You never know where you’ll find sexism in our society and our profession. It knows no party or ideology.
But it has no place in court. In a decision yesterday, 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner took a shot at a plaintiff’s attorney who thought this was still 1950.
The case, Thorogood v. Sears Roebuck, was perfectly set up for a sexist wisecrack by an attorney cheap enough to take it. The case involved stainless steel clothes dryers that nonetheless caused rust stains on some clothing. A massive class action suit was mounted against Sears because “stainless steel” was not used for every part of the appliance.
During oral argument, the plaintiff’s attorney suggested that the all-male bench “ask their wives” about the problems associated with rust stains from dryers.
Posner did not find this funny. Writing for the majority (and holding for Sears) Posner shot back:
At argument the plaintiff’s lawyer, skeptical that men ever operate clothes dryers–oddly, since his client does–asked us to ask our wives whether they are concerned about rust stains in their dryers. None is.
Prior ATL articles have shown that some men really expect their wives to do all the laundry, but they are a dying breed (I think). There’s no way that attorney would have joked about women washing clothes if there was a woman on the 7th Circuit panel.
Hopefully, getting smacked around by Posner will teach this attorney that he should not make sexist remarks in open court regardless of the gender diversity on the bench.
Chicago firm Freeborn and Peters has upped the stakes in the crazy, fun website competition. Their career site promises associates the opportunity to “thrive in an open, supportive, collegial culture.” A series of recruitment videos have firm attorneys and partners in starring roles and are a testament to the firm’s unorthodox culture. Check them out here– they are long, but worth it.
Our favorite video is “Attorney Lunch,” featuring attorneys snoozing, taking shots of coffee, and whistling while they march, as well as an evil partner who misdirects said attorneys to an e-discovery seminar instead of a “weekly gathering of attorneys with free food and drink.” We are left wondering though why Freeborn attorneys have such paralegalish days: making photocopies and re-stacking boxes of document production.
Another video, “Bags,” ends with the exhortation: “Work Hard. Play Hard.”
Our tipster came across the videos while job hunting, and captured our reaction well:
I’m still not entirely sure what I think of them as a recruiting tool. On the one hand, they’re completely hilarious, especially for a law firm, and I thought it made the firm look like a fun place to work. On the other hand, I could see how a lot of people would think the videos portrayed the associates as unprofessional (doodling and bored while on the phone with someone, looking unprepared while taking a deposition, etc.). So I think it completely depends on how you think they struck the balance between good humor and professionalism. I’m sort of amazed that the firm put the videos up on its website at all, but ultimately I think it was a good thing they buried the videos on the associate recruiting page where potential clients most likely wouldn’t look!
The videos are funny, but Freeborn, a 120-attorney firm specializing in bankruptcy, real estate, and regulatory law, is definitely taking a risk with them. What do you think? Do they work?
Over the weekend I suggested that Harvard Law students were not taking the fall recruiting “crisis” seriously enough. The school’s comments suggested to me that HLS saw itself as above the fray.
But whatever public face HLS is putting on the recruiting season, behind the scenes HLS OCS seems to be working harder than ever. A tipster forwarded this email from Assistant Dean Mark Weber:
Thank you for participating in our Fall OCI Program. I hope you had a productive visit to campus this fall.
I am writing to let you know that we still have talented students who are seeking summer and permanent positions in Northern California. We understand the concerns facing all employers right now, but want to remind you that this can be a great opportunity to enhance your presence at Harvard Law School by hiring one of our students. I have taken the liberty to attach resumes of our students who are seeking employment in Northern California (link below). Also, if you would like to return to campus and interview additional students, we can easily accommodate your schedule to meet with students on campus or through our newly launched video conferencing facilities. Finally, remember that you can also post any employment opportunities in the HLS job bank which is exclusively available to our students and alumni. Click here to post a job.
