hand, pose different sorts of problems and benefits. [What About Clients?]

* Paul Caron has an interesting way to win the war on laptops. It involves making class (gasp) more interesting. [TaxProf Blog]

* Remember you can see David Lat live on the West Coast Tuesday and Wednesday night. I bet he’s warm … [Above the Law]

* Biglaw has certainly figured out the self immolation part of the Phoenix story. The re-birth part? Blawg Review weighs in. [Build a Solo Practice via Blawg Review]

* If you’ve already voted for ATL over at the 2008 Weblog Awards, thanks! If you’d like to vote again, nobody is stopping you. [2008 Weblog Awards]

Roland Burris ATL Lawyer of the Day.jpgIllinois, your long senatorial nightmare is over. Senate Democrats will seat Roland Burris. The Politico reports:

In a statement issued after a 45-minute meeting between Senate officials and Burris’ lawyers, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Burris is now the senator-designate from Illinois after the secretary of the Senate approved his latest credentials.

“Accordingly, barring objections from Senate Republicans, we expect Senator-designee Burris to be sworn in and formally seated later this week,” the statement said. “We are working with him and the office of the Vice President to determine the date and time of the swearing-in.”

Is this the Congressional equivalent of cleaning your room by sweeping things under the rug?

Two Senators to go. Will it be Franken or Coleman? Will it be Kennedy or Cuomo? What’s your take?

Dem senators to swear in Burris [Politico]

Earlier: Lawyer of the Day: Roland “Self-proclaimed Trail Blazer” Burris

Purple line DC legal battles.jpgIn a former life, I did a lot of coverage on Michael Bloomberg’s controversial “congestion pricing” plan for New York City. If you spend any length of time with transit policy — and don’t otherwise have a life — you’re going to find transit policy fascinating. It touches on law, politics, the environment and city planning.

It looks like Sidley Austin attorneys are getting a taste of this great work. The firm is working on behalf of a town which is trying to stop Washington, D.C.’s proposed “Purple Line.” I won’t bother you with the ins and outs of the Purple Line project (light rail versus buses!). But it’s particularly interesting that Sidley is representing the town of Chevy Chase, and the firm is working pro-bono.

When you think of disadvantaged clients in need of free legal services, you don’t really think of the well-to-do town of Chevy Chase do you? According to a press release from Action Committee for Transit:

The town has also engaged the nationally prominent law firm Sidley Austin to represent it

in the transit dispute. Sidley Austin has submitted to the Maryland Transit Administration an extensive request for information, much of which duplicates an informal request previously submitted by Columbia Country Club.

At present, the town’s lawyers are working “pro bono”–without payment. However,

Sidley Austin’s web site states that the firm’s pro bono work is done “to provide legal services to the poor and to charitable, religious, community, governmental and educational organizations that otherwise would be unable to afford legal representation.” The town can easily afford to pay for legal services. Its most recent financial statement shows it has $4.4 million tucked away in the bank–more than its entire annual budget of $3 million.

In these tough economic times, maybe the firm shouldn’t be giving away services for free when the client could pay? But it’s important to remember that pro bono work isn’t just about work a client can pay, it’s also about doing work that nobody will pay for.

Does Chevy Chase fit into that broader category? More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Should Ability to Pay Have Anything to do with Pro Bono Work?”


pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgWhile many firms announced their decisions to freeze 2009 salaries at the end of 2008, a few waited until now to make up their minds.

Memos went out before the first paychecks of the year to associates at Atlanta-based Alston & Bird and Washington, D.C.-based Hogan & Hartson. Alston’s is a Slurpee freeze with the firm saying it may “revisit” the decision at an unspecified time this year. Hogan’s is a Solid Ice freeze; salaries are locked at 2008 levels throughout 2009.

The language of these memos has become fairly uniform– a jumble of “economic downturn,” “challenging,” “distress,” and “2009 may really suck for us.” Okay, maybe not the last phrase, but that’s the gist. Check out the memos, after the jump.

We’ve also received word that Schulte Roth & Zabel has frozen salaries until further notice, but the language leaves hope for a decision in the near future for a raise:

The firm has not yet made any decision with respect to associate salaries for 2009. We expect a decision will be made in the next few weeks, and any change will be retroactive to January 1.

Not all firms are bracing themselves for a difficult 2009 by freezing salaries. In response to our requests for salary raise information, we heard back from associates at Cleary; Stoel Rives; Perkins Coie‏; Fried Frank; Irell; and Schiff Hardin. A host of others are named in Firms that have not frozen, a post in the ATL Community section.

