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Jay Spechler Judge Jay Spechler Jay Sprechler Above the Law blog.jpgThe fabulous Monica Goodling — if you’re on Facebook, join her fan club — isn’t the only person being accused of anti-lesbian bias these days. From the Daily Business Review (via JAABlog):

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: Jay Spechler”

Marlboro Light Cigarettes small Judge Jack Weinstein Above the Law Blog.jpg* You’ve come a long way, baby — but you’re not getting past the Second Circuit. Appeals court tosses $800 billion class-action lawsuit over light cigarettes. [New York Times]
* The economy is in the toilet. Does that still count as news? [AP]
* West Virginia Supreme Court, after shedding some members via recusals, rules in favor of Massey Energy once again. [Charleston Gazette via WSJ Law Blog]
* En banc Ninth Circuit rules against Roommates.com, ruling that Section 230 immunity doesn’t protect the site from being sued for violating fair housing laws. [How Appealing (linkwrap)]
* Speaking of bad news for bloggers, kinda sucks to be one in China. They’re not real big on free speech out there. [WSJ Law Blog]

Dewey LeBoeuf LLP logo D&L DL Above the Law blog.jpgThe firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf — which, by the way, had a great 2007, with total firm revenue over $1 billion, and profits per partner of $1.57 million — just announced its new bonus policy. You can check out the full memo after the jump.
The new policy reconciles differences between the pre-merger firms. “Legacy Dewey” essentially gave billable-hours credit for all pro bono hours and firm-related activities (dubbed “Accountable Hours,” and including work on client alerts, business development, article research, summer associate recruiting events, etc.). “Legacy LeBoeuf” had a policy that was somewhat less generous, with limits on how much pro bono and firm-related work could be counted towards the hours cutoffs for bonuses.
One source views the new policy as a fair compromise (especially in light of a rumor that the firm was considering giving no credit for pro bono and firm activities). Also, since the firm is a bit slow right now, “if accountable hours didn’t count, we’d all be screwed for bonus.”
Speaking of D&L, we’re going to be writing about their closing of a few offices. If you have any info on that front, please feel free to email us.
Bonus policy memo, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Dewey & LeBoeuf’s Post-Merger Bonus Policy”

campbell.jpg*Naomi Campbell in trouble with the law… again. Campbell being arrested is barely novel news, but it gives us an excuse to post her photo. [Breitbart via Drudge]
*Attorneys general react to financial crisis, telling failing businesses to be sure to shred personal documents on the way out. [Law.com]
*The president of the California State Bar wants to do away with billable hours. [California Bar Journal]
*Chicago recently got love from Ropes & Gray; now it’s getting some love from Proskauer Rose. [Chicago Tribune]
*This German law professor is heading to prison, but if he gets to keep his newly-renovated Hamburg mansion, maybe he doesn’t mind. [TaxProf Blog]
*We question the legality of this new version of street justice in New York. “You must first plead your case, by submitting a plea on Punch’s web site for why the prospective punchee deserves violence.” [Thrillist]

