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sweet hot justice logo.jpg[Ed. Note: The following piece was authored by "The Legal Tease" of Sweet Hot Justice fame. You can check out all of Legal Tease's other evocative musings from Sweet Hot Justice here.]

You know this guy, you do. Every Big Firm has at least one. You started hearing the lore about him your first week at the firm and you admit that you were part intrigued, part terrified. You’ve seen him in passing in the halls, usually after most of the firm has emptied out after dark. Perhaps you’ve even tried to speak to him, only to be met with a distinct lack of eye contact and a half-snort as he scuttled away. He’s more socially awkward than any mental patient, not fit for human–no less client–interaction. But, word on the street–and that word’s always mentioned in hushed, reverential tones–is that he’s brilllliant. Like, crazy genius smart. That’s why the firm keeps him around. The brilliance. He’s the resident Big Firm Savant. And I’m here to tell you first-hand, the whole “genius” thing is a complete and total fraud.

How do I know this? Because I’ve spent the last two weeks holed up on an idiot fire drill deal that’s never going to materialize with not one, but two of my firm’s rumored Big Firm Savants.

One, of course, is our old friend, Glenn, who has the twin distinctions of having billed more hours than any other associate four years running and not having made eye contact since 1993. The other is Russ. Russ, a corporate equity partner whose book of business is rivaled in magnitude only by his lack of a personality. Or emotional range. Or ability to speak in a voice that doesn’t sound like he was recently plugged back into the Matrix.

Still, when I found out I’d be working with Russ, I figured it wasn’t necessarily all bad. Sure, I’d have to spend part of the holidays working on a dead-end deal led by a robot with lip chap the size of glaciers and a leadership style that rivals Ted Kaczynski’s. But on the upside, I’d finally get an inside look at how true legal genius works. I’d be working side-by-side two infamous Big Firm Savants. I’d experience the brilliance.

And most intriguing of all, I’d witness firsthand the rumored way that Russ supposedly “comes alive” in front of clients–because that’s part of the legend of Russ, of all Big Firm Savants: They’re corporate mole people around the office, but stick ‘em in front of a client and bam, they “come alive.” They shed their awkwardness and stun anyone within billing distance with artfully delivered soliloquies of razor-sharp legal analysis worthy of the whitest shoe. They shine. They must, right?

Wrong.

Read more about Big Russ and Glen after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Genius Like No Other”

clifford_chance.gif* Global Layoff Watch: Clifford Chance to cut as many as 80 attorneys in its London office. [Bloomberg]

* Deloitte partner and tax attorney Steven Klig tried to blackmail the woman with whom he was having an affair. He wanted nude photos of her and threatened to send their sex videos to her family, blurring his own face, of course. She went to the FBI, and now he’s the one getting all the publicity, as well as being charged with extortion and harassment. [New York Post via Gothamist]

*What to do with Roland Burris? The Wall Street Journal’s political editors provide an excellent round-up of Burris options and the Senate Democrats’ missteps. [Political Perceptions/Wall Street Journal]

* Potential Lawsuit of the Day: A skier in Vail has quite a case based on these photos. [Smoking Gun]

* Courthouse News Service has Norm Coleman’s complaint [PDF] in the Minnesota Senate race against Al Franken. If Coleman wins by one vote, he can thank convicted felon Eric Willems. [Minnesota Star Tribune]

pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgThe new year is shaping up to be a cold one. As we noted in our 2008 Year in Review series, one of the biggest stories heading into 2009 has been that of the salary freeze. Rather than instituting lock-step raises for associates entering a new class year, a number of firms have informed associates that their salaries will remain at 2008 levels.

There have been two types of freezes: the “Solid Ice freeze”–with salaries frozen through all of 2009–and the “Slurpee freeze”–where firms are sticking with 2008 levels for now, but promise to revisit the decision later in the year.