Memos from Alston, Hogan, and Schulte about frozen salaries, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Freeze Watch: Brrr! Things are getting chilly beneath the Mason-Dixon Line”

Cahill Gordon logo.jpgWe are now ready to confirm some of the reports flying around the internet about layoffs at Cahill Gordon. We now have multiple tipsters who work at Cahill who can confirm that there were significant layoffs at the firm last Thursday.

Our tipsters don’t know the numbers of cuts — and the firm has rebuffed our repeated requests for comment on the story — but some tipsters report that as many as ten percent of associates were let go.

The timing of last week’s cuts seemed to rankle some of our sources. On Wednesday, Cahill announced Half-Skadden bonuses. But on Thursday associates were called in for their “annual review” and told that they were being let go … and that they would not be receiving the 2008 bonuses the firm announced the day before.

As we understand it, first and second years were spared. But everybody else was fair game.

Working all of 2008 and still not getting a 2008 bonus has to sting. But the firm did give a 3 month severance package.

Still, the firm apparently doesn’t want to talk very much about their decision to fire people without giving them their bonuses. Tipsters weigh in after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: Cahill Gordon”

Texas flag over bonus money.jpgThe outlook for Texas based law firms is … bright? Texas Lawyer today reports that most top Texas firms are paying associates 2008 bonuses on par with what they received in 2007:

Lawyers with most of the firms say the 2008 associate bonuses are similar, or at the same level, as the bonuses the firms paid to their associates for 2007.

Vinson & Elkins is one of the firms that could be paying Texas associates a bigger bonus than New York associates.

In fact, Texas lawyers seem positive about the future of the Texas market:

[T. Michael] Wilson’s prediction for 2009 echoes that of the other managing partners. “We are guardedly optimistic,” he says. “Who knows what the next six months will bring in terms of the economy and the practice of law?”

That’s a lot different than what is coming out of New York. Remember this nugget from the Cravath bonus memo:

Given the uncertainty of the economy and the business climate going forward, we will not be able to address the issue of whether there will be any year-end bonuses in 2009 until this time next year. However, associates should be prepared for the likelihood that the economy and the Firm’s financial performance next year will not show a significant improvement over this year and they may receive significantly reduced or no year-end bonuses next year.

Better bonuses, lower cost of living, and great barbeque … Texas is looking very competitive isn’t it?

2008 Associate Bonuses at Large Firms in Texas on Par With 2007 [Texas Lawyer]

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of associate bonuses

Really, it brings a new definition to the phrase “gilded cage.” The judge today denied a prosecutor’s request to revoke Madoff’s bail.

It’s pretty hard to convince a judge that a 70 year old man whose apartment is guarded by a phalanx of news reporters that jail is the only way to “protect the community.”

For more coverage on Madoff’s “genius” ponzi shenanigans, check Dealbreaker.

Madoff: Bail, No Jail [Dealbreaker]

ATL 2008 in review.jpgThis is the last in our series of Top Law School Stories of 2008. We gave you law students of the year, the most important law school trends, and best law school listservs of 2008. To round out the series, we’re declaring three schools our Law Schools of the Year.

This is not a U.S. News and World Report ranking. We chose these three schools based on their conduct as institutions in 2008 and the actions taken by their administrators. One school is down South, another is in the windy midwest, and the last is in New England. Check them out, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Top Law School Stories of 2008 (Part 4): Law Schools of the Year”

funny-pictures-your-cat-totally-has-too-much-free-time2.jpgBack in November, we asked you to predict what your hours would look like for 2008, and we reported some worrisome results:

This year, the mighty have fallen, and so have their hours. While roughly 56% of associates still expect to hit at least 2000 hours in 2008, the number reaching 2200 is expected to fall from 35% to about 21%.

Meanwhile, the number of associates who won’t even make 1800 hours has roughly doubled, rising from 9.86% to 19.54%. Almost one in twelve associates don’t even expect to make 1600 hours, way up from 3.29% a year ago. (Remember, these numbers exclude stub years.)

But as gloomy as those results were, many commenters expected a much more dire view:

These reported hours seem WAAAAAAYYY high. People here are averaging maybe 80-110 hours per month. I myself would be happy to hit 1200 or 1300 by year-end.

 

These numbers are still too high. Everyone I talk to at my firm and others is super slow in corporate. The fact that only signle digits are below 1600 for almost all class years is suspicious. People hitting 1400 are having an above average year at many firms.

