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Obama smoking.JPGWe’ve discussed that under Barack Obama’s plan, taxes on Biglaw associates are likely to go up. But a cursory glance over on Open Secrets shows that many law firm partners are contributing towards the Obama campaign.

One associate we’ve talked with has a pretty interesting idea on how to deal with Biglaw partners that support Obama’s plans to take extra money away from “greedy” associates:

So a sixth year associate, who currently makes $250k and will receive a raise to $265k in January will see a larger chunk of that extra $15k disappear to taxes (via the new 39% tax bracket and and the 6.2% FICA tax). This will probably amount to a couple of thousand dollars per associate. I know this has been a lot of information, so bear with me …

My challenge to the lawfirm partnerships who are voting for Obama: bump senior associate salaries to compensate associates for the tax hike/salary cut they favor. This will no doubt be portrayed as the greediest of greedy associate complaints, but why should I pay for their preferred social policies?

Baseball teams do this all the time. New York and Boston often bump up players’ salaries to compensate them for the high state tax rates in New York and Massachusetts (as compared to places like Florida or Texas).

Of course, there are many (many) flaws with this idea. If you are angry about having your taxes raised, the preferred outlet for redress is the polling booth (or Boston Harbor), not your boss. And (ahem) associates are probably more worried about keeping their jobs right now than making their salary “whole” depending on the presidential administration.

But we take the point. Senior associates are likely to get hit under the Obama tax plan, and some people still vote their pocketbook. But look on the bright side. At least we are not staring into the abyss of a socialist nationalization of the private banking industry.

Earlier: Calculate Your Obama Tax Cut!

Don’t Bother Earning Money

columbia law school logo.jpgEarlier, we told you that Harvard and Stanford were replacing letter-grades in favor of a “we’re all winners” system. We then reported that the NYU Law School student newspaper published essentially an open letter, begging Columbia not to follow suit.

As you might imagine, Columbia is totally unconcerned with NYU law students and their opinions. The CLS student senate is conducting a poll to gauge where their classmates stand on grade reform:

Recently, both Stanford and Harvard law schools have announced that they will be eliminating letter grades and implementing differing pass/fail systems. This joins Yale in the ranks of upper echelon schools that “do not have grades.” Columbia Law School has considered eliminating letter grades in the past, and in light of these recent developments, the issue has again begun receiving increased scrutiny. Please take a moment to take this very brief, two-question survey at, and let us know what you think! The poll will close on Friday, October 17, at 5:00 pm, and the results will be published in next week’s issue of The CLS Black Letter.

Pedagogical benefits are fun to talk about, but law school is still a professional school. People go there to get jobs. Is a modified pass/fail system going to help CLS students get jobs? That seems to be the only relevant question.

Clifford Chance LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgAbout a year ago, Clifford Chance was one of the first firms to conduct layoffs (at least openly, to their credit). In November 2007, the firm laid off six associates in structured finance, one of the first practice areas to get hit by the credit crisis.

Today Clifford Chance is announcing additional cuts. Individual and group meetings have been and are being held, in both the New York and Washington offices. Litigation is one of the affected departments.

Interestingly enough, Clifford Chance recently snagged the #1 spot on the American Lawyer’s list of top-grossing global law firms (ranked by 2007 revenue). Will its proactive response to economic turmoil help CC keep the top spot for 2008? Or are the cuts a sign of deeper troubles at the firm?

We have calls and emails into the firm requesting details about the layoffs. We will update this post as soon as we hear more.

Update (2:30 PM): One tipster tells us that the layoffs have affected “at least 20 associates.” This source adds that the layoffs have affected the classes of 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Update (2:45 PM): We’ve received a statement from the firm. It reads, in part:

Clifford Chance today told 20 associates in the firm’s U.S. Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice they would be laid off as sluggishness in litigation matters continues despite market volatility that historically has produced countercyclical balance. There will also be a reduction in Business Services staff that follows in the fourth quarter.

Those attorneys in New York and Washington, D.C. affected by today’s decision are held in high regard by the firm. These layoffs were not performance-driven, and those affected will receive severance packages and outplacement services.

You can read the complete statement after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: Clifford Chance (Redux)
Twenty Litigators Laid Off, in NY and DC

  • 14 Oct 2008 at 1:37 PM
  • Uncategorized

Controlling The Narrative: Cleary Gottlieb

Cleary Gottlieb Steen Hamilton LLP CGSH Above the Law blog.jpgOn Friday we told you the story of 2 Cleary associates whose late night mistake caused problems for Cleary Gottlieb and their client, Barclays. Many were sympathetic to the associates and pointed out that blame should be shared with Cleary partners.

Cleary has declined to respond to the story, but that doesn’t mean they are unconcerned about what is said about them in the press. They are not shy about capitalizing of the global financial crisis either; their website now links to a financial crisis resource center. Yesterday, the firm sent around a hyper-positive email to all new Cleary offerees:

Congratulations on your offer to join Cleary Gottlieb!