Mr_Easter_Bunny.jpgSome of you have wondered about the delay in choosing finalists for the ATL Caption Contest. We did not forget about it; we just wanted to save a little Easter for April, the proper month for the holiday. Easter in March is just plain wrong.
As a refresher, this is the photo of President Bush and his White House Counsel — Fred Fielding, former senior partner at Wiley Rein (fka Wiley Rein & Fielding), dressed up as the Easter Bunny — at the White House Easter Egg Roll last month. Without further ado, out of 200 comments, these are our ten finalists. [FN1]
A. “I left a firm with over $4 million in PPP to do THIS???” -Anonymous
B. The Mad Hatter and the March Hare discuss the legality of waterboarding the Dormouse. -Klerk
C. “Mr. President, I wanted to let you know that I put the last of those White House e-mails down the rabbit hole.” -Anonymous
D. Yeah, well, nobody wants to be the guy that told the POTUS there is no Easter Bunny and Cheney said that if I play along I’ll get a Supreme Court nomination. Hey, whatever happened with that Harriet woman? -Anonymous
E. I dressed up in this bunny suit and all I got was a feature on ATL. -Anonymous
F. After ignoring the rule of law for seven years, President Bush finally found a use for the White House Counsel. -Anonymous
G. “Someone please tell me that’s not a wombat behind me.” -Anonymous
H. I guess that answers the question of whether its better to get a JD or an MBA. -Anonymous
I. Fred (thinking): “That f-n headhunter promised me I would be supporting the President on matters of national importance. G-d D-MN it!” -Anonymous
J. George: Why do you wear that stupid bunny suit?
Bunny: Why do you wear that stupid man suit? -133t
We invite you to vote for the winner after the jump. Poll closes at midnight tomorrow.
[FN1] There were many funny comments, but we exercised a bias in favor of those with a legal connection.
Earlier: ATL Caption Contest: Mr. Easter Bunny, White House Counsel Fred Fielding
The rabbit behind the man: White House counsel Fred Fielding [Washington Post]

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Caption Contest Finalists: Mr. Easter Bunny and POTUS”

Sonnenschein Nath Rosenthal Above the Law blog.jpgOver at Greedy South, various rumors are circulating about Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. One poster claimed that the firm rescinded offers of summer employment to several incoming summer associates in the Charlotte office. Later on in the thread, others chimed in to claim that the firm is rescinding offers to full-time associates who were set to arrive in the fall (possibly beyond Charlotte as well).
An ATL tipster wrote us:

I know things are really, really, slow at most firms in Charlotte (as has been noted by the firings at Cadwalader and Dechert), but is there any way that you could find out whether this is actually true? It seems like the elephant in the room is everyone’s hope that securitization will magically pick up again, but everyone seems to forget that it’s difficult for a market segment to “rebound” that wasn’t even in existence 10 years ago.

Is this a sign of Sonnenschein closing its Charlotte office (after only 1 year)? Have you heard anything about other offices having the same types of problems? Just trying to find out what’s going on.

We reached out to the firm for comment earlier this week but they never got back to us. If you have any info to share, please email us. Thanks.
Sonnenschein Firings? [Greedy South / Infirmation]

Over the past few months, we’ve devoted several of our ATL / Lateral Link survey posts to compensation issues like base salaries, bonus amounts, and clerkship bonuses. But we’ve received quite a few requests to do another survey or open thread on another compensation issue: starting bonuses and stipends.
Associates at four New York firms (anonymized) have recently e-mailed the same general question:

Next year top law firms in New York, as well as those around the country (Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.), will pay their incoming associates $160,000 plus a $10,000 STARTING BONUS. [My v5 firm], on the other hand, will pay incoming associates $160,000 with a $10,000 SALARY ADVANCE. Simply put, I will be going on a bar trip this summer with money I loaned myself from my first year salary! I find this very strange considering that [my firm] considers itself to be the cream of the crop in New York in terms of pay.

i’m wondering if you can post a thread on firms giving incoming associates stipends for the summer. i’m at a v5 nyc firm and just learned that they don’t offer a summer stipend but do allow an advance (up to 12k, i believe). some friends i know at peer firms mentioned that they’ll be receiving stipends (10k from what i hear) as opposed to advances. any assistance in shedding some light on this would be greatly appreciated. thanks.

I read your blog and I have a suggestion for a thread – the types of loan/stipend firms give to cover studying for the bar. I’ve heard that some firms give out-right cash bonuses, whereas others (including my Vault Top 5 firm) give a no-interest loan that you must then repay over your first year. Since these amounts are usually around $10,000, it can make a not insignificant difference in first year compensation.

