Latest Stories

* The John Edwards sex scandal: the plot thickens. Ted Frank has unearthed some nice nuggets about mysterious real estate dealings involving the supposed father of Rielle Hunter’s baby. [Overlawyered]
* Is Kathy Rentas an Obama supporter? [New York Magazine]
* A new reason to avoid law school: “the quality of the Latin used in English law books [is] so very bad.” [Language Log]
* Some fallout from the scandal of the allegedly breast-licking professor. [TaxProf Blog]

Mikhail Saakashvili Georgian president Georgia.jpgHere is a short Intelligencer item we just wrote for New York Magazine, about the two years that Mikheil Saakashvili, president of Georgia, spent in New York. It begins:

Fifteen years before his country was invaded — or, perhaps, reinvaded — by Russia, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili was learning about the American system of law and living on the Upper West Side. He arrived here in 1993, spent a year at Columbia earning a master’s in law, and then worked one year as an associate at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler before returning to the newly independent former Soviet republic.

How is Saakashvili remembered by the professors and partners who knew him back then? Find out by reading the rest of the piece, available here.

Tbilisi on the Hudson: What Georgia’s president learned as a New York lawyer. [New York Magazine]

Shearman & Sterling logo Above the Law blog.jpgLately we’ve been hearing various rumors about Shearman & Sterling. Some appear to be true, and some not.
Here are the rumors, followed by the firm’s responses, in blockquotes.
1. Have start dates for incoming first-year associates been pushed back?

Start dates for incoming first-year associates for fall 2008 are October 6, 20, 27 and November 3.

We don’t know what the 2007 start dates were (and the firm didn’t provide them), but we’re guessing they were earlier. But the 2008 start dates are not particularly late. Compare them to these firms’ postponed start dates.
2. Have there been any layoffs at the firm, of lawyers or staff?

There have been no lay-offs at Shearman & Sterling, of either attorneys or administrative staff.

This makes sense to us. Shearman did layoffs back in the early 2000s, which it later came to regret, when memories of the layoffs harmed the firm’s recruiting efforts once the economy came roaring back. So, having learned their lesson, we’d be surprised to see mass layoffs from Shearman now.
(But we wouldn’t be surprised if there have been some performance-related dismissals lately, especially on the corporate side.)
3. Did the firm make offers to all of its summer associates?
(We had previously heard, through the grapevine, that the firm had 135 summer associates and made offers to all of them.)

This summer we had 144 summer associates. There were four summer associates whose academic commitments precluded their joining the firm in fall 2009. We made entry-level offers to all but one of the summer associates available to join the firm.

Based on the high percentage of offers to summers, north of 99 percent, it seems that Shearman is doing just fine these days. But we are curious about that one SA who got no-offered.
Might there be a juicy but undiscovered summer associate scandal? Perhaps a new and improved version of the Shearman & Slur-Man? If you have info, feel free to email us.
(If it’s garden-variety incompetence, that’s of little interest to us. But if there’s an entertaining or salacious tale, we’d like to hear about it. Thanks.)
Earlier: X-Summers: Shearman & Slur-Man

Update / Clarification: Some commenters have complained about a formatting problem in an earlier version of this post. If you encountered this formatting problem, it’s time for you to enter the 21st century, ditch Internet Explorer, and adopt a better browser, like Firefox (download it here). Or get a Mac.
But just for the record, the formatting error was your editor’s fault, not that of FROLIC & DETOUR. We apologize for the mistake (which you should not hold against F&D).
*******************
After Tuesday’s discussion, readers submitted some beautiful examples of the bureaucratic glory that is character and fitness:

On my 2003 application I reported that I had lived in one location until “June 1996″ and another location starting “July 1996.” I got a call saying I had failed to account for where I lived for almost two months. When I asked them what they meant, they said they were missing addresses for the period between June 2, 1996 and July 30, 1996.

I got grief from C&F for failing to disclose a citation for failure to wear a seatbelt. It was a $10 ticket that I got 6 years before applying to the bar.

And my personal favorite:

When asked why I left the Dean campaign I wrote “Iowa, the Scream.” They asked for more details.

