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Blackberry Crackberry Blackberries baby Above the Law blog.JPGHere’s some news that must have had many lawyers tearing out their hair (or what’s left of it). From the AP:

A major service outage afflicted users of the popular, addictive BlackBerry smart phones across the United States and Canada on Monday. Officials with AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless said BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. told them customers of all wireless carriers were affected….

Garth Turner, a member of the Canadian Parliament, said during a caucus meeting that the incident — the second widespread disruption in 10 months — was having a big impact.

“Everyone’s in crisis because they’re all picking away at their BlackBerrys and nothing’s happening,” Turner said. “It’s almost like cutting the phone cables or a total collapse in telegraph lines a century ago. It just isolates people in a way that’s quite phenomenal.”

When the Canadian Parliament grinds to a halt, you know the situation is grave.
So how were you affected by the BlackBerry outage? Were you forced to stay in the office due to an inability to receive wireless email? Did a crucial email message fall through the cracks? Did you suffer from delirium tremens, a well-known symptom of CrackBerry withdrawal?
Feel free to vent, in the comments.
BlackBerry Service Out in N. America [Associated Press]
RIM reports “critical” BlackBerry outage [Reuters]

* Musical Chairs: Law School Edition. See which (if any) of your favorite law professors, or friends of yours who are now law profs, are lateraling for greener pastures. [The Faculty Lounge via Concurring Opinions]
* We’re no longer sure what the real deal is in L’Affaire Berenson. But we’re no longer sure we care. [Starkman & Associates]
* Do you heart Huckabee Girl? We don’t blame you; she looks like Angelina Jolie. [YouTube via]
* Blawg Review #146, hosted by the Invent Blog — which is quite apropos, since today is National Inventor’s Day. [Invent Blog via Blawg Review]
* Speaking of Blawg Review, will we soon learn the identity of its anonymous editor? [Legal Blog Watch]

Infamous plaintiffs lawyer Bill Lerach just got sentenced for his role in the Milberg Weiss kickback scheme. He got the highest sentence possible under the plea agreement, which was also the sentence sought by the government: 24 months imprisonment. For more, see links below.
Random resemblance of the day: Bill Lerach and Ricky Gervais’s character-within-a-character on “Extras.” Compare this (photo accompanying story) with this (short video clip, “Are You Having a Laugh?”).
Lerach Gets Maximum Term [The Recorder via]
Breaking News: Bill Lerach Gets Two Years in Prison [WSJ Law Blog]
Are You Having A Laugh? [YouTube]

Norman Schoenfeld Allen Overy LLP Above the Law blog.jpgThe Magic Circle law firm of Allen & Overy, defendant in Schoenfeld v. Allen & Overy, has just filed its Answer (PDF). They’re hoping to make Norman Schoenfeld’s claims disappear. Schoenfeld, an observant Jewish lawyer who once worked at the firm, alleges that A&O discriminated and retaliated against him as a result of his observing the Sabbath.
We contacted the firm for comment. Here is their statement:

Allen & Overy denies all allegations of discrimination. This person’s employment was terminated based solely on performance within his orientation period, a trial period of time mandated for all employees. He also failed to disclose to Allen & Overy the fact of his previous employment at another law firm.

Our firm has a strict written policy prohibiting any form of discrimination, and we provide all new employees and partners training in both diversity awareness and harassment prevention. Over the past several years, we have also instituted live diversity training for all of our existing attorneys and managers. We will vigorously defend our proud reputation of diversity and inclusion and are confident of a positive outcome for Allen & Overy with respect to these allegations.

More discussion, including interesting information from tipsters, after the jump.
Update (5/9/08): The case is settling. See here.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Schoenfeld v. Allen & Oy-vey-ry: A&O’s Answer
(Plus more about Mark Wojciechowski)”

Ally McBeal Calista Flockhart micromini skirt miniskirt Above the Law blog.jpgAlthough many tipsters emailed us about it, we never wrote about this buzz-generating Wall Street Journal article, reporting on how many older lawyers are displeased by the overly informal, even sloppy attire of their younger colleagues. We didn’t write about it earlier because we felt preempted: the piece received lots of online attention, from such widely read outlets as the ABA Journal and the WSJ Law Blog, where it generated heavy comment traffic.
But now we have a new angle on it. Focus on these portions of Christina Binkley’s WSJ article:

[Winston & Strawn D.C. managing partner Thomas Mills] says he is partial to well-fitted Brioni suits for himself. He notes that the going rate for new associates in New York, Los Angeles and Washington is $160,000 a year — enough to buy suits while paying down school loans. Yet all too often, associates show up at work in jeans — attire that he doesn’t condone “unless it’s moving day.”