I hope you will consider hiring additional Harvard students for employment with your firm. If you are interested in returning to campus or utilizing our video conferencing capabilities, please contact [redacted] And of course, please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance to you or your firm’s recruitment efforts at Harvard. Many thanks for considering our students.
I spoke with Weber and he confirmed that this was a new tactic his office was taking:
In light of the current economic climate, I did send out the letter to employers a few weeks ago. I haven’t sent out a letter like that before, but given the favorable response we have received from employers, I think it is something we will do in the future.
As we mentioned in Morning Docket, Google reached a settlement with publishers and authors to finally bring the Dewey Decimal System into the digital age.
Most lay people think that lawyers serve an annoying, anti-common sense role in society. But every now and again lawyers perform the important function of keeping “the law” safe from the forces of the free market and human progress.
Google wants to digitize the collections of the world’s greatest libraries in order to make them searchable. This is called “progress” and desperately needs to happen. But authors and publishers also need to protect their works — and make money off of them, if possible.
This issue demanded an out of court settlement, and lawyers from Keker, Debevoise, and other firms got the job done.
Authors and publishers will get 63 percent of revenue generated by Google’s electronic book database from the sale of online books and advertising. As part of the $125 million, Google will pay $34.5 million to set up the Book Rights Registry, which will collect the money and give it to the copyright owners. Another $45 million will go to authors and publishers that had their books uploaded without permission. Plaintiffs lawyers will take home $30 million.
Mmmm … fairness: the kind of fairness that cannot often be achieved through trial. Authors and publishers get 63% of the revenue (which, when you break it down will probably come out to 2 Lincolns per title). But, much more importantly, they will get the publicity that comes when people can actually read their book that is no longer popular enough to print. Google can then go about the business of bringing the entire digital world under their imperial control. And the lawyers got paid off too.
And nobody had to come up with a ridiculous “fair use” precedent that could have crippled the rights of authors for years to come.
[Ed Note: This post was written for ATL by "Heller Drone," who created the blog Heller Highwater in response to a lack of information concerning Heller Ehrman's dissolution. We asked Heller Drone for helpful advice to offer Thelen associates and staff. Good luck to everybody dealing with these difficult circumstances.]
Being capsized is often something quite jarring and comes upon you suddenly and painfully, say like food poisoning or an episode of The View. And despite the fact that you can see that iceberg in the distance, a soon-to-be ex-staffer of a BigLaw firm can’t always anticipate each and every wave that will buffet his or her lifeboat. Here are words of advice for our colleagues at Thelen and perhaps other firms which are in the process of dissolving:
You don’t necessarily need a blog but it is a nice way of communicating to a large group without hosting a website on your domain, etc. Blogging is a very “turnkey” operation and with platforms such as Blogger or WordPress or Typepad you can be on your way to your first post in less than five minutes. Any stressed and harried soon-to-be unemployed staffer can do it.
Besides a blog, set up some form of networking such as Facebook or better yet LinkedIn. This will allow former staffers to communicate with each other once the firm’s email system is offline.
Know Your Rights as an Employee
Do your research – and if you don’t know where to start enlist a paralegal or associate to assist. Realize that labor laws differ by state and this includes vacation accrual, how to file a wage claim, etc. Make sure you understand clearly anything you are being asked to sign and ask to make a copy of the document, take it home and review it first if possible. Do not sign any of your rights away during what can be a very emotionally trying time.
We received 836 responses to Monday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on whether you’ll be volunteering your services on Election Day, and the results are pretty remarkable. Over 40% of practicing attorneys who took the survey said that they would be helping out:
* 23% will be working as election monitors.
* 11% will be staffing call centers.
* 7% will be members of a legal response team.
* Another 7% are still deciding whether to volunteer.
Law students are even more active, with 46% planning to work as election monitors, 6% staffing call centers, and 9% supporting a legal response team.
Interestingly, Obama supporters were much more likely than McCain voters to spread their time around for Joe the Voter, with 30% working as election monitors (vs. 15% of McCain voters), 12% staffing call centers (vs. 4%), and 9% working in legal response teams (vs. 5%).