Thought you might want to run a story on advances/stipends offered by law firms for incoming associates. I’m an incoming associate at [big prestigious firm], and was frustrated when I heard that most other top law firms pay a stipend of $10,000 to their associates for the summer of the bar, while [big prestigious firm] is offering only a “$3,000 signing bonus” and a 7k loan, which will be deducted from our first 6 months of salary.
I know several other incoming associates who are surprised to see [big prestigious firm] below market, but are afraid to communicate this to the firm.

About a year ago, when ATL previously posted an open thread on the subject, commenters suggested that firms in New York were more likely than non-NY firms to pay stub bonuses (first year bonuses pro-rated for the number of months worked), which made up for the lack of a signing bonus. But is that true today?
Today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey will probe your firm’s policy on signing bonuses and salary advances. Feel free to speak up in the comments, too. Or send us information by email. If we get enough responses, we’ll put together a table like the clerkship, maternity, and paternity leave tables (each of which will be updated this weekend, by the way, so feel free to send tips about those as well).
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this survey.

Servaas.jpgMichigan brings us today’s Judge of the Day, and there’s a shout-out to the University of Michigan… sort of. Rockford District Judge Steven Servaas never grew out of the middle school humor stage. Apparently, he likes to doodle on court documents and make jokes about chest size:

The State Judicial Tenure Commission is trying to force Servaas off the bench with claims he made inappropriate remarks to female court employees, drew inappropriate cartoons featuring male and female body parts on court documents, and lived outside of the area his Rockford court covers.
One of the allegations involves a remark Servaas admits making to a female court worker, Rebecca Andrus.
It involved a University of Michigan sweatshirt she wore during a November 2007 retirement party at the court’s Grand Rapids Township Division and her chest size.
“I said Beck, if you are going to wear a sweatshirt like that, you need bigger chest or a smaller school, like Albion, or, I mean Alma,” said Servaas.
“Do you think it’s acceptable to make jokes of a sexual nature with employees and staffers?” he was asked by Paul Fisher, the attorney for the Tenure Commission.
“It wasn’t sexual,” Servaas replied. “It was a party and yeah, I go to a party to make jokes and hear jokes.”

We go to parties to hear and make jokes too, but that’s a bad one! We bet no one at the party, or in the court, laughed.
He’s also in trouble for living outside of his district, showing his jock strap to female co-workers at a Christmas party, and drawing what looked like a penis on court files. He denies the doodling and says no one saw him draw it. Hmmm….. We love that this story comes to us from Wood TV.
Embattled judge takes the stand [WOODTV]

There’s been some belly-aching about ATL Law Firm March Madness, but over 2300 people voted, so we shall press on! According to your votes, eight law firms have been chosen to advance. Here are the updated brackets:
Elite Eight.jpg
Now it’s time again to vote for the “cooler” firm, defining “cool” however you like. We appreciate your definitions via comment. Polls to determine the Final Four, and more information on the Sweet Sixteen match-ups, are available after the jump. Polls close at midnight.
Earlier: ATL March April Madness for Law Firms, Round 1: The Sweet Sixteen

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL March April Madness for Law Firms, Round 2: The Elitist Elite Eight”

horror.jpgOver on Slate.com’s advice column, a young, struggling paralegal is seeking advice. “Deterred in the District” is happy about the high-pay and “career prospects,” but whines about a difficult partner:

The problem is that one of the partners I assist is particularly challenging. She’s intelligent and distinguished, but she is also a perfectionist. She’s an extremely daunting supervisor—especially for a legal neophyte and nonperfectionist like me. I’m functioning in high gear all day long, but I struggle to keep up. What’s worse is that she is heavy on the criticism and light on the positive reinforcement. A simple mistake like forgetting to put the “Northwest” at the end of a Washington, D.C., address in her appointment schedule will set off a string of negative interactions, while a perfectly orchestrated event will maybe muster an e-mail saying “Tks.” Our exchanges often leave me fuming yet stuck without a venue for venting. At what point can I turn to my boss and say, “Hey, I need things to be different around here” without sounding like an ingrate for the great opportunity that I have.

Slate points “Deterred” to a Wall Street Journal column on Generation Y’s need for praise and frequent feedback, and advises the paralegal to toughen up.
If we were answering this letter, we would say if you’re not a perfectionist, don’t be a paralegal. [FN1] We are annoyed by this whiny letter, because we like zombie movies and gore! Telling a horror story about a partner who only says “Tks” is lame. We invite you to tell us true ‘partner idiosyncrasy’ horror stories in the comments. We’ll round up the best ones and post them later.
Now, please give us positive reinforcement on this post. We are so Gen-Y.
[FN1] As a former Covington & Burling paralegal, Kash always remembered to include the quadrant on D.C. addresses.
Generation Y Me? [Slate.com]
The Most-Praised Generation Goes to Work [Wall Street Journal]

ATA Airlines ATA Airways bankrupt bankruptcy Above the Law blog.jpg* States, cities, environmental groups sue EPA in D.C. Circuit, seeking rules on vehicle emissions. [New York Times]
* Defense lawyers and civil libertarians not cool with “surreptitious sampling” of DNA — e.g., collecting DNA from saliva on discarded cigarettes. (Strikes us as an uphill battle, at least under existing Fourth Amendment law.) [New York Times)]
* DOJ: not cool with girl-on-girl action? Career lawyer at Justice Department may have lost her job due to rumors of lesbianism. [NPR (also noted yesterday in Non-Sequiturs]
* Fifth Circuit oral argument in Jeff Skilling case = snooze-fest. [WSJ Law Blog]
* ATA Airlines files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (again). If you have a ticket for an ATA flight, good luck with that. [AP]
* Elsewhere in airline trouble, FAA inspectors claim Southwest Airlines tried to conceal safety problems. [CNN]

Borat Borat Borat lawsuit law litigation legal Borat Borat Borat.JPGLast year we provided extensive coverage of litigation arising out of Borat, Sasha Baron Cohen’s raunchy hit film. Things have been generally quiet on that front, but now we have some news. Sewell Chan reports over at the City Room:

Was Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 film “Borat” a pure slapstick comedy? Does it have a measure of redeeming value as a societal commentary? A federal judge considered these questions before dismissing a lawsuit filed by a man who was randomly accosted — and touched — by Mr. Cohen on a Midtown street. The judge concluded that the movie “appeals to the most childish and vulgar in its viewers” but does make an effort to offer a critique of American society.

Reached for comment, Borat said: “Dismissal of lawsuit: Is nice! Borat want to meet Judge Preska and make sexytime under her robe.”

In general, the civil rights law prohibits using a private person’s name, portrait or likeness for “advertising purposes or the purposes of trade” without the person’s written permission. But as a judge, Loretta A. Preska of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, noted in a nine-page ruling on Monday, state courts have interpreted the ban narrowly, as “strictly limited to nonconsensual commercial appropriations of the name, portrait or picture of a living person.”

The ban does not apply to “newsworthy events or matters of public interest,” and “newsworthiness” has been taken to include “not only descriptions of actual events, but also articles concerning political happenings, social trends or any subject of public interest.”

Here’s an excerpt from Judge Preska’s opinion:

Of course, the movie employs as its chief medium a brand of humor that appeals to the most childish and vulgar in its viewers. At its core, however, “Borat” attempts an ironic commentary of “modern” American culture, contrasting the backwardness of its protagonist with the social ills [that] afflict supposedly sophisticated society. The movie challenges its viewers to confront not only the bizarre and offensive Borat character himself, but the equally bizarre and offensive reactions he elicits from “ordinary” Americans. Indeed, its message lies in that juxtaposition and the implicit accusation that “the time will come when it will disgust you to look in a mirror.” Such clearly falls within the wide scope of what New York courts have held to be a matter of public interest.

You can read the complete City Room post over here. Did Judge Preska get it right? Feel free to voice your view in the comments.
Judge Dismisses Suit Over ‘Borat’ [New York Times]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Borat litigation (scroll down)

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