We thought you may be interested in some recent media coverage of Cleary Gottlieb’s deals and cases.

The message goes on to list all of the great press stories Cleary has received since the firm’s attorneys first discovered fire. What do you think of this effort at firm PR?

Read the full message after the jump.

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Copyright_night_ripper_illegal_art.jpgStanford law professor Larry Lessig had an editorial in the Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition, “In defense of piracy.” Lessig starts off hating on the lawyers who went after the mother in the dancing baby/YouTube/Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” case. (Background here.)

How is it that sensible people, people no doubt educated at some of the best universities and law schools in the country, would come to think it a sane use of corporate resources to threaten the mother of a dancing 13-month-old? What is it that allows these lawyers and executives to take a case like this seriously, to believe there’s some important social or corporate reason to deploy the federal scheme of regulation called copyright to stop the spread of these images and music?

The answer: Crazy copyright law.

Lessig goes on to defend others whose creativity is derived from others’ creativity, like Danger Mouse and mash-up artist Girl Talk, whose latest album samples from 300 different songs. No rights acquired.

Midway through, the editorial goes into “Braveheart” mode. There’s a war going on, says Lessig– the “copyright wars.” Kids these days are sharing copyrighted material through peer-to-peer networks, while the art world is embracing a rampant remix culture.

This war must end. It is time we recognize that we can’t kill this creativity. We can only criminalize it. We can’t stop our kids from using these tools to create, or make them passive. We can only drive it underground, or make them “pirates.” And the question we as a society must focus on is whether this is any good. Our kids live in an age of prohibition, where more and more of what seems to them to be ordinary behavior is against the law. They recognize it as against the law. They see themselves as “criminals.” They begin to get used to the idea.

That recognition is corrosive. It is corrupting of the very idea of the rule of law. And when we reckon the cost of this corruption, any losses of the content industry pale in comparison.

That’s heavy. Lessig’s suggestions for ending the war, saving our lawless kids, and encouraging creativity, after the jump.

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jr ewing aka dale markland.jpgDo you remember the tale of Jeff Murphrey? He was the Houston-based attorney who tried to reschedule a deposition after Hurricane Ike caused significant property damage to his home.

When Dallas-based attorney Dale Markland objected (and requested Murphrey to pay rescheduling fees) Murphrey fired off this letter, which then went viral.

Well apparently Dale Markland (a.k.a J.R Ewing) has responded to Murphrey’s insult by devoting a whole section of his firm’s website to the spat. Here is Markland’s attempt to set the record straight:

* The hurricane in the Houston area occurred on September 12/13;

* Mr. Murphrey cancelled the deposition on September 23 when I was already on my way to Fort Wayne, Indiana for the deposition;

* I first got notice of this cancellation by cell phone message while in Chicago O’Hare Airport rushing to catch my connecting flight to Fort Wayne;

* The voice mail message I received in Chicago stated that Mr. Murphrey cancelled the deposition because he had meetings with contractors and city officials related to hurricane damage. It stated nothing about the horrors Mr. Murphrey addresses in his September 26 letter.

* Our firm’s attorneys attempted to gain Mr. Murphrey’s agreement that our client be recompensed for the unnecessary attorney’s fees and travel expenses entailed in my needlessly going to Fort Wayne. This is appropriate and professional behavior for attorneys who are representing their clients properly under the Texas State Bar Disciplinary Rules and The Texas Lawyers Creed. It is also, in my experience, not abnormal behavior for an attorney properly representing his client. If I had been in Mr. Murphrey’s shoes, I would have paid for the fees and expenses out of my firm’s pocket.

* Mr. Murphrey agreed to pay the travel expenses but declined to pay the attorney’s fees for the useless trip to Fort Wayne.

* It was not my fault or the fault of the client who pays my fees and expenses that Mr. Murphrey did not cancel the deposition until I was on my way to Fort Wayne.

* If Mr. Murphrey had simply picked up the telephone and called me, or had sent me an email or letter sometime between the hurricane on September 12/13 and when I left for Fort Wayne on September 23, I would have gladly agreed to re-set the deposition he had noticed. Then my client would not have been stuck with the fees and expenses of my useless trip to Fort Wayne.

* The first I knew of Mr. Murphrey’s story of horrors regarding his home damage was when I received his September 26 letter–after he cancelled the deposition, after I had made the useless trip to Fort Wayne, after I had appropriately determined whether Mr. Murphrey or his client would pay for the needless fees and expenses and after he had declined to pay my client for the fees.

* I am very sympathetic to Mr. Murphrey and his home situation, but it is not my client’s fault that Mr. Murphrey failed to cancel the deposition before I left, and the client should not bear this significant financial burden. My duty under Texas law is to uphold the interest of my client and that is what I have attempted to do.

More Markland excerpts after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Stars At Night; Are Big And Bright …”

  • 14 Oct 2008 at 10:08 AM

Best Career Prospects

pyramid scheme capstone small.jpgA week ago, we mocked Princeton Review’s “Best Career Prospects” law school rankings.

