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ATL 2008 in review.jpgThis morning, as part of our 2008 in Review series, we started to list the top 10 Biglaw stories of 2008. We kicked things off with the #5 story on the business side of the ledger: the trend of law firms granting more generous parental leave.

Now, on to the fun stuff: the year’s top five stories of a more gossipy nature. As we did before, we’ll start with number five and work our way up the list.

For the fifth-ranked gossip story, we actually have a two-way tie. Both stories share a common theme: sex and bad judgment.

Read about the #5 stories, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Top Biglaw Stories of 2008: #5 (Gossip)”

woman in lab coat.JPG* Is in vitro fertilization a tax-deductible medical expense? For some people, yes; for Dr. William Magdalin, it’s just fun in a cup. [Suits & Sentences]

* Is the Wendy Savage phenomenon bad for professional women? [f/k/a]

* Funny exam questions remind us that professors would rather be doing almost anything other than grading finals. [PrawfsBlawg]

* The Millennial generation is learning a hard lesson about reality, and how much it bites. [Law and More]

* Blago taps former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to fill Obama’s shoes. Will Harry Reid really refuse “this nice, experienced, elderly black gentleman a legally valid seat in the Senate”? [Wonkette]

pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgJust before Christmas, Arnold & Porter sent around an intriguing memo. The firm refused to make any decisions regarding pay in New York at all in 2009:

Associate Bonuses for Associates in All Offices Except in New York

Those of you who met the previously announced thresholds and other criteria for 2008 bonuses will be advised today (by individual e-mails) that you will be receiving these bonuses. The amounts paid will be in keeping with the levels paid in 2007.

Associate Bonuses for New York Associates

We will be announcing our 2008 bonuses for our New York associates after the first of the year. Consistent with past practices, these bonuses will be paid in 2009.

A tipster begs to differ with A&P’s institutional memory of “past practices.”

Despite his wording regarding timing of payment, the bonuses were announced in early December last year.

Just to be clear, A&P announced bonuses on December 12th last year.

Why can’t A&P make a decision on New York bonuses right now like other top 20 firms? Another tipster opines:

It is generally agreed that not announcing the bonuses in NY is totally asinine.

A&P can’t pull the trigger on associate salaries either. More on that after the jump.

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Sidley Austin new logo Sidley Austin Brown Wood ATL Above the Law blog.jpgSidley Austin just emailed all of their associates to wish them a happy New Year. How nice. How thoughtful. How … oh wait a minute. The firm also took the opportunity to inform all associates that their pay raises would be delayed until sometime next year.

The firm-wide memo from Sidley is short and to the point:

At this time of the year, we historically have provided information about class-wide and individualized salary adjustments for next year. Given the current uncertainty in the economy and financial markets, and the impact on law firms, we are still in the process of evaluating associate salary levels for 2009. We expect to make a decision on this issue sometime during the first quarter of next year.

On behalf of all of our partners, we thank you for your professionalism and dedication.

Most of our sources are out enjoying the holiday season. But our remote reporters are generally displeased.

But, as one tipster put it:

I’d still rather work at Sidley than Latham.

So there’s that.

Earlier: Sidley Austin Shows Firms How to Deal With Associates During the End Days

Associate Bonus Watch: Sidley Matches New York Market, Takes the Show to Chicago

mayer brown logo.JPGOn Christmas Eve, Mayer Brown announced its bonuses for associates in the New York office. They matched the market– no surprises there. But our tipster noted that associates at the firm are unsettled by rumors making the rounds of layoffs coming in 2009. Mayer already laid off 33 attorneys, as well as administrative staff in November.

One sentence in the bonus memo has an ominous tone that’s making Mayer associates uneasy. The memo says that bonuses will be paid January 16, 2009 but “only to associates in good standing who are employed by the firm on the date the bonus is actually paid.” From a Mayer tipster:

People are upset about the language, (“All bonuses will be paid only to associates in good standing who are employed by the Firm on the date the bonus is actually paid.”) believing it to reinforce the idea that layoffs are happening come January 5th.

Are Mayer associates overreacting to the memo language?

