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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]

Alex Kozinski David Lat.jpgSometimes readers complain that Above the Law focuses too much on the East Coast. Since our headquarters is here in New York, and since we lived in Washington from 2006 to 2008, we may have an East Coast bias.

But we do try to run a national legal news site. Even if we’re physically located in New York, wherever two or more lawyers are gathered in our name, there we are.

In recent months, we’ve been making a conscious effort to do more for the West Coast. For example, we’ve started posting — later in the day, to account for the time difference — material aimed at a West Coast / California audience.

And next week we’ll be in L.A., to participate in three events (all kindly sponsored by the Federalist Society). One is with a leading light of the federal judiciary, and another is with a top law professor/blogger. Here are the details:

1. A Judge in Full: Personality and Jurisprudence

When: Tuesday, January 13, 12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

Speakers: The Honorable Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, Ninth Circuit; David Lat, Founder, Above the Law

Where: Omni Hotel, 251 South Olive Street, Los Angeles

MCLE Credit: One Hour

Cost: $38 if paid in advance; $40 if paid at the door. Public employees, students and law clerks may pay the discounted rate of $15.

2. Cocktail Reception with David Lat

When: Tuesday, January 13th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Where: Bel Air Bar and Grill, 662 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles

MCLE Credit: No. This will not be educational in the least — just gossip and booze.

Cost: Cash bar. Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served. YUM.

3. How Bloggers Changed the Legal World

When: Wednesday, January 14, 12:45 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Speakers: Professor Stephen Bainbridge, Warren Professor of Law, UCLA; David Lat, Founder, Above the Law

Where: UCLA Law School, Room 1357

Cost: Free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided.

Please come to any or all of these events. We look forward to seeing you!

A Judge in Full: Personality and Jurisprudence [Federalist Society - Los Angeles Lawyers Chapter]

How Bloggers Have Changed the Legal World [Facebook]

Two Events / One Day with Chief Judge Kozinski and David Lat [Facebook]

foxwoods the place of dreams.JPG* At least one person got this right, Obama’s Kagan hire helps Yale. A bunch. [Holy Hullabaloos]

* Paul Michel, Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit, actually explains the law. He wants it to be better. [Intellectual Property Colloquium]

* The smell of marijuana is the smell of freedom from tyranny. Or it’s the smell of involuntary incarceration. It really depends on where you live. [Underdog]

* God, does anybody else remember when Wesley Snipes was kind of cool? “We should have gotten a live chicken.” “Jeffrey Dahmer? I love that guy!” “This thing is bigger than Nino Brown. This is big business. This is the American way.” [TaxProf Blog]

* I remember 3L year. I went to Foxwoods on my way from NYC back to Boston and won a ton of money at craps. I was in the Parody. And then my parents came to watch me graduate. I’m told other things happened as well. What a great year. [Ridiculum]


law firm associate bonus watch 2008 biglaw bonuses.jpgSonnenschein is the latest firm to adopt a creative approach to associate compensation during the financial crisis. The firm announced bonuses that can go much higher then their peer firms, but also announced a salary freeze.

First the bonus news:

We are pleased to announce that Associate productivity bonuses for 2008 range from $10,000 to $70,000. The Policy and Planning Committee has approved the attached bonus schedule which, as we have discussed during recent Firmwide Associate meetings, remains unchanged from last year and includes a step up for seniority. These bonus levels will result in some of our Associates receiving significantly higher bonuses than their peers at many of the firms with whom we compete for talent and clients, and reflect our strong belief that it is important to recognize and reward our most productive Associates.

You don’t often see a firm go the “significantly higher bonuses than their peers” language. Clearly, Sonnenschein wants its people to know they are valued.

However, no firm is an island in this economic storm. The salary freeze reflects that reality:

With respect to our Associate salary schedule, Policy and Planning has concluded, after consultation with our Practice Group Leaders and Office Managing Partners and consideration of marketplace and client factors that, effective January 1, 2009, Associates moving to the next class year in 2009 will continue to receive the same base compensation as they did in 2008.

