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ATL 2008 in review.jpgIn an ATL / Lateral Link survey posted on New Year’s Eve, we announced your nominees for the 2008 ATL Commenter of the Year.

Almost 1,800 of you have voted since, and several of the nominees posted their thoughts in comments to the survey post.

Nominee Jack Bauer wrote in:

It’s good to know that I still have some friends. My track record with friends isn’t exactly stellar, seeing how I shot Curtis in the throat and I’m pretty sure Tony has become a terrorist. For those of you who had to work over Christmas, don’t feel too bad, I got a weekend assignment dealing with breach of contract in the Middle East.

funny-pictures-cat-eats-baseball-players.jpgUnfortunately, the terrorists appear to have taken out Jack’s friends’ communication network. Only 81 of them were able to vote for him.

Hang in there, Jack. You may not have made it to Day 2 in our poll, but we’re still looking forward to a strong season from you in 2009.

Read on after the jump to see more of our nominees’ comments and learn the results.

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Elena Kagan 3 Harvard Law School Above the Law Elana Kagan Elena Kagen.jpgMany have speculated that Harvard Law School’s hot and high-powered dean, Elena Kagan, might be a Supreme Court nominee in an Obama administration.

Dean Kagan is one step closer to sitting on the Court. Assuming her confirmation process goes smoothly — which it surely will, given how universally adored and admired she is, by liberals and conservatives alike — Elena Kagan will soon be arguing before the SCOTUS, as the Solicitor General of the United States.

As expected, President-elect Barack Obama has selected her as his SG nominee. From a message just sent out by Dean Kagan:

I am writing to all of you – the community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Harvard Law School – to let you know that today President-elect Barack Obama will announce his intention to nominate me to serve as Solicitor General of the United States. If confirmed by the Senate, I will resign the deanship of the Law School and take a leave of absence from the faculty.

If Dean Kagan makes the jump from solicitor general to justice, it won’t be unprecedented. The justice for whom she clerked, Thurgood Marshall, served as SG from 1965 to 1967, until President Johnson appointed him to the Court.

Back in 2007, Dean Kagan lost out on the presidency of Harvard University. Near the end of the Clinton Administration, she was nominated to the Most High D.C. Circuit, but never confirmed. Is 2009 going to be her year?

The full announcement from Dean Kagan to the HLS community, after the jump.

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Pro bono awards.JPGEvery year, the National Law Journal names individual people and firms that have done outstanding pro bono work. This year perhaps more than others, it is especially important to recognize those that gave their time to charity. With the economy crumbling, there is a huge need for free legal services.

The NLJ has recognized the work done by Proskauer Rose, Holland & Knight, and Mayer Brown towards resettling Iraqi refugees:

Eric Blinderman, international legal counsel to Proskauer Rose, had gone to Iraq in March 2004 as an associate general counsel for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Later, he served as chief legal counsel and associate deputy to the Regime Crimes Liaison. In 2007, Blinderman’s firm officially became a part of The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi Refugees, a nonprofit organization founded that year to help resettle Iraqis in danger because of their affiliation with the United States. Holland & Knight had already been collaborating with the project, and Mayer Brown signed on this year.

The other big firm winner was Pillsbury Winthrop for its efforts during the election:

Firms nationwide were inspired by the historic 2008 presidential election to devote pro bono time to protecting access to the voting booth. Lawyers went to court in several states on voter access issues, most frequently to prevent a voting reform law, the Help America Vote Act, from becoming a barrier to the ballot. The law required states to match voter rolls with another database, usually the registry of driver licenses, to create a more accurate list of voters.

Read the full list of winners here. And please share your stories about other great pro bono acts in the comments.

2008 NLJ PRO BONO AWARDS [National Law Journal]

Judicial pay raise watch.jpg* The Washington Post editorial board sounds the call for a judicial pay raise, lamenting the fact that with salaries at $170k, most federal trial judges make less than Biglaw junior associates. “Increasingly cut out of contention for these important and prestigious positions are workaday lawyers most familiar with the realities of the business and legal arenas,” says The Post. [Washington Post]

* … Or maybe wannabe judges should migrate to L.A. County, where judges make $250k per year (factoring in benefits). Judges there are fighting off a Judicial Watch lawsuit that seeks to cut their pay. [Los Angeles Times]

* A Liberian immigrant tried to sneak monkey meat into New York from Africa. Judge Raymond J. Dearie rejects her faith-based objection to smuggling charges, writing that nothing in her religion “required her to abstain from truthful completion of paperwork.” [Associated Press]

* Democrat Al Franken will soon claim victory in the Minnesota Senate race, but incumbent Republican Norm Coleman will try to get the Minnesota Supreme Court to count some additional absentee ballots. This drawn-out vote counting is really impinging on the contest’s drama. Maybe they should just thumb wrestle for the seat. [Reuters]

* Gambling addictions and attorney trust funds are not a good combination. A New Jersey attorney admits to stealing $4 million from his clients to fund his love of Atlantic City slot machines. [The Star-Ledger]

pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgDLA Piper’s associates received an e-mail today at 4 p.m. about bonuses. The memo says less about bonuses though than it says about 2009 salaries. (Bonus decisions will be made later in January, as they were last year.)

