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Jane Willis Jane E Willis Ropes Gray Kate Bosworth Above the Law blog.jpgPicking our Lawyer of the Day was easy. Today the winning hand belongs to Ropes & Gray partner Jane Willis. From the Boston Globe:

Jane Willis was always a standout student. Her reputation as a math whiz was well known at Phillips Exeter and Harvard, where she graduated in 1991 with a lofty recommendation from Lawrence Summers.

But no one suspected how Willis was using those skills, and she wasn’t about to tell. Even as a partner at a high-powered Boston law firm, she has kept her curious back story to herself.

“Sounds weird to say, but it just never came up,” Willis says, sipping a draft beer in a hotel bar not far from her office at One International Place.

She likes beer? Ick. Why not some fine wine or top-shelf liquor? But Jane Willis is not your ordinary Biglaw partner:

She might still be mum if not for 21, the new movie about MIT’s celebrated blackjack team. Willis, it turns out, was a member of the card-counting cadre that beat the casinos and, later, inspired the best-selling book Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions. In the film, which opens Friday, Kate Bosworth’s character is based on Willis.

How cool is that? We like the casting of Bosworth; there’s definitely a resemblance (see photos; Willis is on the left).
More after the jump.

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internet ban classroom University of Chicago Law School AboveTheLaw legal blog.jpgWe reported yesterday about the University of Chicago Law School cutting off access to ATL internet in the classroom. A University of Chicago student sent along the e-mail from Dean Saul Levmore explaining the anti-internet policy, and said that we “should absolutely post the full text of Levmore’s asinine email.”
Check it out in its entirety after the jump. Here’s an excerpt:

Few things should be as important to our community as regaining and establishing our common sense that the classroom should be a place for learning and interaction. Visitors to classes, as well as many of our students, report that the rate of distracting Internet usage during class is astounding.

Remarkably, usage appears to be contagious, if not epidemic. Several observers have reported that one student will visit a gossip site or shop for shoes, and within twenty minutes an entire row is shoe shopping. Half the time a student is called on, the question needs to be repeated. I confess that as I have researched this subject, I have been made aware how offensive it often is when phone calls are taken in public and when Blackberry and other e-mail devices are consulted during meetings. I have promised myself that I will no longer check my Blackberry under the table at University meetings.

So tempted to shoe shop… Must finish blog post… We wonder how long Dean Levmore will keep his Blackberry promise. It reminds us of the Seinfeld “master of my domain” episode. How long can he hold out? Anyone want to make a wager? What’s the over / under?
(Poor Dean Levmore, by the way, is also taking flak for Chicago’s drop — just from #6 to #7, but some commenters are apoplectic — in the latest U.S. News law school rankings.)
Results of our poll, plus selected reader comments and the full text of Dean Levmore’s message, after the jump.

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Latham Watkins LLP Above the Law blog.JPGHere’s a round-up of interesting items pertaining to Latham & Watkins, a favorite firm among ATL readers.
1. Latham makes the “no layoffs” pledge. Just like Milbank, Latham has promised that it won’t be laying off lawyers in response to the current economic crisis. From an LW tipster:

Last Wednesday, managing partner Bob Dell gave his State of the Firm address via videoconference. Dell went over the firm’s great financial success for 2007 (firm revenue went up a whopping 23%, far exceeding all other major firms).

He also addressed the challenges ahead for 2008. He specifically addressed the issue of layoffs. He said multiple times that he believed it would be a bad business decision to lay off associates. Latham made that mistake in 1990 and Dell said the layoffs hurt their profitability after the recession was over. Dell said “there will be no layoffs” and that it was not even on the table for discussion.

The firm is definitely slower, but things have picked up a little bit. Firm pace is around 100% [based on 1900 billables] for the first time this year for March. It’s not going to be a banner year like 2007, but I don’t think that it will be a disaster, either. Dell did note that it would be challenging and that “partners would be making a lot less money.” I thought that was a bit of candor that was welcomed (and unexpected).

Dell also stressed that the firm was diversified and well positioned to handle any coming recession, even if it deepens. He also felt that Latham was well positioned to take advantage of the post-recession period as well.

So that’s the good news. Considering how phenomenally well the firm fared last year, the partners can afford to take a hit if necessary to avoid layoffs.
More Latham news, after the jump.

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(Morale – thanks to a ‘no layoffs’ promise.)”

The rich get richer. Movie stars who already earn millions of dollars per picture get showered with freebies, like award show “gift bags” worth thousands of dollars. Similarly, students at top law schools, who already have their pick of $160K job offers, get wined and dined by leading law firms. There IS such a thing as a free lunch, if you go to the right law school.
Of course, the quality of the fare will vary. From a tipster at a top 25 law school (according to the latest U.S. News rankings):

This isn’t that exciting of a tip, but the flyer just kind of freaks me out. What’s up with that graphic?

See you ‘round the taco table!