Formal law firm support also had a pretty substantial impact on attorney participation in next Tuesday’s efforts, especially among attorneys staffing call centers:
* At firms counting the work as billable time, more than two thirds of attorney respondents will be volunteering their services (31% as poll monitors, 30% in call centers, and 7% in response teams).
* The percentage of volunteers drops slightly, to 60%, at firms that consider the work pro bono but non-billable (31% poll monitors, 18% call center staff, and 11% in response teams).
* But at firms that give no credit at all, only 34% of respondents have decided to volunteer on Election Day (24% as poll monitors, 2% in call centers, and 8% in response teams).
Quite a few firms will be giving credit. 27% of respondents said that they can indeed count their service toward their billable hours, including associates at Cleary Gottlieb, Cooley Godward, Davis Polk, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Goodwin Procter, Hogan & Hartson, Katten, Kelley Drye, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham, Morgan Lewis, MoFo, Orrick, Paul Hastings, Ropes & Gray, Shearman & Sterling, and Skadden. Another 12% of respondents will count their work as pro bono, but not billable time.
That said, though, roughly a third of respondents said that their firms would not be providing any credit for volunteering next week, and about a quarter of you weren’t sure.
In addition to firm support, there’s quite a bit of peer support going around. More than half of attorney respondents noted that their firm colleagues were also volunteering next Tuesday. 41% said that both partners and associates were pitching in, while 11% said that other associates were signing up, but not partners.
Actual participation may be even higher though, as 38% of respondents weren’t sure whether other attorneys at their firms were getting involved. Only 9% of respondents said that neither their peers nor their partners would be volunteering next week.
So, overall, it looks like next Tuesday’s going to be a pretty quiet day at the office. Probably a good day to do some volunteer work. (You can still sign up here or here.)
I’m new at my firm (small firm in Midwest, not BigLaw), and apparently people here dress up for Halloween. The head partner has sent a bunch of emails reminding everyone to wear their costumes on Friday, Oct. 31 and the secretaries are going nuts talking about it. What should I go as? Or should I not dress up?
All Dressed Up For Nothing
Dear All Dressed Up For Nothing –
Your firm differs little from Biglaw; every shop I know treats Halloween as a day of unbridled merriment and levity. Deals come to a screeching halt, associates throw documents off their desk and set up jack-o-lanterns and duplicating and graphics department mail people cast their bitter feuding aside to hold hands and dance around the cafeteria bonfire. To keep up with your firm’s apparent enthusiasm for the holiday, so you’ll need a costume that projects an image of the associate (and future partner!) they want you to be: bold, slutty and borderline offensive.
If there are devout Latter Day Saints at your firm, consider going as a Yearning for Zion FLDS member. Wear a stunning number from FLDS Crafts and spend the day carrying around a sister wife blow up doll and eight Cabbage Patch Kids. Commiserate with LDS colleagues about the long commute to work in a covered wagon.
Another sure-fire hit is donning a blonde wig and a slutty nurse costume. When your supervising partner asks what you’re dressed as, reply “Your wife.”
Finally, if you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a costume, wear a suit and turn the pockets out. Smear grease on your face, clutch a crumpled Lateral Link brochure with your fingerless gloved hands. Make a matilda using a golf club and tie a Thelen gym bag to the end. You’re all set to go as a homeless person. Now that’s scary.
