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Dechert logo.JPGApparently, Dechert Chairman and CEO Bart Winokur still finds Above the Law not worth his time, but that hasn’t stopped him from talking about our information elsewhere.

Winokur spoke with the WSJ Law Blog to try to clear up some things about the firm:

1. Quite apart from any characterization as to reasons why associates might have been asked to leave and contrary to anonymous posts in, there were not 10, let alone 30, associates who were asked to leave in July with or without deadline.

2. Contrary to the implication in The Legal Intelligencer article, I do not believe that we are replacing “people with better people.” To clarify what I said to The Legal Intelligencer, as associates get more senior, they need to keep doing higher and higher levels of work, and not work that can be done by their juniors.

3. Additionally, in response to the slowdown in our structured finance practice, rather than lay-off associates, we assigned associates to full-time pro bono work, where they could continue to hone their legal skills while at the same time helping others. When the economy stabilizes and business picks up, it is our expectation that they will be part of the firm’s vibrant practices.

Parsing the language after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Update: Dechert CEO Winokur Indirectly Responds to ATL”

Palin Vogue.JPG* The RNC has spent $150K on clothes for caribou barbie Sarah Palin. Is that a legal use of campaign cash? [Marc Ambinder]

* It’s been a while since we had a good, old fashioned, tax revolt in this country. Since it’s probably politically incorrect to dress up like Native Americans this time around, I think people should dress up like Olbermann and Maddow. Obamatons will never see it coming. [TaxProf Blog]

* In case you realize that you want no part of the legal industry after you pass the bar exam, but before you’ve been admitted, here’s a primer for how to make sure that your application to the bar is denied. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Some advice for firms getting crushed: be nice. [Law and More]

Pitt pearl necklace.JPGI just couldn’t resist posting this email from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law listserv:

I found a pearl necklace on the floor of the law school basement near the hallway with the microwaves.

Please e-mail me if you think it’s yours, so I can arrange to get it back to you.

Sorry about that.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

  • 22 Oct 2008 at 4:19 PM
  • Uncategorized

A Happy Letter From Simpson Thacher

SimpsonThacher.gifGiven all the horrible news yesterday, we wanted to post something positive about the legal job market.

Luckily, last week Simpson Thacher & Bartlett felt the exact same way. Taking a cue from Cleary, STB decided to send around an “aren’t you glad you received an offer from Simpson Thacher” email to last summer’s offerees:

There have been many exciting recent developments here since you left and I wanted to send news of what is going on. The firm is at the very center of the developments that are reshaping the financial world and when you return there should be some fascinating work awaiting.

For those of you who just want to know what deals are in the works, also included is news of a couple of major new engagements. For a more complete list, including some recent litigation successes, check out the Spotlight News on our web page:

Sounds like a flight to quality to me.

Check out the full memo after the jump.

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Will Work for Food 2 Above the Law blog.JPGAfter our post on the importance of accepting your offers, we figured that most students sitting on offers would do the right thing — for themselves and their colleagues — and make a decision.

But maybe some students are just a little more indecisive than others. Last night, Northwestern students received this email:

Dear Second-Year Students Holding Offers,

As you know, we are in very tough economy. In tough economies, firms, not unexpectedly, tend to take a much closer look at the bottom line.

Please accept your offers as soon as possible. We have heard, both by communication with our colleagues at UPenn and from one of our own students, that offers may be withdrawn once a firm considers that its summer class is full, whether or not the 45-day period has expired.

In addition to assisting other students who may then receive an offer that you turn down, it is also in your own best interest to accept quickly.

If you have any questions or concerns, please speak with your Career Advisor.

Good luck with your decisions,

Your Career Advisors

We expect that quite a few Northwestern law students have offers in the Chicago market. Have you guys been paying attention to what is happening in the Chicago market?

More laggards after the jump.

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We’ve received reports that the New York Times building has received some sort of terrorist threat. Apparently a white powder has been sent to somebody at the Time’s editorial desk.

The building houses the firms of Covington & Burling and Goodwin Procter, among others.

One tipster reports that the place is crawling with police officers.

Building security just sent around an email informing workers that they can leave via the freight elevator, but cannot come back if they do. While the email told people “there is no need to panic,” that has predictably caused some amount of panic.

Safety first people. The powdered substance could be talcum, but why take the risk?