 

If I hit 1100, it’ll be a miracle (and a shitty Christmas).

Oh, and my small corporate group at a satellite office is looking at a range of approximately 700 – 1200. I think the group will likely be getting smaller…

 

Um, some of us are padding our hours and are still coming in at under 1600. There was literally no work for months, though things have picked up somewhat in the past couple of months.

And, let’s face it, you know last year’s billable hours must have been awful if the presiding partner of Cravath wants to scrap the system.

So, now that 2008 has come to an end, let’s see if last year’s predictions hold true. Today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey will focus on what your billable hours actually were.

Update: This survey is now closed. Click here to see the results.

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

Sports and the law Edelman.jpg[Ed Note: ATL is happy to welcome back Marc Edelman, sports-law professor/sports-law blogger. Marc will be giving ATL readers his take on the sports-law issues of the day on an ad-hoc basis.]

Sports executives are supposed to be shrewd. They are supposed to be savvy. They are supposed to follow sound legal advice, and they are not expected to write smoking gun emails.

Some big-name sports executives, however, keep fouling this up.

Last Thursday, Portland Trailblazers president Larry Miller sent an email to the other 29 NBA teams, asking them not to sign free agent forward Darius Miles. Miller sent this email because he did not want to incur the salary cap hit that would have been triggered if Miles plays in two more games this season. (For more details, see here).

According to various sources, Miller’s email was filled with legal banter such as claims that if any NBA team signed Miles, it would breach a “fiduciary duty as an NBA joint venturer,” and “tortiously interfer[e] with the Portland Trail Blazers’ contract.”

As a matter of law, however, Miller’s claims are bizarre, if not outright bogus. There is no fiduciary duty amongst NBA teams that forbids them from competing vigorously in the free agent market. In addition, there is no active player contract between a free agent player such as Miles and his former team.

Even more disturbing than these outlandish legal claims, however, is that Miller’s email seems to invite NBA teams to boycott Miles’s services. This reading of Miller’s email places the Blazers at risk of facing an antitrust lawsuit under Section 1 of the Sherman Act or a labor grievance under the anti-collusion provisions in the NBA collective bargaining agreement (Major League Baseball owners got into trouble for similar misconduct in the late 1980s) (pdf).

After the jump, more sports executives behaving badly.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Sports and the Law: Sports Executives Say The Darndest Things”

firefighter.jpg

* Law firm Thompson Wigdor & Gilly has moved in to a loft that looks more like a start-up than a law firm. Their light, spacious, white leather studded office doesn’t fool anyone….or does it? [The New York Times]

* SCOTUS will hear a major reverse discrimination case brought by white fire-fighters who say they were not promoted because of their race. [The Christian Science Monitor]

* A South African appellate court reinstated corruption charges against Jacob Zuma, the leader of the ruling party and probable next president. [The New York Times]

* U.S. government regulators are urging Citigroup to replace chairman Winfried Bischof in hopes that it will restore investor confidence in the bank. [International Herald Tribune]

* Los Angeles litigator William W. Vaughn, who defended Dan Rather against slander in 1983, died last week. [Los Angeles Times]

* New York judge Ronald Ellis will decide today whether to revoke Madoff’s bail and send him to prison. Ellis has made thousands of bail rulings including a case involving a French acrobat whose paraglider got caught on the Statue of Liberty’s torch. [Bloomberg.com]

* Thanks to ATL’s night and weekend readers, we’re making a surge in the 2008 Weblog Awards. It’s time to get the morning voters involved. Remember you can vote once every 24 hours. [2008 Weblog Awards]

2008 Weblog Awards finalist badge Best Law Blog.jpgThanks to our readers, we won the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 News & Politics catagory, but things aren’t looking so hot for ATL right now in the Best Law Blog contest of the Weblog Awards. Our friends at the Volokh Conspiracy, a most excellent legal blog, are killing us (and everyone else).

Alas, we didn’t focus on the contest until it was well underway. Because you can vote multiple times — once every 24 hours, until the contest ends on Tuesday, January 13, at 5 p.m. (EST) — we probably should have launched a “get out the vote” effort earlier.

Based on the voting so far, it looks like many of you haven’t noticed the contest yet. But there are still a few days left before the voting closes. If you’re the kind of person who likes to vote on things over the internet, please send the Weblog Awards crew our kind regards. Happy Friday!

Best Law Blog [2008 Weblog Awards]

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