Taco Lunch Dorsey Whitney Above the Law blog.jpg
We were similarly troubled by these Alpo-stuffed creations, which didn’t strike us as very taco-like. But then we recalled that tacos can be soft as well as hard.
Which got us wondering: What is the difference between a soft taco and a burrito? We found enlightenment here and here.
A Massachusetts judge, as well as ATL readers, previously concluded that a burrito is not a sandwich. But a soft taco, insofar as it is “open” — i.e., with exposed fillings, like a traditional sandwich — may present a closer case.
Burrito vs soft taco? [Yahoo! Answers]
Soft Taco vs. Burrito [VWVortex Forums]
Earlier: ATL Reader Poll: Is a Burrito a Sandwich?

golden parachute gold parachute Above the Law blog.jpgWe’ve received approximately five hundred responses to last week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on whether you expect layoffs at your firm, and how you’re coping.
By and large, you’re a pretty gloomy bunch. Forty-three percent of respondents are afraid that their firm will have layoffs. Among respondents who are Class of 1999 or more senior, this number spiked to 66%. Among law students, 53% of respondents are afraid their firms will have layoffs.
Respondents in the Bay Area, New York and Chicago were the most concerned, with 56%, 48%, and 46%, respectively, fearing layoffs. In contrast, only 19% of respondents in Philadelphia said they were afraid of layoffs at their firms. In other markets, layoff concern ranged from 31% to 38% of responses.
Most respondents thought their law firms would provide at least some support during a layoff:
  * 54% thought their firm would provide a severance package.
  * 53% thought their firm would provide ample notice so they could find a new job.
  * 38% thought their firm would help them move between departments to stay busy.
  * 20% thought their firm would help them relocate to another office.
  * Another 20%, however, were not sure if their firm would help them, and 15% thought their firm simply wouldn’t help them during a layoff.
While most respondents expect some support from their law firms, the most popular response to an anticipated layoff is to simply switch firms:
  * 53% of respondents said that they would talk to headhunters about switching firms or going in-house to protect themselves from a slowdown.
  * 42% would talk to friends at other firms.
Additional survey findings, after the jump.

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prison bars.jpgThere’s an interesting behind-the-scenes story in an appeal heard by the Supreme Court this week. The appeal concerns a South Carolina drug dealer and the definition of a felony. For details, see this AP story.
What we find interesting is the former paralegal serving jail time who got SCOTUS to accept the case. We previously named him our Jailhouse Lawyer of the Day. Here’s a recap:

Jailhouse lawyer Michael Ray has accomplished something rarely achieved by even the most experienced of attorneys on the outside: The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in a case for one of his fellow inmates.

Legal experts estimate the high court accepts less than 1 percent of the thousands of cases it receives each year. The Court’s action was even more extraordinary in this instance, because the appeal was drawn up by a prisoner who earns 29 cents an hour and does not even have a college degree, much less a law school education.

“This is basically a once-in-a-lifetime for a good criminal defense attorney, so you can imagine I’m on cloud nine, with my background,” the 42-year-old Ray said with a laugh during a recent phone interview from a federal prison in Estill, S.C.

I mean, really, who needs law school? It’s just a whole lot of debt and time spent surfing the net. There are so many other law-related, no-law-degree-needed opportunities: jailhouse lawyer, ATL guest blogger…
(You do need an actual law degree to go before SCOTUS, though. Stanford Law School professor Jeffrey L. Fisher argued the case this week.)
But Ray’s not on cloud nine anymore. Read why, after the jump.

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(If you file a cert petition for a fellow prison inmate and do not have a law degree.)”

US News World Report cover 2009 law school rankings ratings Above the Law blog.jpgRelax, folks. We are aware that the 2009 law school rankings of U.S. News & World Report have leaked, in advance of their official Friday publication date. They’re all over the blogosphere and the message boards (links collected below).
We’ve been sitting on this item for a little while — coordinating with our other posts this morning, taking into account our traffic patterns, etc. There is a method to our madness.
Ideally we’d hold this item even longer (which would allow us to do a more detailed write-up). But it’s clear that you’re all dying to talk about the rankings RIGHT NOW. And we don’t want to get any more emails and comments of the “why aren’t you writing about U.S. News” variety.
So here you go. Rankings and discussion, after the jump (i.e., click on the “Continue reading” link below).

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* Supreme Court rebuffs claim of presidential power with respect to enforceability of World Court ruling. [Washington Post]
* Meanwhile, other countries’ courts reject U.S. punitive damages. [New York Times]
* Second Circuit shoot down New York State’s Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, on preemption grounds. [New York Times]
* Affirmative action opponents seeking ’08 wedge issue? [Washington Post]
* Sierra Leone war crimes court funding raises questions about whether money’s being well-spent. [Washington Post]
* WMD materials found in D.C. truck, on second check. [MSNBC]

pile of cash or money Above the Law Legal Blog.JPGWe linked to it yesterday in passing, but thought we’d draw your attention to it in a dedicated post. Check out TheLawyer.com’s report on the 2007 financial performance of the top 50 U.S. law firms (ranked by revenue):

The top 50 US firms last year generated a total of $46.8bn (£23.4bn) in revenue – an increase of more than 16 per cent on the 2006 total of $40.27bn (£20.14bn)….