We felt that any methodology that ranked Boston College Law School as a better career move than Yale Law School had to be flawed.

Brian Leiter chose to tackle this career prospects question from a simple but reasonable angle:

Where do the most elite law firms in the United States go to hire new lawyers? We started with the most recent Vault list of the most prestigious law firms in the U.S. We had to go to #24 on that list to identify fifteen super elite law firms that had the right kinds of search engines to permit efficient identification of where associates at these law firms went to law school.

From this premise, Leiter has composed a list of the best “feeder schools” for Biglaw jobs.

Results after the jump.

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dog food.jpg* Simpson Thacher chosen as the legal advisers on the $700 billion bail-out. [The Lawyer]

* Google and Yahoo are in talks with the Justice Department to avoid an antitrust suit. [CNet]

* Pet owners whose furry little friends were sickened by contaminated pet food traced to China expected to get a settlement as high as $32 million. [Associated Press]

* Signs of a slowdown at your firm. “Partners doing legal research and writing memos and briefs in longhand is a sign of the apocalypse.” [Fulton County Daily Report]

* The adventures of a Georgetown law student set up on a blind date. Are D.C. roots and a shared interest in law school enough to seal the deal? [Washington Post]

ships3.jpg[Ed. note: Happy Columbus Day. And to the Canadians, happy Thanksgiving. Our publisher Breaking Media has encouraged us to embrace the holiday spirit on this second Monday of October, so we will not be publishing today. We'll see you tomorrow.]

* “Experts call 5 ongoing probes of federal jurists unprecedented.” [Houston Chronicle]

* Arizona bar exam results are out. [Supreme Court of Arizona (PDF)]

*Citigroup may have gracefully walked away from the battle with Wells Fargo over Wachovia, but it’s not walking away from its lawsuit for $60 billion in damages. [New York Law Journal]

* Sidley and Austin: breeding ground for terrorists? [Talking Points Memo]

* The Troopergate report was released on Friday. Sarah Palin found to have abused executive power. [Washington Post]

* Elizabeth Wurtzel in the house at Boies Schiller. [WSJ Law Blog]

Cleary Gottlieb Steen Hamilton LLP CGSH Above the Law blog.jpgToday, every associate’s worst nightmare came to a merciful end in a New York Bankruptcy Court.

The nightmare started for a first-year Cleary Gottlieb associate on the night of September 18th. The associate was called in for some extra muscle on the Barclays acquisition of Lehman assets. At the request of a second-year associate, the first-year reformatted an Excel spreadsheet of critical contracts to be assumed and assigned in bankruptcy on the closing date of the Lehman/Barclays sale. Predictably, this work was done long after normal business hours, just after 11:30 p.m.

On September 19th, Cleary produced the list of contracts based on the associates’ work the night before.

The problem was that the list contained 179 contracts that should not have been included. The Lehman/Barclays sale closed on September 22nd, with the over inclusive list of contracts.

My stomach gets tied up in knots writing that.

The resolution after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Case For Sleep: What Happens In Excel After Dark”

heller drone no more.JPG* Another book about law school, this time from an NYU grad. Fat Black Pussycat > Off the Wagon. [Law School Story]

* So, who is going to be the next USAG? [Law and More]

* Absentee ballots allowing people to vote for “Barack Osama” were mailed to about 300 residents of Rensselaer County, NY. That would be the longtime district of former New York State Senate Republican leader Joe Bruno. “Whoops.” [Albany Times Union]

* Will tighter ABA accreditation standards harm minority students? Only if you believe that minorities are disproportionately benefited by the low-end law schools getting squeezed by the ABA. I’m not sure if that stands up to empirical scrutiny. [The Shark]

* Online dating guide for lawyers. [Sweet Hot Justice]

* Apparently, informing associates and staff about their rights and options has been deemed “non-essential” by Heller management. [Heller Highwater]

judge_lippencott.jpgThis county judge in Ohio is being honored with ATL Judge of the Day for her creative sentencing. Judge Susan Fornof-Lippencott sentenced a local man to… gasp, the horror, the horror… Beethoven!

From the Associated Press:

Andrew Vactor was facing a $150 fine for playing rap music too loudly on his car stereo in July. But a judge offered to reduce that to $35 if Vactor spent 20 hours listening to classical music by the likes of Bach, Beethoven and Chopin.

Vactor, 24, lasted only about 15 minutes, a probation officer said.

Vactor may not have been a fan of the classical tunes, but Nas appreciates Für Elise along with you, Judge Fornof-Lippencott.

Despite the classical sentence, she’s not too terribly high-brow. According to her bio, Judge Bach-inator is a farmer and participates in “West-Liberty Salem High School Mock Trials.” And Men’s News Daily reports that she has sentenced other offenders to episodes of Oprah and Dr. Phil. Now that’s harsh!

Judge sentences rap fan to Bach, Beethoven [Associated Press]

Rap music fan sentenced to Beethoven, pays fine instead [Men's News Daily]

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