Firm spokesperson Bob Harris says this is the “same language that has been used for several bonus seasons.” We looked back at last year’s memo though and didn’t see a similar sentence.

UPDATE: Associates are overreacting. Harris points us to a different 2007 memo that does employ the same language.

Harris was emphatic in saying that there are “no plans whatsoever for additional layoffs” at Mayer Brown.

Rumor mongers suggest otherwise. Predictions on the practice groups to be hit with layoffs, after the jump.

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ATL 2008 in review.jpgWe’re doing a series of “2008 in Review” posts here at ATL. We’ve previously declared a Lawyer of the Year, as well as two three Law Students of the Year.

We will now announce what we view as the year’s ten biggest stories in law-firm land. We’ve divided them into two groups: the top five stories on the business side, and the top five stories on the gossip side. Collectively these stories reflect the combination of edification and entertainment that we seek to provide here at ATL. We’ll start with the #5 stories in each group and work our way up.

The year that’s about to end has been full of “business and the law” stories. Most of the news has been terrible. But it really hasn’t been all doom and gloom.

Our fifth-place story on the business end of the legal industry is objectively positive news. Read about it after the jump.

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baby devil.jpg

* SCOTUS may hear the case of a Texas woman who claims that an extreme religious group forced her to “exorcise her demons”, disturbing her so much that she later attempted suicide. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

* On Wednesday, the federal court in Manhattan will start considering information that will infect the investor’s in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Furthermore, Judge Louis L. Stanton of the U.S. District Court will consider whether people who invested in “feeder funds” with other Wall Streeters who invested in Madoff’s fund will be covered under the Securities Investor Protection Corporation–a federal fund that protects investors in cases like these. [The New York Times]

* The federal government announced a settlement over a developers who build projects on wetlands in Michigan’s Midland and Bay counties–a case that has gone on for decades. [The Chicago Tribune]

*Former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerick pleaded not guilty in a federal court to charges of tax evasion and corruption. [CNN.com]

* Store vendors angered by department store’s mark-downs may make the stores cover more of the losses. If they succeed, they could get back $ 1.2 billion from Macy’s, Saks Inc., Dillard’s, Nordstrom, Kohl’s and JC Penney. [Bloomberg.com]

* “The 6th Circuit struck down a vehicle safety law in Michigan that banned drivers from hanging any view-obstructing baubles from their rearview mirrors. [Courthouse News Service]

Heller Ehrman small logo.jpgHeller Ehrman’s bankruptcy has been a long time coming. The firm made the news official on Sunday:

Today the Dissolution Committee of Heller Ehrman LLP, in Dissolution (the “Firm”) authorized the Firm’s counsel to file a Petition for Reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. We took this step only after very careful and extensive analysis.

But the firm’s Dissolution Committee also notes:

The Dissolution Committee’s decision to conduct the continued wind down of the Firm under the jurisdiction of the Bankruptcy Court was not prompted by the Firm running out of money. On the contrary, thanks to the dedication and tireless efforts of the Firm’s remaining employees who comprise the Liquidation Team, the cooperation of the Firm’s former shareholders, and the positive responses received from hundreds of the Firm’s former clients, collection of accounts receivable over the past three months has been strong. And going forward, we continue to expect collection of tens of millions of additional dollars.

After the jump, we post the full Heller memo and check in with Thacher Proffitt.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Anatomy of a Dissolution: Heller Files for Bankruptcy, Thacher Proffitt WARNS People to Come to Work”

nightmare before christmas jack small.jpg* Wow, lawyers really can suck the fun out of anything. It’s … kind of hilarious. [TaxProf Blog]

* A new video game lets you throw snowballs at Sarah Palin. It’s run by PETA, so let’s just be happy that we’re talking about snowballs and not vats of baby cow blood. [Animal Law Blog]

* Top Ten celebrity lawsuits of 2008. [Popsquire]

* It’s the best Blawg Reviews of 2008. [Blawg Review]

Hiring anybody.JPGA couple of weeks ago, we told you that a small firm based in Nassau County (Long Island) was trying to add an associate off of Craigslist — for the bargain basement price of $36K – $42K.

