Latest Stories

* Tax protesters, rejoice. Wesley Snipes acquitted of felony tax fraud (but convicted on misdemeanor charges). [taxgirl; TaxProf Blog]
* IP issues in the Super Bowl context. [Forbes]
* Poor marks for former Chief Judge William Zloch (S.D. Fla.) in Floridian judicial survey. [Daily Business Review]
* Speaking of south Florida judges, the Liberty City Seven gag order has been lifted — in part. David Markus et al. will continue to seek mandamus (our favorite writ — sure, habeas is “the Great Writ” and all, but mandamus is badass). [Southern District of Florida Blog]
* Supreme Court clerks do the darnedest things. Here’s a lovely one-minute movie by the fabulous Gretchen Craft Rubin, a former editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal and law clerk to Justice O’Connor, who’s now a writer working on her fourth book. [The Years Are Short / The Happiness Project]

O'Melveny Myers LLP logo Above the Law blog.jpgWe respectfully submit that the powers-that-be at O’Melveny & Myers need to “chill” (as Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) recently told former President Bill Clinton).
The folks at OMM apparently have some totalitarian tendencies. We heard they no-offered a summer associate from last year based on this individual’s personal blogging about the summer associate experience (which didn’t even mention the firm by name). And now we hear this rumor (by phone and by email, from multiple sources):

[T]he firm is furious about (true) comments sent to ATL about the firm’s poor performance and underhanded layoffs. Apparently, the fire rages so much so that OMM is dead set on a witch hunt to find the associate(s) who leaked the goings on to ATL.

Both the firm’s tech department and outside techies have been enlisted to figure out which associate’s computer the comments were sent from. OMM associates are now scared to even check your site while at work (though of course are keeping in the loop through home computers).

We contacted the firm for comment. We haven’t heard back from them as of the time of this posting.
We know next to nothing about labor and employment law. But to the labor lawyers among you, here’s a 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?

Maybe our friends at Workplace Prof Blog can enlighten us. Or if you’re a labor and employment lawyer, feel free to opine in the comments.
P.S. We’re experiencing mysterious technical difficulties this afternoon, so this may be our last post in a while. Maybe OMM is hacking ATL?
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of O’Melveny & Myers (scroll down)

associate bonus watch 2007 law firm Above the Law blog.jpgWe’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy trying to get to the bottom of the bonus situation at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. We’ve heard all sorts of conflicting rumors, but we think we’ve finally figured things out — to the extent that they can be figured out. This post supersedes all prior coverage of CWT bonuses.
In Litigation, we think that bonuses were fairly straightforward. This is our understanding, on very good authority:

1. 1900 hours and above = full, market-level, year-end and special bonus.

2. Between 1850 and 1900 = 75 percent of the regular year-end bonus, but NO special bonus.

3. Below 1850 = nothing, nada, zilch. Unless you were a first-year from the class of 2006 (first full year at CWT), in which case you got 50 percent of a year-end bonus.

4. For purposes of calculating hours, only client billable, pro bono, and “pre-approved” marketing hours counted. Other marketing hours, and recruiting hours, were NOT counted.

Read more — including a dramatic epic narrative from a CWT associate, describing how the firm epically mishandled the bonus situation — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Getting to the Bottom of the Cadwalader Mystery”

Star Simpson MIT student fashion Above the Law blog.jpgIn the wake of our recent post about a dubious defense, here’s another one:

A lawyer for an MIT student held at gunpoint after she walked into Logan International Airport wearing what authorities believed was a bomb asked a judge to throw out the charges Friday, saying the device was a legitimate form of free speech….

Thomas Dwyer Jr., a lawyer for Simpson, said his client didn’t think her shirt would scare anyone. He said she’d been wearing the shirt for several days on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, and it had not alarmed anyone….

“People make these objects part of their identity. It’s a part of their personal expression,” he said. “They are legitimate forms of First Amendment expression.”

Writes Blogonaut:

[A] 9mm round from an airport police handgun might be a legitimate “free speech” reply to a person with a battery-powered rectangular device on their chest with flashing lights and apparent plastic explosive in their hands.