Winston & Strawn brought in a personal shopper from a local department store last year to address associates on how to shop and dress for work. Mr. Mills says that when some associates do make an effort to dress up, they seem to base their look on Hollywood. “You get the TV-woman lawyer look with skirts 12 inches above the knee and very tight blouses,” he says. “They have trouble sitting and getting into taxis.”

burka burqa burkha burqha.jpgThese remarks apparently didn’t go over too well back at Winston:

W&S DC office’s managing partner comes off as a total a**. His comments re: his custom suits are one thing. But his comments re: the way women in the office dress have created a stir….

People are seriously pissed, particularly the women. Man comes off as a total pig…. Read the article, you’ll see why.

This is prime ATL material. Firm has called impromptu associates meeting for 9:30 Monday, no topic given. But the guess is it is damage control.

The guess was correct. More about the meeting, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Time for Winston Women To Go Burqa Shopping?”

We received just over one thousand responses to last Tuesday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on politics in the workplace. Seventy-four percent of respondents reported that they discuss politics in the workplace. Eighty percent noted that associates discuss politics, and sixty-four percent said that partners discuss politics. Only thirty-eight percent said that staff members discuss politics.
While political discussion apparently fills the halls, political campaigning is less pronounced. Twenty percent of respondents said that associates at the firm had tried to convince them to vote for someone, and about fifteen percent said that an associate had asked them to contribute to a campaign. Only twelve percent of respondents said that partners had tried to swing their vote, but roughly sixteen percent reported that a partner had solicited a contribution. About sixteen percent of respondents felt that their firms encouraged them to participate in political events, either for personal satisfaction or as a rainmaking opportunity.
Barack Obama Hillary Clinton Above the Law blog.jpgDespite all the politics in the air, less than three percent of respondents felt that they needed to conform to a particular view. Eighty-two percent of respondents felt no such pressure, and about fifteen percent reported that they only felt pressure to conform around certain people. Huckabee supporters felt the most pressure, with 37% feeling pressure to conform around certain people, and another 10% feeling pressure to conform in general.
Overall, Obama supporters outnumbered both Clinton and McCain voters roughly two to one, and McCain had a better than two to one lead over Mitt Romney, who has since dropped out of the race. Only one percent of respondents heart Huckabee as a candidate. (In the “who made Mike Huckabee” vote, Chuck Norris held a slight edge over Stephen Colbert, who, in turn, outpaced Conan O’Brien almost eight to one. Most respondents, however, attributed Huckabee’s success to support by evangelical voters.)
Earlier: Featured Job Survey: Office Politics?

A Plus grade pass fail grading law school Above the Law blog.gifMost law students are well into the spring semester of law school. First- and second-year students will soon have to pick their courses for fall 2008.
Here’s a subject that may be on some of their minds: pass / fail grading. Check out this interesting article in the Stanford Daily (from last month; we came across it belatedly, while going through our 4,000-email backlog over the weekend):

In a departure from tradition, record numbers of first-year law students chose to take at least one of their first semester courses pass-fail this year.

Law students have traditionally found themselves in a bind when choosing to “3k,” the common term for pass-fail grading. Students interviewed independently described the situation repeatedly as a “prisoner’s dilemma,” referencing the archetypal problem of decisions made with imperfect information.

Choosing to be graded pass-fail, whatever one’s personal reasons, could cause problems if the student is one of only a handful of students to do so in the law school class. However, last semester somewhere between one-third and one-half of first-year students elected to take a class pass-fail, a fact which affects the way the action is perceived by others.

There was this whole issue before where employers might say it’s an oddity,” said first-year law student Chris Wells. “[From orientation onwards] a lot of us wanted to make it a real option at the law school.”

The SLS students were spurred to action by one of their peers:

First-year law student John Kimble drafted an open letter about the 3k decision and sent it to the first-year student email list on the last day students could choose their grading basis. Seeing the letter and the excitement it generated emboldened students to take the pass-fail option and also gave the student body an indication of the movement’s support.