We hope everybody is safe.

fax machine rage.jpgFlorida judges are starting to get a rep for misbehavin’ here at ATL, from smoking pot in the park to insensitivity on the bench. Now we have two Miami-Dade Circuit judges succumbing to fax machine rage.

From the Miami Herald:

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Espinosa Dennis says she was battered at the courthouse — by fellow Circuit Judge David Miller. She says Miller was bent out of shape because the fax machine at her office, which his staff sometimes used, was broken.

Dennis, 52, and Miller, 54, both work at 73 W. Flagler St. They had adjacent offices on the fourth floor. Miller initially spoke to Dennis’ bailiff and judicial assistant about the fax machine, then asked to see her.

When she repeated that the machine was out of order, Miller became ”confrontational and told [Dennis] that he felt that he wasn’t getting the full story,” the Oct. 7 police report says. Miller then “charged toward [Dennis], grabbed her by her shoulders and pushed her toward her office in an attempt to close the door behind them.”

Miller and Dennis.jpgThe courthouse police came after someone hit a panic alarm. Judge Miller is not the first Florida judge to bully a female colleague. See former Judge of the Day Jay Spechler.

But that’s a pretty extreme reaction to a broken fax machine. We’re wondering what the “full story” might have been. Did Miller suspect that Dennis “office-spaced” it?

Yet another reason to e-mail rather than fax.

Miami-Dade judge: I was battered by a colleague [Miami Herald]

Dechert logo.JPGReaders have demanded more information about the so-called “stealth layoffs” at Dechert. Finally, we have additional information to report.

Readers, commenters, tipsters, recruiters, employees, and the Virgin Mary who appeared to me in a breakfast grapefruit are all reporting that a number of associates will be laid off at the end of this month. These layoffs have nothing to do with the March departures from the firm, and contradict the firm’s official statements on the matter.

As best we can tell, no less than 10 and no more than 30 associates were told at the end of July that they would be laid off in 3 months. According to one tipster:

Effectively we were told that we can come in to work, but do not have to, and we can tell the recruiters and places where we interview that we still have a job at Dechert. Now, at the end of the three months our salaries would stop coming. These three months was our severance. At the same time the partners did absolutely nothing to help us locate jobs because most were too afraid to do anything.

As many of you know, Gina Passarella of the Legal Intelligencer was able to speak at length (free version) with Dechert Chairman Bart Winokur. Mr. Winokur declined to speak with ATL directly, but in the Intelligencer article he does not really deny that associates were asked to “move on” in this manner. Instead, the Intelligencer reports:

“In my view, layoffs are when you decide to cut head count,” Winokur said. “It’s not when you decide to replace people with better people.”

Winokur said the culture of the firm is to improve year over year and when people reach a point of seniority and still aren’t getting better, the firm will sometimes tell them they don’t have a future at Dechert.

Whatever advantages there are to stealth layoffs are pretty much destroyed when your firm chairman starts talking about replacing people “with better people.” People we’ve talked to have emphasized that the firm is doing nothing to help associates put on notice find new jobs.

Even if you look at all of the evidence in the light least favorable to the firm, it doesn’t look like the number of July/October layoffs rise to the level that has been mentioned by some of our commenters.

But, there might be some other stealth moves going on. Read more after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Dechert: Inside The Black Box”

Tulane steals Mr. Rogers shoe.JPGWe reported yesterday that students at Tulane Law School allegedly absconded with Mr. Rogers’s shoe from the Louisiana Children’s Museum.

Well, an intrepid trolley has returned the treasured keepsake. Let’s get the details….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Update: It Is a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!”

1163919784-1162668862733.jpgIn last Wednesday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, we asked you whether you billed over Columbus Day Weekend this year.

We received 1,175 responses, and were pleasantly surprised to learn that 26% of you had a pleasant three-day weekend. Associates in Boston were most likely to enjoy a discovery-free Columbus Day, with offices at Bingham, Goodwin Procter, and Ropes & Gray reportedly closed for the day. Overall, 46% of Boston respondents reported that they had not worked over the holiday weekend, followed by 36% of respondents in Philadelphia.

Of course, not all respondents were so lucky. As one associate commented:

One of the name partners threw a hissy fit when someone asked for the time off, because “Columbus Day isn’t Christmas, and this weekend is just like every other weekend.” We were only absent one associate on Monday. Everyone else not a partner was working.