Many an ATL reader has requested a round-up, and we aim to please. So find your pleasure, after the jump. Some of the firms have been reported on before, and some are new.

If you know of other frozen firms, send us an e-mail at tips@abovethelaw.com with the subject, “Salary Freeze: FIRM NAME.” Also, if your firm has raised salaries as expected, feel free to send us the news, with the subject “Salary Raise: FIRM NAME.” While freezes are news, raises as expected aren’t, so we will not be covering firm by firm, but we may do a round-up.

Find the list of the sixteen firms that have frozen, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Salary Freeze Round-up: The Firms on Ice”


blawg100_2008_winner_news.JPG* Thanks to all the readers who chose Above the Law as their favorite law blawg for news & politics for the second year in a row! [ABA Journal]

* Let’s keep the good times rolling. It’s time to vote in the 2008 Weblog Awards. [Weblog Awards]

* It was only a matter of time before firms took freezing to the next level. [Litination]

* Career opportunities in media law and legal journalism. Trust me, it’s great work if you can get it. [Law & Journalism]

* Just to be clear, it is possible to be an attorney, a congressperson, and an African-American, all at the same time, without being appointed by Governor Helmet Hair. [On Being A Black Lawyer]

kirkland ellis logo.JPGKirkland & Ellis has asked a number of non-equity partners to leave, multiple sources report. The timing is unclear, but they may have up to six months to pack their things.

The number of laid-off non-equity partners — or “non-share partners,” in K&E parlance — is believed to hover somewhere between 15 and 25. Some are in litigation and some in corporate, but we understand that all of those let go are in Kirkland’s Chicago office.

A tipster points out:

All were told it’s because [of] performance, but most were considered fine lawyers and rated with or above their class each year.

Kirkland & Ellis spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment by the time of this posting.

It’s important to remember that Kirkland & Ellis has a fairly large class of non-equity or income partners. Kirkland uses the “non-share partner” classification liberally, and they tend to make more lawyers “partners,” at earlier stages in their careers. Some K&E “partners” would be senior associates at other firms.

Kirkland also paid out Cravath-level bonuses. When Kirkland announced their bonuses, many commenters opined that bonuses were better than layoffs and that K&E would not do layoffs.

But it looks like Kirkland has had to do some more belt-tightening as the economy continues to tumble. While laying off partners is unusual, it’s not unheard of; last fall, Jenner & Block axed 10 partners (both equity and non-equity).

Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Kirkland & Ellis Pays Cravath Scale

Prior ATL coverage of layoffs

Clifford Chance LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgClifford Chance leadership to the rank-and-file partnership: “Partners, spread the wallets, so we can smell the juicy insides.”

Associates, we feel your pain: slashed bonuses and salary freezes are bad news. But things could be worse: imagine having to pay your firm for the privilege of working there:

[A]s a Christmas “bonus” this year, partners at Clifford Chance were each required to make a capital contribution of £100,000 (roughly $150,000). Ouch.

Through a spokesperson, Clifford Chance declined to comment. But, if true, the news would not be completely shocking. The firm has done at least two rounds of layoffs, and they paid bonuses that were down sharply from prior years (although, in fairness to CC, at market levels for 2008).

If true, Clifford wouldn’t be the only firm looking to its partners for financing. As previously discussed, because of super-tight credit markets and the high cost of borrowing, more firms are financing their operations by tapping partner wallets. See, e.g., DLA Piper (letting some income partners become equity partners, if they can cough up capital contributions of up to $150,000).

Associates: next time you complain about greedy partners slashing your pay, consider the possibility that they’re suffering too in this economy. They’re trying to safely navigate the recessionary shoals, just like the rest of us. Some of the measures they’ve been taking, like pay freezes and reduced bonuses, may just be prudent planning. Better to have a smaller paycheck than no paycheck at all.

Are you aware of other firms that are hitting up their partners for cash in these dire times? Drop us a line, by email (subject line: “[Firm Name]: Capital Contribution”). Thanks.