The salary decision for 2009? Another major firm is getting its freeze on. Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail:

DLA Piper, because of its global platform and practice diversification, is well-positioned competitively and financially to weather this downturn, but neither we nor our clients are immune from its impacts. This difficult business environment is certain to continue in 2009, and as a matter of prudent management, the firm will not increase associate salaries for 2009 in the U.S. Associates moving to the next class year will continue to receive the same base compensation as they received in 2008.

We asked our tipster about the reaction around the office:

Well, it’s only been an hour, but I think it’s a terrible move. DLAP already has a reputation as a scrimper among the top-50 – this will not help.

At least other top-50 firms did it first. Like Latham and Orrick, this pronouncement is a definite freeze, and not a maybe-we’ll-reassess-if-things-look-brighter-later-in-the-year freeze.

Full text of the e-mail after the jump.

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ATL 2008 in review.jpgThis year, we launched a new feature on ATL: the Caption Contest. We gave you legally-themed photos and asked you to submit potential captions. We thought it was a great idea — let the readers do our work for us!

The contests proved to be widely popular. Wading through hundreds of caption submissions to bring you a top ten list was actually quite time-consuming, but not a terrible chore — lawyers and lawyers-to-be came up with some hilarious material.

Once we narrowed the lists to the top ten finalists, we let ATL readers choose the winners by voting. “Guest” may not win ATL Commenter of the Year, but certainly did come out on top in captioning. Take our most recent contest, Babies in the Corner. Out of 3030 votes, this caption won by a nose (0.8 percent):

Caption Contest 111808.JPG

Don’t move! They can’t lay us off if they don’t see us.

A look back at our three favorite caption contests, after the jump.

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smoking.jpg* Joe the Plumber finally makes it all the way to the top … tax story of 2008 at least. [TaxProf Blog]

* Apparently there’s a law firm out there that goes by the name of “Real Lawyers at Affordable Prices, Fresno.” [Legal Pad]

* If there was one place you should talk like a lawyer, I thought it would be while you were in police custody. If there were two places you should talk like a lawyer, I thought the second place would be “in court.” But maybe I’m wrong. [ABA Journal]

* Not all cigarettes have to be “light” cigarettes. This is great news for teenage smokers who still wish to distinguish themselves from far less cool adult smokers. [The Volokh Conspiracy]

ATL 2008 in review.jpgContinuing with our rundown of the top ten Biglaw stories of 2008, we reach our fourth place story on the business end of things: the dramatic reduction of associate bonuses.

Bonus news is always a big deal around these parts, and based on the way that the 2008 bonus season started, it looked like there might be a fight for control of the New York market. Skadden led off with bonuses that matched 2006 levels (or 2007 levels, minus the “special bonus” portion). At the time, Skadden wasn’t sure they’d be at the top of the market. Skadden’s bonus memo included the following language:

The Firm has historically paid its associates at the “top of the market” in their respective local markets. While we do not know what other firms will do this year with regard to paying a supplemental bonus, we believe that our bonuses this year should be limited to the year-end discretionary bonus. What we will do in the future years, will, of course, depend on business conditions at the time and competitive compensation.

There were more than a few people who thought other firms might come in above Skadden. That didn’t happen. Instead, Cravath happened.

Half-Skadden sets the market, after the jump.

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law firm associate bonus watch 2008 biglaw bonuses small.jpgLet’s start off 2009 with some good news. Litigation boutique Kasowitz Benson announced bonuses just before the New Year, and will be paying out Skadden dollars at the end of the month.

So don’t stick a fork in the New York market just yet.

Associates at Kasowitz are understandably ecstatic:

It really is a fantastic place full of extremely smart trial lawyers that sometimes litigate, as opposed to all of the other firms where litigators sometimes do trial work.

There are a couple of wrinkles. Unlike Skadden, the Kasowitz memo contains language saying that bonuses will be “up to” Skadden levels. According to the firm, individual payouts will be based on a couple of factors:

As in prior years, the above are benchmark amounts which are subject to adjustment to reflect individual performance and hours worked.