As with Quinn Emanuel, the top bonuses are available for highest billers. But, if you were a top biller, the extra bonus offsets the lack of a pay raise.

But perhaps the larger point here is that every firm needs to come up with individualized answers to the economic client. Sonnenschein laid off 25 attorney, acquired 100 Thacher Proffitt attorneys, is paying very high bonuses to associates who bill more than 2450 hours, and is freezing associate salaries. Put another way, Sonnenschein is just another entity trying to navigate through the new economy as best it can until things settle down.

Read the full memo after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Sonnenschein: Top Bonuses For Top Performers, Salary Freeze For All”

ATL 2008 in review.jpgIn our first two installments of 2008 law school stories, we looked back at our favorite law school students of the year and important trends. For our third post in the series of four, we’re indulging in one of our favorite topics: law school listservs.

When tightly-wound law students use the e-mail list as their forum for airing grievances, the back-and-forth can get rather catty. A mixture of Type A personalities, the desire to procrastinate, and extreme law school stress has resulted in some explosive exchanges in 2008.

Whether you call them list servs, list serves, listservs, listserves, list-servs, or list-serves, we call them extremely amusing. Find out which three law schools made the “Best of” listserv list, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Top Law School Stories of 2008 (Part 3): Listservs”

Evan Chesler Cravath.jpgEvan Chesler, presiding partner at Cravath, is the latest to raise his voice against the billable hour. In an op-ed piece he penned for Forbes magazine, Chesler says:

I’m a trial lawyer. I bill by the hour. So do the associates who work for me. I have lots of clients, so I can pretty much work, and bill, as much as I want. This needs to be fixed. Yes, you read that correctly.

Of course, partners and clients and even journalists have been calling for or predicting the death of the billable hour for years. As Chesler himself contends in his piece, nobody really likes the billable hour:

The billable hour makes no sense, not even for lawyers. If you are successful and win a case early on, you put yourself out of work. If you get bogged down in a land war in Asia, you make more money. That is frankly nuts.

Of course, there is a reason that the billable hour won’t die. More on that after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Killing the Billable Hour: One Op-Ed At A Time”

Skilling resentence.JPGThe 5th Circuit has upheld the convictions of former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, but they have determined that he should be resentenced. The AP reports:

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Tuesday denied Skilling’s request that his convictions be overturned because they were based on an incorrect legal theory.

We don’t have our hands on the 105-page opinion, but apparently Skilling’s argument that Enron was just ahead of the curve on the whole global financial crisis thing wasn’t enough to overturn his convictions.

Jeff Skilling To Run Free? [Dealbreaker]

Skilling convictions upheld, resentencing ordered [AP]

UofC Law School logo.JPGIt happens every year. After first semester some 1Ls belatedly realize they need to “step it up” for second semester. Law school isn’t like college: there’s a curve, there are jobs to be wrested from the clutching hands of fellow students, and just because a professor starts babbling about Floridian Burger Kings doesn’t mean you can zone out.

Some people look inward for strength and resolve. Some people blame others. Those outward looking folks are the ones liable to send out emails like this one, which popped up on the University of Chicago Law listserve yesterday:

A friendly warning to fellow 1L’s: if you intend to play video games in class — especially graphics-intensive video games — please remember to sit in the back row so the rest of us don’t have to watch. Super Penguin Mario or Donkey Kong Country may, from your perspective, be a good way to while away a long class; to those sitting behind you, it is a distraction we’d rather not have to deal with.

Sorry to be That Jerk; for what it’s worth I know I’m not alone in strongly preferring this.

Yours from behind an absolutely mirthless smile,

[Redacted]

Let’s broaden the discussion after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “University of Chicago Law Student Hates Nintendo”

Morgan Lewis.JPGBack in October, we reported that Morgan Lewis & Bockius was one of the first firms to say anything about associate bonuses. The firm said it wasn’t going to make a decision about associate bonuses until sometime in January of 2009, but at least they said something.