Thanks for the stories. But since this is the last post of ATL Idol, I’m cutting to the chase. It was clear from Tuesday’s comments that readers were more interested in my character than in character & fitness. So let’s talk about that.
To clear up some misconceptions, I’m not Miss Alli/Linda Holmes. I have a B.A. and J.D. from Harvard, and I don’t know whether I know Sophist. I really did interview fired biglaw partners who knew I was writing for ATL (Lat knows who they are). I’m done with legal practice whether I’m the Idol or not. And whatever happens this weekend, I’m grateful to all the voters who think my garbage stinks a little bit less than the competition’s garbage. I feel like a bacterium that survived a three-week penicillin bath.
avatar Frolic and Detour ATL Idol.jpgFinally, I have to address the reader accusation that I am an anti-Semite. I have to admit, this one is true. Those schmucks in my mishpocheh give me nothing but tsuris.
[Ed. note: This post is by FROLIC & DETOUR, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Frolic & Detour's avatar (at right).]

On Tuesday, I profiled worthless classes that most everybody had to take. Today, the readers weigh in on classes that allow law schools to bilk you for additional years full of totally useless information.
Many commenters also suggested which lessons law students should really be focusing on, if they want to succeed in Biglaw.
With an honorable mention to “Elements of the Law,” after the jump, I rank the classes readers can do without, and the replacements that everyone needs.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Back to School: What is the Most Worthless Class You Could Have Avoided?”

WilmerHale Wilmer Hale billing rate.jpgWe know that attorneys at top firms like WilmerHale can charge stunning rates — up to $750 an hour for litigation chair Howard Shapiro.
But if you ask them, that’s a bargain.
Wilmer moved for an award of attorneys’ fees after winning a $90 million verdict in a False Claims Act case. The usual lodestar method of calculating fees, logically enough, is to multiply the attorneys’ standard billing rates by the number of hours they spent on the case. But Wilmer argued that its standard billing rates grossly undervalue the superhuman skills of its legal team. It asked the court to perform the lodestar calculation and then award twice the result in attorneys’ fees. In other words, according to Wilmer, its clients who pay by the hour get a 50% discount off the true value of the work.
Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the district court in D.C. didn’t buy the idea that Wilmer’s entire litigation practice is a pro bono program in disguise. The judge kicked Wilmer around for 169 pages before putting the fee petition to rest. He wondered why, if the attorneys had such extraordinary abilities, it took so many of them to get the job done:

Assigning eleven different attorneys to work on one deposition, however crucial the witness, can hardly be characterized as efficient. . . . WilmerHale [used] fifty-two lawyers and thirty paralegals in this case.

Judge Lamberth further ruled that Wilmer’s record-keeping was too vague and sloppy to support awarding even the lodestar amount. Plaintiff’s counsel in the McAfee v. WilmerHale overbilling case must be kicking themselves for not filing in Washington.
Judge Lamberth did note that the members of the Wilmer team were “graduates of prestigious law schools and/or former judicial clerks.” But apparently even members of the Elect — including Mike Gottlieb (OT 2004 / Stevens), Jonathan Cedarbaum (OT 1998 / Souter), and Robert Bell (OT 1981 / White) — aren’t worth $1000+ an hour.
avatar Frolic and Detour ATL Idol.jpgWilmer’s going to be OK; they’ll get about $7 million of the $20 million they asked for. But we should feel some sympathy all the same. It must be tough to hear that you’re only worth 100% of what the market will bear.
[Ed. note: This post is by FROLIC & DETOUR, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Frolic & Detour's avatar (at right).]

Deborah Epstein Henry.JPGThis week, Working Mother magazine, in association with Flex-Time Lawyers, released its second annual Best Law Firms for Women rankings.
Some of the firms on this year’s list are notorious sweatshops, more likely to help women freeze their eggs than they are to aid either sex in raising a family.
I contacted Deborah Epstein Henry (pictured), founder and president of Flex-Time Lawyers and co-author of the list. Henry said that her results reflect more than firm PR. The rankings score firm programs based on how many attorneys actually use those programs.
In Henry’s view, ranking the best law firms for women is more than just a women’s issue.
“What we are looking for is firms that have work/life policies that are both gender- and racial [sic] reason-neutral,” Henry said. “I firmly believe that the more we can move work/life issues away from being a ‘mommy’s issue’ the better off we’ll be.”
More on Henry’s efforts to make law firms responsive to lifestyle concerns after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Woman’s Place Is… At Cravath”