* Google Book Search is now on the path to officially kill the public library. Google will pay $125 million to settle two copyright lawsuits, and will move forward with making millions of books available online. [Bloomberg]
* A Nevada judicial candidate has sued the Las Vegas Review-Journal, claiming the newspaper defamed him and cost him the election. [Courthouse News Service]
* Austrian man drives drunk to protest drunken driving charges. [Reuters]
* One of President Bush’s biggest contributions from the last 8 years is a more conservative federal judiciary. And they’re young ‘uns, so they’ll be around for a while. [New York Times]
* Four months in prison for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. And he owes the city $1 million. [Associated Press]
* HLS student sets his law degree on fire. Actually, I’m not talking about myself. [Legal Blog Watch]
* Should M.B.A candidates receive a deduction for the cost of their degree? [TaxProf Blog]
* If you’ll be in New York on Thursday night, and if you’re interested in what it’s like to be an out LGBT attorney, here’s a discussion that might interest you. [LGBT Community Center]
* Win a date with Kashmir Hill? Oh, Lat and I are included too. If you’ll be in D.C. on Thursday night, please stop by Georgetown Law, and bid aggressively for item #16. [Georgetown Law Equal Justice Foundation]
Thelen has officially announced they will dissolve.
According to the release, Thelen:
[B]reached a partner departure covenant that restricts the number of partners who may depart the firm within any twelve month period.
In other words, the bank pulled Thelen’s line of credit, much like they said was not going to happen.
Most disturbingly, Thelen apparently does not think it is obligated under federal regulations:
Although not necessarily required, Thelen is seeking to pay its employees 60 days salary under federal and state WARN Acts. The firm is also seeking to pay all accrued vacation pay. The response to date from the bank is that it will fund employee salary through Nov. 30, but will not pay accrued vacation pay. Both of these issues are still under discussion.
We’ll see how that flies in court, which is undoubtedly where this will end up.
After yesterday’s news that Thelen Chairman Stephen O’Neal was in talks to move to Howrey, the Thelen partnership met today.
That meeting is still ongoing, but early reports are that a partnership committee recommended dissolution to the full partnership.
The firm has been maintaining that they had a plan that would avoid dissolution ever since their proposed merger with Nixon Peabody fell through.
Update (5:05): As we understand it, Thelen has two different options from this point.
Option 1 is the plan they have arguably been pursuing: breaking up the firm practice group by practice group to interested parties. As we reported yesterday, this is the best option to save associate jobs. However, that plan is dependent on Thelen’s banks signing-off on the plan and maintaining their line of credit. Did Stephen O’Neal’s aggressive and ultimately public pursuit of his own lifeboat at Howrey scuttle that option? Once everybody is told that the managing partner could be leaving in ten days, why would other potential suitors compete for full Thelen practice groups? Instead, it’s easier to wait for an official dissolution and cherry-pick the rainmakers. This is what happened to Heller.
Option 2 is essentially what happened to Heller. If the full partnership accepts the recommendation and dissolves, this would likely trigger the WARN Act. As we know from the Heller situation, employees are entitled to 60 days notice. Many people predicted that Thelen would move to dissolve this week, last week one tipster told us that Thelen wanted to wrap up their operations before the end of the year. If true, that all but necessitates an official dissolution announcement this week. But, as Heller teaches us, just because you get 60-days warning doesn’t mean you get 60-days pay. We know that various Thelen associates were told that this type of dissolution was not going to happen. But … it appears to be happening.
Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.
The JOBS Act created new tools for companies to publicly advertise securities deals online. As a result, thousands of new deals have hit the market and hundreds of millions in capital has been raised, spurring a wealth of new business development opportunities for attorneys.
Fund deals, startup capital raises, PIPE deals and loan syndicates are just a handful of the transactions benefiting from the JOBS Act. InvestorID FirmTM is a platform designed to help attorneys equip their clients with the workflow, marketing and compliance tools to publicly solicit a securities offering online. By providing clients with the tools to painlessly navigate the regulatory landscape of general solicitation, InvestorID FirmTM helps attorneys add value above just legal services.
The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) went into effect in 2013 and permits Regulation D offerings of securities to be advertised publicly. This means that funds and companies can now use social media, emails and web sites to market transactions to new “accredited” investors.
However, with these new powers come new pain points. InvestorID FirmTM provides a secure, fully hosted, cloud-based platform with a breadth of tools for your clients, including: