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ropes gray logo.JPGLast week we told you that Jenner & Block held a firm-wide pep talk to assure associates that everything was going great.

Apparently, this is the new trend. Terrified associates are being told that they have nothing to fear, for now.

Last week Ropes & Gray’s chairman Brad Malt sent out this email:

We’re living in extraordinary times, and I know many of you are concerned about what the current turmoil in the financial markets might mean to us here at Ropes & Gray. I’d like to offer some thoughts on why we are well positioned to weather the turbulence in the marketplace.

Our firm is over 140 years old, in no small part because we always build for the long term. We have weathered many recessions, starting with the Panic of 1873, and we have always emerged stronger. Today, we possess many competitive advantages, including diversified practice offerings and a diverse client base. Thankfully, we do not depend for our bread and butter on the kinds of companies or markets that are most troubled right now. While recent events have felt unsettling for many people, nothing that is happening should distract us from continuing to execute our strategic plan and deliver excellent client service.

The recent turmoil in the financial markets has also presented the firm with important opportunities to advise clients, including some of the companies affected by recent events. Among the many examples, we obtained a temporary restraining order for our broker-dealer client, Ameriprise Financial Services, in the first case involving a money market fund to “break the buck.†An extraordinary cross-disciplinary and cross-office team reached a multi-billion dollar agreement to purchase Neuberger Berman’s investment management business and Lehman Brother’s fixed income and alternative asset businesses. We are representing various senior officers of major financial institutions in investigations of sub-prime lending activities and related class action lawsuits. And we have advised numerous hedge funds, CDO funds, mutual funds and other clients on other aspects of the market situation, including analysis of distressed securities, advice about credit default swap counterparties, advice about the new short-sale restrictions, and bankruptcy rules.

In the longer term, we are very well positioned to take advantage of opportunities that will arise from the changing market environment, and we continue to invest in lawyers and staff to help us do so. We were delighted recently to welcome our associate Class of 2008, and we actively continue to hire for summer 2009 and beyond.

To be clear, we are not immune to what’s happening in the wider world. However, I believe the strengths we have built in our firm, our proven agility in addressing changing market landscapes, and the dedication and high caliber of you, our people, will enable us to withstand the short-term market challenges. As always, we are grateful for your continuing hard work and commitment.

This letter reads somewhat like DPW and Debevoise emails where those firms touted their post-meltdown successes.

O’Melveny & Myers shows firms how to send a spooky reassurance email after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “We’re Super: Thanks For Asking”

ATL has an article this week lamenting the absence of females in the legal blogosphere. C.C. Holland writes:

The question is not a new one, but it’s gaining traction in the blogosphere lately as the old concern spawns new debate. And it seems to be true that the majority of high-profile legal blogs, whether in academia or the practice of law, are helmed by men.

Sites such as Above the Law (David Lat), How Appealing (Howard J. Bashman) and Balkinization (Jack M. Balkin) are each authored or edited by one man. The China Law Blog is written by Dan Harris and Steve Dickinson of Harris & Moure. The Volokh Conspiracy, another popular law blog, list 18 contributors, none of whom are female. The woman blogger whose name comes up most frequently in the legal space is law professor Ann Althouse, but her blog isn’t primarily about legal issues.

We object! For one thing, Above The Law is “authored or edited” by a new man, editor in chief since August Elie Mystal. (David Lat is ATL’s founder and still near and dear to our hearts, as a regular contributor and managing editor of our parent company Breaking Media.)

Additionally, the gender-ambiguous C.C. neglects to note that the ATL ladies outnumber the men these days, as some may have noted last week in our self-congratulatory post. ATL’s XX team consists of Laurie Lin, Hope Winters, Marin and yours truly.

More on the female law blogger question, and bikini photos, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Hey! ATL has female bloggers and an EIC with a gender-neutral name”

sky-is-falling.jpgWe received roughly 1,527 responses to last week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on whether you’re busy, which is up from the roughly 1,350 responses we received in June.

Overall, things are looking slower than they did in December or June, with 32% of associates afraid that they won’t make their hours this year, in contrast to 28% of associates in June and 18% in December. Worse yet, 3% of respondents said that they had already been laid off, an answer that wasn’t available in the earlier surveys.

Meanwhile, the number of respondents who still think their firms actually need to hire more people has dropped precipitously, from 25% in June to only 15% today.