The marketplace of ideas. Ain’t it grand?
P.S. Is the Tom Dwyer involved in this case the well-regarded Thomas E. Dwyer, Jr., of Dwyer & Collora (formerly Dwyer, Collora & Gernter, before Nancy Gertner was appointed to the federal bench)? If so, we’d expect a former state and federal prosecutor to offer a more compelling defense.
P.P.S. In fairness to Dwyer, another argument he’s making — that state law does not clearly define a “hoax device” — seems stronger.
Woman charged with wearing fake bomb says device was free speech [Worcester Telegram via Blogonaut]
Earlier: From the Department of Dubious Defenses

Sidley Austin Brown Wood LLP logo Abovethelaw Above the Law legal blog.JPGFrom this morning’s ATL mailbag:

It may not be that juicy of a story, but almost all of the soon-to-be first-year associates at Sidley Austin LA are pissed about the start dates they gave us. Our available start dates are August 11 or September 8. The first start date is just 10 days after the California bar. Are we being whiny bitches, or is this messed up?

We lean towards “messed up.” But we’re biased in favor of late start dates — we showed up for our first day of law firm work in December, after extensive post-clerkship travels. (We couldn’t do a post-bar trip because our clerkship started a week after the bar exam.)
So, readers, whaddya think? Do the Sidley associates have just cause for complaint? Or are these starting dates par for the course in Biglaw? What’s your law firm’s policy?
Update (11:45 AM): Based on the comments thus far, it seems the weight of authority favors “whiny bitches.” But let’s do this more systematically: take our poll.

Job of the Week

This week Lateral Link members started jobs at Skadden, Fried Frank, Stillman Friedman, Kirkland & Ellis, and Jones Day.
Position: Senior Counsel – Home Entertainment
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Description: A top entertainment Company has an opening for a home entertainment Senior Counsel in the Corporate and Distribution Legal Department. The position will focus primarily on transactions to distribute and acquire television and motion picture programming for the Company’s home entertainment division. This attorney will work closely with senior business development, operations, marketing and finance executives to structure, negotiate and document distribution and acquisition agreements ranging from revenue sharing agreements, retail space programs, third party licensing agreements, acquisition of home entertainment rights, promotional programs, product manufacturing agreements, back-end distribution services agreements, scan-based trading agreements and other related agreements.
Skills Description: The successful candidate will have outstanding academic credentials and a minimum of six to eight years of studio/in-house (or comparable law firm) experience in home entertainment matters. Valuable areas of expertise include packaged goods distribution, licensing, intellectual property and marketing. Strong negotiation, drafting and interpersonal communication skills and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment are essential.
Company Description: This Company is a leading creator and distributor of entertainment products, services and technology. Their global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution, television programming and syndication, home video acquisitions and distribution, operation of studio facilities, development of new entertainment technologies and distribution of filmed entertainment in over 67 countries.
For more information, see job #7488 on Lateral Link.
Earlier: Prior Job of the Week listings (scroll down)

* NFL Union president prepared for strike. [ESPN]
* Microsoft offers to acquire Yahoo for $44.6 billion to compete with Google. [MSNBC]
* Times reporter subpoenaed over “State of War” source. [New York Times]
* French President and supermodel girlfriend sue over pictures. [Washington Post via WSJ Law Blog]
* HLS grad Obama and YLS grad Clinton make nice, sort of, during debate. [MSNBC]
* SCOTUS stays Alabama execution, maintaining de facto moratorium on death penalty. [CNN]
* Roy Tolles and Arthur Kramer, of Munger Tolles and Kramer Levin, respectively, RIP. [WSJ Law Blog]

McKee Nelson LLP AboveTheLaw Above the Law blog.jpgAn interesting article in today’s New York Times — by Lynnley Browning, author of the earlier Biglaw perks piece — focuses on the subprime mortgage mess and current investigations into the adequacy of disclosures to investors.
Investigators are focused on Wall Street, but lawyers involved in the securitization process may also face scrutiny. Government investigation is the last thing these struggling law firms need, as they try to retool in the face of a grim outlook for structured finance and real estate work.
The article focuses on McKee Nelson:

McKee Nelson burst onto the scene in 1999 and quickly grabbed lucrative Wall Street work from long-established rivals. William F. Nelson, one of its co-founders, said the firm, which is known for its sophisticated tax work, did not employ any special legal maneuvers to outflank its competitors. “There’s no secret, magic elixir that we sprinkled,” Mr. Nelson said.

In any case, the mortgage turmoil is now hitting the highly regarded McKee Nelson hard. The firm recently pared its structured finance department to 80 lawyers from about 115 through buyouts, sabbaticals and transfers to other departments. More cuts are unlikely, a spokeswoman said.

So that’s good news. And the firm is trying to take lemons and make the proverbial lemonade:

[A]fter profiting from the mortgage boom, McKee Nelson is now positioning itself to profit from the bust by riding the coming wave of lawsuits. In January, the firm flew its partners and their spouses to Charleston, S.C., aboard four Delta commuter jets, to map out its strategy.

“We’re heavily committed to doing more litigation,” Mr. Nelson said. The firm hopes to represent investment banks, hedge funds and other financial companies, as well as their executives, in a variety of litigation, he said.

And maybe law firms, too, as lawsuits and investigations proliferate? See, e.g., Cadwalader, facing a $70 million lawsuit arising out of a securitization deal gone bad.
Small Law Firm’s Big Role in Bundling Mortgages [New York Times]

Kumari Fulbright small Facebook Arizona law student beauty queen Above the Law blog.JPGBe very afraid. And keep 911 on speed dial.
Judge OKs arrested Arizona beauty queen’s travel to Dallas for family reunion [AP]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Kumari Fulbright (scroll down)

Jonny Lee Miller Eli Stone Angelina Jolie Above the Law blog.jpg* A shout-out to the Elect on TV tonight. The lawyer protagonist of the new ABC drama, “Eli Stone” — portrayed by Jonny Lee Miller (pictured), an ex-husband of Angelina Jolie — is supposedly a former law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. [New York Times]
* A novel approach to the legal job hunt: build your own website, then advertise it in the ABA Journal. If Loyola 2L doesn’t have a job lined up already — although rumor has it that he does, which may explain his “retirement” from blogging — here’s something for him to consider. [3L for Hire and ABA Journal, via WSJ Law Blog]
* More proof that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is a wannabe Eliot Spitzer. [DealBreaker]
* Lawyerly lairs: Tunisia. [flickr]

Hilton Fuller Judge Hilton Fuller Brian Nichols Above the Law blog.jpgThis has been all over the news. We like the ABA Journal’s version, ’cause it’s the crispest:

The Atlanta judge overseeing the prosecution of alleged courthouse shooter Brian Nichols has stepped aside from the case after he was quoted [in a New Yorker article] as saying, “Everyone in the world knows he did it.”

The New Yorker piece was by one of our idols, prosecutor-turned-writer Jeffrey Toobin (who launched our blogging career, with this Talk of the Town piece). Judge Fuller and Jeff Toobin were interviewed by the Fulton County Daily Report about the controversy:

“I had a specific agreement with Toobin,” said Fuller on Tuesday, before announcing his recusal. “Our conversation was to be on background only, and there would be no direct quotations or attributions, unless they were floated by me first.”

Not so, said Toobin, reached in New York. “I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I mean, it was clearly for attribution; we even had a New Yorker fact-checker call and confirm it. … I have great respect for Judge Fuller, but that was not at all my understanding.”

We’re with the meticulous Toobin on this one. In fact, we share the suspicion of one of the correspondents who wrote us about this story: Was Judge Fuller’s indiscretion intentional? Was it his way of getting out from under a long and complex nightmare of a case?
Judge Recuses From Courthouse Shooting Case Due to New Yorker Quotes [ABA Journal]
Judge Fuller recuses from Nichols case [Fulton County Daily Report]
Judge in Courthouse Shooting Case Steps Down [New York Times]
Death in Georgia [The New Yorker]
New Yorker Quote Leads to Atlanta Judge Recusal [WSJ Law Blog]

Our friends at the ABA Journal are working on an interesting piece about associates getting “pigeonholed” at their law firms. They’re looking for some sources, opinions, and ideas. We’re hoping that you can help.
Some background, from Richard Acello, the reporter on the story:

By pigeonholing, we mean the tendency of an associate to get locked into a practice area — depending on what the firm does — because he/she was assigned to a lawyer or group upon joining the firm. So let’s say it was an intellectual property firm, and the associate does all patent prosecutions. (We can probably think of similar specialty/subspecialty examples in other practices.)

How does the associate branch out? After all, they probably don’t want to rock the boat or have partners think they’re unhappy, especially when compared to other associates who, say, have happily accepted being pigeonholed.

Who should be responsible for this? Should the firm have a built in way to make sure associates get a variety of work, or should it be the associate’s responsibility to speak up?

These are all excellent questions. If you have some thoughts, please opine in the comments (and provide some descriptive information in your signature if possible — e.g., “IP associate at East Coast law firm”). You can also contact reporter Rich Acello directly, via email, by clicking here. Thanks.

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