2007 was one of the strongest on record for the majority of US firms, despite the turbulence that rocked the market in the summer and which continues to do so. The average profit per equity partner (PEP) at the leading group of US firms showed smaller, although still significant, growth. In 2006 the average PEP among the top 50 US firms was $1.55m (£842,391). Last year that rose by 11 per cent to $1.72m (£860,000).

Here’s the discussion of one of the most closely watched metrics, profits per partner:

Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft was second only to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in terms of posting the biggest fall in PEP. The former was down by 6.2 per cent, although despite this drop it hung on to its place in the top five best performers on PEP overall, with $2.72m (£1.36m). Here, Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz remains out of reach of any other US firm with a PEP of $4.48m (£2.24m)

And what will this year look like? You already know the answer to that question:

Ward Bower of US legal market consultancy Altman Weil says the numbers confirm that 2007 was the best ever for top firms in terms of both productivity and profitability.

“Don’t expect to see that in 2008,” he added. “Some of those same firms are off 10 to 15 per cent on the revenue side for the first two months of this year.”

For additional data, plus a table of the top 50 U.S. law firms and their 2007 financial results, see here.
US top 50′s £46.8bn haul makes 2007 the best year ever [The Lawyer]
Magnificent ’07: The Lawyer US Top 50 2007 [The Lawyer]

Michael Mukasey Attorney General Michael B Mukasey Above the Law blog.JPG* An account of Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s Supreme Court argument. Depressing detail: he rented his morning coat. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]
* Conservative legal celebrity deathmatch: U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement v. Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz. [Concurring Opinions]
* Nationwide Layoff Watch: Merrill Lynch. [Dealbreaker]
* The Obamas release their tax returns, revealing Biglaw-esque income. Do they give enough to charity? [TaxProf Blog via Instapundit]
* We linked to this site, a helpful resource to aspiring law clerks, around the time of its launch. But now it’s been redesigned, with a pantsuit-clad hottie at the top of the page. So feel free to visit again. [SoYouWantToBeALawClerk]
* An ATL PSA: please help a newly blind tax law professor. [TaxProf Blog]
* If you’re here in D.C. and looking for something to do this Friday night, March 28, here’s an idea. It’s a fun event, and it’s for a good cause. Hope to see you there! [AEF - APABA]

Bully Larry Clark Movie Above the Law blog.jpgThe New York Times is on a bit of a “bully” kick lately — using their “bully pulpit,” if you will. They recently ran this 1100-word article, by Pulitzer Prize winner Dan Barry, about an Arkansas teen who has been subjected to bullying at school for years — sometimes to the point of physical violence. (Gawker glibly summarizes it as a piece about “a random kid, Billy Wolfe, who gets knocked around a lot.”)
Sure enough, it has a legal angle to it:

The Wolfes are not satisfied [with the school's response to their complaints about their son being bullied]. This month they sued one of the bullies “and other John Does,” and are considering another lawsuit against the Fayetteville School District. Their lawyer, D. Westbrook Doss Jr., said there was neither glee nor much monetary reward in suing teenagers, but a point had to be made: schoolchildren deserve to feel safe.

One ATL reader who drew this article to our attention is definitely on the side of the parents: “I’d like to see a post about the tort and criminal aspects of the case. Seems like the school’s gonna get creamed.”
This reader is probably not alone in feeling sympathy for Billy Wolfe. We’d guess that victims of schoolyard bullies are disproportionately represented among the ranks of lawyers, especially lawyers at top law firms. What do revenge-seeking nerds do after high school? They grow up to become lawyers, so they can acquire wealth and power, and lord it over their used-car-selling ex-tormentors at twentieth high school reunions.
But the Times didn’t stop there with its fixation on bullying. A second Times article, in today’s paper, discusses bullying in the workplace. How long before Nick Kristof writes an impassioned column on the subject, after traveling to Arkansas and hanging out with poor Billy for a week?
More discussion, after the jump.

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Dewey LeBoeuf LLP logo small Above the Law blog.jpgThe latest major law firm to enhance its parental leave policy: Dewey & LeBoeuf. Remember the holiday party car controversy? All is forgiven. Eighteen weeks, plus Denim Day? You couldn’t ask for anything more.
Actually, maybe you can. From a male tipster at the firm:

D&L just went to 18 weeks for parental leave: 8 weeks of medical leave for a birth mother, 4 weeks of childcare leave, and an additional 6 weeks of primary caregiver leave. This means that birth mothers get 18 weeks, adoptive primary caregivers get 10 weeks, and a parent who is not the primary caregiver gets 4 weeks.

So beleaguered working dads still only get a month. Can I humbly suggest that the next big perk should be non-primary caregiver parents to 8 weeks? We still lose sleep and have to deal with, ah, a moody home environment…

Sure, that would be nice — but first things first. Don’t look a fringe-benefit horse in the mouth.
For a table listing the maternity leave policies of various large law firms, prepared by ATL survey guru Justin Bernold, click here. For a compilation of paternity leave policies, click here.
The Dewey & LeBoeuf cover email and memo, after the jump.

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