Arthur Goldberg.gif* Liberal religious leaders say a new McCain online ad is intended to label Obama “the antichrist.” Is that worse than being compared to Paris Hilton? [Political Perceptions/Wall Street Journal]
* Judge throws out murder case against New Orleans policemen who fired on unarmed residents during the Katrina crisis. [BBC News]
* Blackberry vs. iPhone. The war for consumers’ hearts is on. [Financial Times]
* Manslaughter charge for police officer responsible for death by Taser. [CNN]
* Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg was a spy for the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services. [Associated Press]

* We know how he feels about taxes. But when it comes to judicial nominations, Obama is keeping an open mind. [Washington Briefs]
* A law firm in defense of its diversity record: we hold office screenings of Crash. [Lexis Hub / BBLP]
* A Horse Walks Into… the AutoAdmit Litigation? Or: If you want to titty f**k Ryan Mariner, get in line. [Legal Satyricon]
* NFL to $190K? “I finally get to the point where I’m making 150 grand, and they want to put my name and address on the form so the lawyer next door who makes a million dollars a year can laugh at me.” [TaxProf Blog]
* Some wise (if not terribly original) advice to potential layoff victims: live frugally. [Law and More]
* The ABA conference makes for strange bedfellows: Linda Greenhouse, Ken Starr. [ABA Video]
* And speaking of ABA strangeness, don’t forget the musical mock trial. [New York Times]

We’re down to your last two ATL Idols: FROLIC AND DETOUR and SOPHIST. It’s time for them to face off in the third and final head-to-head round of ATL Idol, the reality-TV-style talent search for Above the Law’s new editor. You know the drill, but if you’re just tuning in, here’s how this round will work:

ATL Idol Above the Law Idol AboveTheLaw Idol smaller.jpgThe head-to-head round is designed to serve as a test of pure writing ability. We’ll publish the contestants’ different takes on the same (assigned) story. The head-to-head round is designed to show how the bloggers write up the same story, to eliminate any advantage from story selection. Story selection is an important skill for bloggers, but it’s one that the contestants have demonstrated in their features and freestyle posts.

Just like the past two weeks, this round will be reviewed by ATL’s panel of celebrity judges: Ann Althouse, Tom Goldstein, and Dahlia Lithwick.
Check out the bloggers’ contributions, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Idol: Week 3, Head-to-Head Round”

605 Third Avenue.jpgIf you’ll be interviewing at law firms this fall, make sure you double check the address of the place you’re headed to. Law firms are constantly on the move and trading spaces. From the New York Observer (which follows commercial real estate as obsessively as we follow law firm layoffs):

Entertainment law powerhouse Pryor Cashman, whose clients include Penthouse founder Bob Guccione and numerous American Idol contestants, is in negotiations for 100,000 square feet at 605 Third Avenue, the 44-story glass box of a building owned by Fisher Brothers….

[T]he firm right now occupies about 100,000 square feet of contiguous space in three buildings, which means three leases–all of which expire at the end of next year–and three landlords.

That sounds rather inefficient — and annoying. But there are other firms that occupy multiple buildings in the same city. E.g., Skadden and Mayer Brown, in D.C.
Pryor Cashman isn’t the only law firm in search of new digs. The Observer reports that Paul Weiss and Fitzpatrick Cella are also in search of over 100,000 square feet apiece.
Favored American Idol Lawyers Negotiating Lease at 605 Third [New York Observer]

ATL Idol: Alex’s Farewell

avatar Alex ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This is the farewell post of ALEX, who was recently eliminated from ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Alex's avatar (at right).]
Farewell, all. And thank you for everything — the support and the criticism.
This is a bitter-sweet moment. I was excited about the possibility of becoming the new editor, but I was also terrified.
There are minutes every hour where I enjoy being a lawyer, but usually I spend my time daydreaming about doing something else. Those daydreams, however, never entail an honest appraisal of the difficulties that confront every job, even the cool-sounding ones. So, naturally, when I read that ATL was looking for a new editor, I jumped at the chance. No hesitation.
I envisioned myself writing bon mots to an adoring audience of thousands, rarely taking more than a few hours out of each day to “work.” Tom Goldstein would invite me to his notorious sex parties, and MSNBC and Fox News would fight over having me on as a guest. Of course I wanted to be the new editor.
Blogging, however, is hard. Research, writing, deadlines, criticism. These were familiar stressors in unfamiliar waters. I felt like a first-year associate again. Sure, I would have improved, but blogging would have never been the cure to what ails me.
So I’ll continue to daydream and plot and scheme from the relative safety of my little biglaw office. I’ll leave the blogging to the pros. Good luck, Sophist and F&D.

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