Notably, at the time the firm also reported:

As in past years, base compensation adjustments will continue to be effective as of January 1 and will be reflected in your January paycheck.

We now know that the announcement was a much bigger deal than it seemed at the time.

Morgan Lewis has still not announced what they plan to do with 2008 bonuses, but the firm has announced that 2009 bonuses decisions will be made on a different basis. Instead of a 2000 hour requirement in effect for 2008, in 2009 associates will not be required to reach 2000 hours.

But on the other hand, hitting 2000 hours will no longer “guarantee” a full bonus.

Read the firm’s specific wording after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Morgan Lewis Move to Merit Based Bonuses
For FY 2009″

Heller Ehrman small logo.jpgThis morning The Recorder is reporting that Bank of America and Citibank could lose $57 million because of a clerical error that could void the preferred status of BoA and Citibank:

A secured creditor must “perfect” its security interests with uniform commercial code filings and file updates every five years. The bank last submitted such a “continuation” in 2005, so another filing wasn’t needed until 2010. On Oct. 1, a week after Heller said it would dissolve, the bank filed a “correction statement” saying the 2007 filing was a “clerical error.” On Monday, the bank declined to discuss how or why the error occurred, or who made it — the 2007 filing required no signature.

The error would nullify BoA’s and Citibank’s secured creditor status:

The firm had paid the banks $51 million since announcing its dissolution and would owe them almost $6 million more if they remain secured creditors.

Closing the loop on Heller’s bankruptcy after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The $57 Million Dollar Typo
(Or: Reason Number 57 Why I Shouldn’t Be a Practicing Attorney)”

GOD.jpg* Those crazy atheists are at it again. Eleven atheist groups have sued SCOTUS chief John Roberts and various Inaugural Committees to have “so help me God” taken out of the presidential inaugural oath. [Courthouse News Service]

* Barack Obama’s latest legal recruits: Harvard’s Elena Kagan, Indiana University’s Dawn E. Johnsen, and former Clintonites David W. Ogden and Thomas J. Perrelli. [Washington Post]

* R.I.P. Griffin Bell, President Carter’s attorney general and longtime King & Spalding partner. [Los Angeles Times]

* The Minnesota Senate race ain’t over yet… and may not be over for months yet. Norm Coleman’s lawyer vows to file a lawsuit protesting the Al Franken victory declared by the state Canvassing Board. [KDBC News]

* Retired NBA star Charles Barkley has the best excuse ever for speeding. But not so much for the DUI. [The Smoking Gun]

* A Connecticut landlord-tenant attorney demonstrates “how one stupid mistake can mess up an otherwise exemplary life.” The mistake was a big one: running a child porn web site. [Connecticut Law Tribune]

Roland Burris ATL Lawyer of the Day.jpgLawyer-politicians from Illinois are a mixed bag. One is Time’s person of the year and will be installed in the White House by the end of the month. Another has disgraced the governor’s office with federal corruption charges and the threat of impeachment. Today’s Lawyer of the Day was appointed by the latter to fill the seat of the former, and the Howard University law grad is adamant about filling that Senate seat.

As Rod Blagojevich might say, Roland Burris has got something f***in’ golden, and he doesn’t want to give it up for f***in’ nothin’.

Today, Burris is going to the opening session of the 111th Congress and he wants his seat. His sheer audacity might be enough to qualify him for the ATL Lawyer of the Day honor, but Burris has even more going for him: a death mausoleum. From CBS News:

The 71-year-old has built a mausoleum listing his achievements. The granite structure, with two columns supporting a covered area and three tablets, list his political and business accomplishments — “First African-American in Illinois” to become the attorney general, state comptroller, vice president of Continental Illinois National Bank, etc. — with the term “Trail Blazer” chiseled in large type above.

Burris is hoping to add “U.S. Senator” to the list (and there is room in the granite for it), but there are several roadblocks on the way to Capitol Hill.

More on Burris’ fight for the Senate, and our suggestion for his mausoleum, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day: Roland “Self-proclaimed Trail Blazer” Burris”

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