Earlier: Biglaw: Welcome to the Credit Crunch

Prior ATL coverage of Clifford Chance

War on Laptops

laptops war class indiana.JPGA study conducted by Indiana University found that law students are more likely than other students to use their laptops in class. The study confirms our own internal data that shows that most law students enjoy having internet access on par with what can be achieved in Ghana.

The ABA Journal smartly put the study in the context of the University of Chicago Law School’s attempts to shut down internet access in most classes, a move no doubt applauded by this guy:

Distractions posed by laptops with Internet access have prompted some law professors to ban the computers and one law school–the University of Chicago–to shut down Internet access in most classrooms.

A very wise tenured professor once said to me:

The way I see it, if my presentations are not interesting enough to capture your attendance and attention to a lecture you’ve already paid for, the fault is on me.

Needless to say, his lectures were always well attended, and I know more about the English Revolution than I could possibly need. But I digress.

Other IU laptop nuggets after the jump.

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pls hndle copy 2.jpg

Dear ATL,

I’m a 2L, and the firm I’m working for next summer sent me fairly nice and useful Christmas present. Should I write the recruiting team a thank-you note? I’m from the South, where we write thank you notes for anything and everything, but I don’t know what the New York/DC norm is and don’t want to look stupid. The firm is DC-based, and I’m splitting with their DC and NY offices.

Eternally Grateful

Dear Eternally Grateful,

Once upon a time, I was on the phone with my mom, sobbing uncontrollably over a guy who dumped me. My mother’s a no-nonsense lady, and while I blathered on and on about how I should just throw in the towel now and move to a nunnery because I’d never find anyone as amazing, she cut me off and told me, verbatim: “I didn’t want to have to tell you this, but remember how we got him that Tempur-Pedic pillow for his birthday? He never sent us a thank you card. Let that sink in.” Her words stung. What kind of person doesn’t send a thank you note to his girlfriend’s parents? A monster, that’s who.

The point is, there is a time and a place for thank you notes. If your significant other’s parents get you a birthday present, send one ASAP. But if your firm’s recruiting team sends you and everyone else in your summer class and/or firm engraved paperweights, you look ludicrous if you send a thank you back.

I’m not saying that thank you notes are never appropriate in the law firm context. On the contrary, if someone referred business to you, it’s entirely appropriate to break out the heavy stock paper with the understated paisley envelope and thank away. But cards that say “thanks for interviewing me” or a “thanks for sending me this tote bag which you sent to everybody else in the firm” is just too much thanks. Nobody should be that thankful for anything, ever.

No matter how insanely useful the stainless steel pen inscribed with the firm’s name, no matter how much you cherish that firm-emblazoned mug, you need to show yourself (and the firm) some respect by reeling in the gratitude, except when it’s appropriate.

Your friend,

Marin

Elie thanks his lucky stars after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pls Hndle Thx:
Thank You For Being A Firm”

Roland Burris ATL Lawyer of the Day.jpgThe New York Times is reporting that U.S. Senate Democrats will likely seat Roland Burris, Illinois Governer Rod Blagojevich’s pick to replace Barack Obama.

Changing course, Senate Democrats emerged from a meeting with Senate appointee Roland Burris on Wednesday and set forth the legal steps under which they’re willing to welcome him into the Senate in President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated spot.

Isn’t it great to live in a country of laws? A country where disgraced executives can openly flaunt the law yet still wield its power. This whole Senate drama has really been a great example of the power of law.

And hey, how ’bout those Democrats? They control the executive and both houses of Congress, but they sure aren’t letting “winning” go to their heads are they? No, no, no. Looks like the Invertebrate party hasn’t lost it’s talent for folding like a cheap accordion under the slightest bit of pressure:

The pleasantries and complaints were a far cry from the he-can’t-be-seated rhetoric that came from the Senate Democratic caucus a week ago when the governor shocked the party and nominated Burris, who would be the Senate’s only black member now that Obama has departed.