Still, our tipsters expect that most people will receive the full amount:

I have never heard of people not getting the full amounts that are stated. We are crazy busy and have been so I would say most will.

The mere opportunity to receive an above market bonus should be enough to have Kasowitz associates singing the firm’s praises well into the new year.

Read the full Kasowitz memo after the jump.

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* London-based law firm Linklaters was the leading law firm in mergers and acquisitions this year, taking the number 1 title from Sullivan and Cromwell. [Bloomberg]

* Former UK attorney general Lord Goldsmith says the UK should take in prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp if it will help the U.S. close the prison. [BBC News] Australia is not likely to take any prisoners says prime minister Kevin Rudd. The U.S. has asked a 100 countries to help clear the prison. [BBC News]

* Guinea pigs may smell bad but should you go to jail for owning one? Probationers in California could end up in jail for failing to report owning harmless pets like hamsters or goldfish thanks to a ruling by the California Supreme Court. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* A chinese court convicted 11 people for running a counterfeiting ring that “manufactured and distributed pirated Microsoft software throughout the world.” [The New York Times]

* Associates were not the only people in the legal community that were displeased with compensation this year. Federal judges lost their request to Congress for a pay raise to account for inflation. Chief Justice John Roberts says the frightfully low pay for judges threatens the quality of the court. [The Los Angeles Times]

* Life at law firms is not looking good for 2009, sorry to say. Lay-offs and lower bonuses will likely continue in the New Year. On the bright side–less work could help you meet that New Year’s resolution to go to the gym. [The Chicago Tribune]

ABA Journal Blawg 100 2008 badge.jpgDear readers, welcome to 2009. The year just ended was a difficult one, for the legal profession and for the country as a whole. Let’s hope the new year brings better news.

But will it? Take our reader poll below, and offer your specific predictions about 2009 in the comments.

If you’d like to help Above the Law get the year started on the right foot, please do us the honor of voting for us in the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 contest. Voting ends tomorrow, so this will be the last time we’ll bother you with a plug. To vote, click here.

Happy New Year!

ATL 2008 in review.jpgAs we savor the final hours of 2008, it’s time to look back at some of our favorite people this year: the commenters.

In today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, it’s time for you to pick the 2008 ATL Commenter of the Year.

Your nominees for Commenter of the Year, and select comments explaining why, are as follows:

nomnomnomno128391045611718750.jpg1. Count Layoffula

One! One Reason!


six. six times he has made me laugh aloud


Turns the frightening inevitability of layoffs into a moment for comedy; not easy to do. Very clever idea, keeps character, funny as hell. Wildly popular on this board. Hands down the Commenter of the Year.

2. Douche Patrol

He’s the only commenter that gives a sense of order to the otherwise chaotic commentary. His commentary is also always dead-on.


Because guys in my high school used to vote for FRAT STUD all the time. It was no big deal.

4. Fraternity Lothario

Hilarious, dry, terrific writer. Captures both the essence of ridiculous, in-joke ATL commenting while bringing genuine criticism to the issue of every post. As long as you give the award to the guy who burned up the comments all spring, then left (on a sailing trip? to become a pirate?) this summer with a formal farewell, you would be giving the award to a commenter whose work is Oscar-worthy.


Although his posts have been less frequent, no one is more eloquent (e.g. ATL EIC) while comically germane.

5. Glass Cock

avatar is amusing, and attitude rocks

6. Guest

The most insightful and informed comments are consistently made by Guest. Everything else is trash.


Most comments, most firsts, most everything. Guest rocks.

7. Jack Bauer

He’s funny without being offensive or annoying. In the words of the ATL editor “consistently brilliant.” Finally, do you think that it’s a coincidence that when the legal industry is facing it’s darkest hour, Jack is back?


I don’t know any other person who would take the LSATs, apply and go to law school, purely to infiltrate BIGLAW to get information leading to the takedown of a suspected traitor to this nation.

8. Nervous T-10 1L

Personifies the economic doom and fear among law students. Also kinda funny.


he’s the post-modern Loyola 2L of the apocolypse

9. Commenter 83 in the interview horror stories thread.

“Where I remain to this day.” Priceless!

Technically, commenter 83 was actually “Guest,” but it wouldn’t be an official ATL reader poll if we didn’t give Guest an opportunity to comment about the unfairness of the poll. Also, that comment really was . . . something.

Having a hard time deciding? It’s no big deal. We’ve selected some of the choicer comments from our candidates to help you decide.

Unfortunately, we really couldn’t put some of them above the fold. Some are pretty crude, and Glass Cock’s is far too long. [Ed Note: That's what she said.]

So, keep reading after the jump to see some of the nominees’ exemplary comments, and then cast your vote.

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