Of those who spent time at the office, though, only 65% said that their office was actually open. Among worker bees whose offices were actually closed, 52% said that they simply had things they needed to get done. Another 21% said that a partner had told them to work over the weekend, while 8% said a client had asked them to finish something. 13% said they needed the hours.

But two percent of respondents who worked over Columbus Day weekend even though the office was closed said that they just “wanted to impress people,” which is just sad roughly consistent with prior holiday surveys.

Overall, about 58% of respondents who worked over Columbus Day weekend believed that the work was worth it.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

[Ed Note: Do you have a question for next week? Send it in to]


I’m a 2L at a T25 school and I have one callback interview. My grades are average. Do you have any tips on how to nail the interview?

Nervous Nelly

pls hndle copy 2.jpgDear Nervous Nelly –

Firm interviews are congeniality contests; you wouldn’t be called back unless the firm already saw your grades and decided they could live with them. Since the job is yours to lose, here are a few tips on how to turn on the charm:

1. Appearance. Don’t even think about wearing that Armani Alfani suit with those Kenneth Crap patent leather squared toed monstrosities. Ladies, save that yellow “statement” brocade suit for when you apply to be a Versailles courtier. If your roots are showing, dye them; if you’re too fat for your suit, wrap yourself in cellophane and hit the gym. Interviewers want colleagues that they can potentially date or set up with friends, not co-workers who rummage for treasure at Filene’s Basement. At least have the decency to stick some red tape to the back of your shoes.

2. Tackling Corny Questions. Most interviews involve ridiculous questions like, “Why did you decide to go to law school?” and my personal favorite, “What’s your greatest weakness?” Frankly, nobody wants to hear some garbage about how law is your “passion” or how your mother read Emanuel outlines aloud to you as a baby. Winning responses are ones that the interviewer can actually relate to, like “I actually was forced into going to law school by my parents, but it turned out to be a good fit.” During OCI, a partner asked me what my favorite TV show was, and my answer – Cribs – cracked her up and scored me a callback. Working at a firm is objectively depressing, so bring some laughter to their weary world.

3. Reverse Psychology. Studies have shown that interviews where the interviewer hogs the time are rated very positively by the interviewer, so put on your complimenting hat and sally forth. A good launching point is any framed pictures of hideous children or fat spouses. If the interviewer drops the word “fiancé” in conversation, you’ve struck gold because engaged people are always eager to brag about their impending wedding. The more time the interviewer spends talking about him or herself, the less time there is for corny questions (see #2).

As unhelpful as this sounds, you might also want to, er, RELAX and attempt to be yourself on the interview. Sweating profusely and providing canned answers to questions only makes you look desperate. Not having a firm job may seem like Armageddon, but trust me, it’s not. It just might be the beginning of something great.

Your friend,


Elie’s take after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pls Hndle Thx:
Four Minutes to Save the World”

[Ed. Note: Eliza Gray is a new writer for Above the Law. She graduated from Harvard and after a six-month stint in Brussels covering European Union politics at the European Voice, she moved back to New York to pursue a journalism career. She and Kash will be alternating Morning Docket responsibilities.]

diaper powder.jpg* Chief Judge ‘Naughty’ Nottingham has been a frequent guest on ATL. Sadly, loyal readers, it is time to say good-bye. Judge Nottingho, woops, we mean Nottingham, officially resigned yesterday. [Rocky Mountain News]

* If only Nottingham was from San Francisco. Voters will decide next month whether to legalize prostitution. [Associated Press]

* Remember that astronaut who drove across country to confront her ex-boyfriend, wearing diapers so that she wouldn’t have to make any pit stops? Lisa Nowak returned to court yesterday. [The New York Times]

* She got lucky, probably because she’s a star. Britney Spears’s hit-and-run case ended in a mistrial yesterday. After 8 hours of deliberation, the jury was “deadlocked.” The Deputy City Attorney Michael Amerian agreed to drop the case. [Times Online, UK]

* Prosecutors are investigating a German bank for paying Lehman brothers 319 million euro ($411 million) on the day that Lehman went bankrupt. []

* Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin will be extradited from the UK after yesterday’s guilty verdict. [Financial Times]

* Closing arguments yesterday in Senator Stevens’s trial. [Reuters]

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