Neither Durbin nor Reid guaranteed Burris would be seated but the majority leader said there almost certainly would be a full Senate vote on it.

Sigh.

Reid Says Burris Might Ultimately Get Senate Seat [New York Times]

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

sokolove_james.jpgThere is a great profile in the Boston Magazine about attorney James Sokolove, a guy that advertises his legal services on T.V. so often I just assumed he didn’t actually exist.

Apparently, he does exist, but his legal services don’t, at least not in the traditional sense:

Despite his prodigious success and his omnipresent image as a bulldog attorney, Sokolove hasn’t seen the inside of a courtroom in nearly three decades. Truth be told, he’s argued only one case before a jury; it was back in the early 1970s, and he lost. It wasn’t tenacious lawyering that allowed Sokolove to build a legal empire, but rather his prowess as a businessman and an innovator. He and his staff of 80 don’t try cases; instead they connect prospective clients to other lawyers, who pay Sokolove a cut of their fees for ginning up business.

Sweet. The only thing better then an unabashed “ambulance chaser” is an unabashed ambulance chaser who doesn’t know where the courthouse is located.

But after the jump, what’s really fascinating is that this guy really does have a system.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “James Sokolove Doesn’t Fix Problems, But He Knows People Who Can”

ATL 2008 in review.jpgBad things happened in the business of Biglaw in 2008. Some people are still so scarred by the experience that they’d just as soon pretend last year never happened.

But the events that transpired in 2008 could have ramifications for the legal industry for a long time.

Our third-place story is the Biglaw salary freeze. It could be the “Shock Doctrine” of the market meltdown. Slashing bonuses during a down year is one thing, but freezing pay (or cutting pay depending on your perspective) is downright deflationary.

We’ve given a lot of “credit” to Latham & Watkins for being the most prestigious firm (according to Vault) to freeze salaries, but as commenters have pointed out, Latham wasn’t the first.

That distinction goes to Squire Sanders. When they froze salaries back on December 15th, the news was so shocking people didn’t know what to make of it. Back then, we said:

The memo below was sent to us by a tipster, with this prefatory comment: “No one really knows what the f*** the second half of the first sentence of the memo means.”

Since then, the following firms have instituted some form of a salary freeze: Orrick, Dorsey & Whitney, Reed Smith, Venable, Sidley, DLA Piper, Arnold & Porter, Sheppard Mullin, and Sonnenschein.

And those are just the ones we know about.

But it’s also important to remember which firms are not on that list. Skadden and Cravath and countless others are going ahead with the expected pay raises for rising classes. Neither Squire Sanders nor Latham set the market for associate pay. They just gave firms another option in dealing with the financial crisis.

Firms need options because you don’t want to work for a firm that is part of our number two story of the year.

Second place melts away, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Top Biglaw Stories: #3 & #2 (Business)
Firms that Froze & Firms that Melted”

Roland Burris ATL Lawyer of the Day.jpg* Yesterday’s Lawyer of the Day was snubbed by the Senate. But Democrats may reconsider if Roland Burris agrees not to compete for the seat in 2010. [Washington Post]

* …UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky says they certainly should. [Los Angeles Times]

* Adam Liptak profiles Obama’s solicitor general nominee Elena Kagan. She may not have revealed her views on unilateral executive power, but she did manage to bring harmony to the “notoriously dysfunctional Harvard Law School.” [New York Times]

* More problems for U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent, the first federal judge to be charged with federal sex crimes. More sex crime charges! [Houston Chronicle]

* Judiciary Committee Republican Sen. Arlen Specter is going to the mat over the AG nomination of Eric Holder. He questions his character and his ability “to say no instead of to say yes.” [New York Times]

* Nationwide Government Layoff Watch: The Arizona Attorney General’s Office says goodbye to 20 people. [Phoenix Business Journal]

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