So, ATL readers, what do you think? Is taking more courses on a pass-fail basis a smart move, or is it ill-advised? What types of courses lend themselves best to being taken pass-fail? For those of you involved in hiring — of law firm associates, law clerks, AUSAs, etc. — do you askance at transcripts with lots of pass-fail classes?
And will this trend spread to other law schools? Or is it a luxury available only to students at places like small and selective Stanford, where even academic underperformers can still land good jobs?
P.S. Stanford Law School students seem to be in the vanguard these days when it comes to taking a stand against some of the more stressful or unpleasant aspects of the legal profession. The school is also the home of Building A Better Legal Profession, a group of law students pushing to reform Biglaw. For their mission statement, click here.
First-years go pass-fail [Stanford Daily]
building a better legal profession [official website]

Oscars Academy Awards Above the Law blog.jpg* Sen. Obama sweeps weekend contests; Sen. Clinton replaces campaign manager. [New York Times]
* Lithwick on waterboarding: it’s not a good thing. [Slate]
* Union leaders reach deal in writers’ strike — in time for Oscars. [Washington Post]
* Rep. Waxman expresses concern after Clemens lawyer threatens to eat IRS agent’s lunch. [ESPN]
* Some states allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries. [CNN Video]

Kathy Rentas Kathy E Rentas Kathy B Rentas Kathy Brewer Rentas Above the Law blog.jpgA very strange story, from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (via David Markus):

A private attorney has been charged with physically assaulting a federal prosecutor in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom by shaking her hand up and down so hard that it injured her shoulder.

Kathy Brewer Rentas spent Thursday night in solitary confinement at the Miami Federal Detention Center. She was released on a $100,000 bond on Friday morning and ordered to get a psychological evaluation to see if she needs counseling or anger management training.

Jailed over a handshake. Seriously?
Update: The charges were subsequently dropped, in July 2008. See here.
Read the rest, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day Weekend: Kathy Rentas”

Tom Cruise Thomas Cruise Thomas Mapother Cruise Scientologist Above the Law blog.jpg* What’s that you say? The IRS can’t discriminate in favor of Scientologists (and against Christians and Jews)? But this is the Ninth Circuit! [TaxProf Blog]
* Is your client a Certified A**hole? Find out by using the the A**hole Client from Hell Exam (ACHE). [Electric Pulp]
* Are legal academic conferences less fabulous than they used to be? A sucky mascot, an absence of swag, and a giant pool of…. something. [PrawfsBlawg]
* Is Wesley Snipes being sentenced too late — as in after Tax Day (April 15)? And why hasn’t he paid his property taxes on his $8 million home? [Sentencing Law and Policy via TaxProf Blog]

O'Melveny Myers LLP logo Above the Law blog.jpgEarlier this month, we passed along a rumor that O’Melveny & Myers was conducting a “witch hunt” for ATL tipsters and commenters. For the record, OMM has denied the rumor (not to us, but at internal meetings).
Back in our prior post, we tossed out this hypothetical:

You’re a lawyer at a major law firm. You provide negative information about your employer to ATL and/or post a comment on ATL (or a similar message board), complaining about the terms and conditions of your employment (e.g., salaries, bonuses, fringe benefits). Your employer finds out what you did, and promptly fires you.

You’re a lawyer — a well-educated, highly-paid professional ($160K+). You are not a member of a union; your office doesn’t have one.

You want to sue your former firm for firing you. Do you have any claim that your conduct was collective activity protected under the NLRA? Might you have any other cause of action, under federal or state law?

We concluded: “Maybe our friends at Workplace Prof Blog can enlighten us?”
And enlighten us they have. One of the blog’s editors, Professor Paul Secunda, kindly sent us a wonderfully detailed analysis. After all the conflicting opinions in the hundreds of comments to our post, it was nice to receive some clarity.
Read Professor Secunda’s response, the model answer to our law school exam hypothetical, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The O’Melveny & Myers ‘Witch Hunt’: Some Answers from an Employment Law Professor”

Palau American Samoa Above the Law blog.jpgSome people clerk for the experience. And some people clerk for the experience. From an interesting article entitled “Clerks in Paradise,” which appeared in last month’s American Lawyer:

[Some go clerk for feeder judges, and some go clerk for] courts in the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and other tropical locales in the Pacific Ocean. These former United Nations trust territories have legal systems similar to those of the United States, and appeals from their courts traditionally lie with U.S. courts. Many of these territories invite American law graduates to spend a year or two working in their courts as clerks and counsel.

The pull of the Pacific can be powerful.

When Timothy Schimpf accepted a position as court counsel in Palau, a nation of more than 300 islands that became independent in 1994, he turned down a permanent job as a trademark attorney with the federal government. “It’s absolutely worth it to take a chance and go do something outlandish,” he says.

The $40,000 salary he earned in Palau wouldn’t go far in America, but life in the Pacific Islands had its perks. From Schimpf’s government-provided beachfront housing, after-work swims and kayak sessions were easy.

Sounds like a pretty sweet gig. Read more — about clerking in paradise, and about the current job market for law clerks applying to large law firms — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Clerks in Paradise? Maybe Not When It Comes To Hiring”

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