The position hasn’t been filled yet, but there is apparently a lot of competition for the job. From the firm’s latest Craigslist ad:

I will say that overall I’ve been impressed with the creative cover letters and the excellent resumes. In any event, we haven’t contacted anyone yet, so don’t be alarmed by our silence. Enjoy the holidays. Relax with family and friends, remember what is important. Next year will be better. Now I do need to say, if we do not call you in, please understand that it is not a reflection on you, we’re a small firm and we only have one opening. I’ve received resumes from at least thirty five attorneys (and a few soon to be attorneys) that I would interview and hire in a heart beat, if I only had the time and the openings. Stay upbeat.

Relax? At the point where you are applying for $40K/year jobs over the holiday season, you are incapable of relaxing … neither is your landlord.

Of course, not all of the responses have been positive:

To the one anti – semite who thought somehow, that religion had anything to do with the salary we were offering – F*ck off – It is my Christmas wish that you remain unemployed forever, and that the closest you come to a legal job is selling Blumberg forms in a Staples.

Read the full ad after the jump. And remember, if you work in Nassau you can still live in much nicer and more economically priced Suffolk County.

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pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgThe latest news from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe will make Latham & Watkins associates feel marginally better. There is now another major firm freezing associate salaries:

After careful consideration, we have decided that associates in the US and Europe , and associates, senior consultants and consultants in Asia , will receive the same salary in 2009 as you received in 2008. Consistent with firm practice, of counsel salaries will be determined on an individual basis and generally will remain the same as 2008. We will ensure that our 2009 bonus program gives us additional flexibility to reward outstanding performance and remain competitive in the marketplace.

On the bright side, Orrick will be paying out the bonuses they promised earlier in the year:

We will pay full 2008 bonuses according to the terms of the program we announced earlier in this year.

That puts Orrick at Skadden levels. Notwithstanding the bonus news, a tipster puts the mood at Orrick like this:

:( Bummer.

Latham said that they were freezing salaries in part to avoid firing attorneys. But Orrick has already been through massive layoffs.

Is this move by Orrick an attempt to stave off even more layoffs?

Read the full Orrick memo after the jump.

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transfer student transfer law school.jpgLast May, we held an open thread about law school transfer students as second-class citizens, based on the University of Connecticut’s Maya Angelou-inspired “Phenomenal Transfer” poem. There was quite a lot of anti-transfer-student sentiment in the thread, though some former transfer students chimed in to say that they had experienced no animosity in their new homes.

For those put off by transfer students, there were three main themes in the thread:

  • Transfer students are gunners.

  • Transfer students get to skip out on the hellish first year at a top school, and then ride the curve to graduation.
  • Law schools game the system with transfer students. They get the extra tuition money and avoid hurting their US News ranking by not factoring in the GPAs and LSAT scores of transfer students.
  • Transfer students may well be gunners, but they are also being gunned… as in hunted. In “Northwestern Unapologetically Poaches 1Ls at Other Schools,” Paul Caron of the TaxProf Blog pointed us to a recent ABA Journal article that picks up on the themes of our open thread. From the Journal:

    Northwestern University Law School is actively–and unapologetically–re­cruit­­ing top-performing law students from lower-ranked schools, a practice that some deans claim is becoming commonplace at elite institutions.

    Each year, 150 or so of Northwestern’s 5,000 applicants turned down for first-year admission receive letters inviting them to apply again for “conditional acceptance” the following fall. [Ed. note: Northwestern later revised these numbers with the ABA Journal, saying they only extend 15-25 conditional acceptances each year.]

    Deans of lower-tier schools resent the predatory practice. The Journal quotes Northwestern Dean David Van Zandt as saying the poaching allegation is “probably true,” but that, “Chrysler and General Motors don’t agree not to poach each other’s customers.”

    Really, Dean Van Zandt? You’re looking to Chrysler and GM as your business role models?

    More on transfers, and a look at the number of students bagged by top schools, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Poaching 1Ls: A new perspective on transfer students”

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