Is business slow? December 2007 vs. June 2008 vs. September 2008

December 2007   June 2008   September 2008
Yes, I’ve been laid off. n/a n/a 3%
Yes. I won’t make my hours. 18% 28% 32%
Yes, but I’ll make my hours. 15% 12% 16%
It’s slow for others, but not me. 16% 14% 11%
No. 25% 21% 23%
No. We need more people. 26% 25% 15%

Find out what’s hot and what’s not, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Life Survey: Yikes”

Palin Vogue.JPGLate Friday night, we reported that Sarah Palin’s tax returns failed to report the per diem reimbursements she received as governor of Alaska. Over the weekend our commenters weighed in:

This is an easy income tax question. Any 1L/2L taking an income tax class could have answered this problem. Yes, the IRS usually relies on employer’s W2 forms. That’s for administrative convenience. For the most part, the IRS doesn’t want to audit every employee’s fringe benefits, which would be an incredible waste of tax dollars. That being said, the governor, with all her qualifications and knowledge regarding the U.S. system of governance, should have known that a per diem (worth how much over the last 18 months?) should be included in her tax return. If my employer reimbursed me for tens of thousands of dollars (for what expenses?), I would at least think about whether this was income.

But ATL weekend readers concluded that Palin will likely face no criminal liability:

The answer is probably that Palin is civilly responsible for underreporting income and underpaying taxes, but is not criminally responsible.

Criminal tax violations require “willfulness”. In the criminal tax arena, the Supreme Court has interpreted that as a pretty tough standard — approaching actual intent to violate a known obligation. See Cheek v. United States (1991). But a taxpayer is civilly liable for taxes whether or not she knew or had reason to know of the liability. (You’re still liable even if you relied in good faith on your accountant; even if you thought you didn’t have to pay; even if you made just a math error). And the IRS can require payment of back-taxes for whatever years are still within the statute of limitations, which almost certainly would include Palin’s limited time as governor.

So to the extent [Roger] Olsen [Palin's tax lawyer] is simply saying that Palin won’t be criminally prosecuted, he’s right. To the extent he’s saying that the IRS would believe Palin current on her obligations, he’s wrong — she’s going to have to file amended returns and send in a check.

Tax professors comment after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Sarah Palin: The Case of the Unreported Income”

live free or die.jpgThe market may have already discounted the $700 billion ($840 B) bailout bill, but the legal profession hasn’t even begun to get its hands around this thing.

But while we wait for serious actions to arise from the market implosion, at least we have this crazy dude from “reenactment of 1776” to help us pass the time. This guy is one of the many — mentally unbalanced — souls who makes the internet so much fun. But he has taken a break from his usual calls for a violent proletariat revolution to attack the bailout bill through more “constructive” means. He proposes a class action lawsuit against … well, I’m not sure who exactly. But the point is that he is against it! And he believes that the 13th Amendment provides all the legal cover he requires:

If this bailout is passed, I Larry Bumgarner, from will try to file papers in Federal Court to get an injunction against this bailout, to stop it, so that we can protect the lower and middleclass from thirteenth amendment violations. This I would like to turn into a class action suit with members of the lower and middleclass. If you would be interested in joining a class action lawsuit please respond to this site with your e-mail address.

I don’t like,

I don’t like,

I don’t like Mondays.

It gets so much better after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Little Bit Of Knowledge Is A Hilarious Thing”

michelle obama.jpg* Citigroup convinced Justice Charles E. Ramos of the New York State Supreme Court to issue an emergency order this weekend blocking Wachovia’s sale to Wells Fargo. “The litigation could be a blockbuster, pitting some of the nation’s largest surviving financial institutions against one another and giving work to the most expensive legal talent money can buy.” [New York Times]

… * UPDATE: Wells Fargo and Citibank may divvy up Wachovia. [Bloomberg]

* Shocker from Michelle Obama’s new biography! She was dissatisfied with firm work at Sidley Austin. Even when they gave her Coors beer ads. [Lynn Sweet/Chicago Sun-Times]

* Expect the future of SCOTUS to get attention in the last month of the presidential race. Reverend Wright to One First Street? [New York Times]

* Charges in the Italian legal “Parent Trap” case. The Italian judge and her non-lawyer twin sister who swapped places for a day will be charged with fraud. [Reuters]

* We welcomed SCOTUS back earlier today. More on the term ahead and the lawyers who will be working their magic before the justices. [Legal Times]

  • 06 Oct 2008 at 7:51 AM

Welcome back, SCOTUS!

Supreme Court 6 Above the Law blog.JPGIt’s the first Monday of October. That means the “open for business” sign is being hung back up at One First Street.

Adam Liptak took a look at the Supreme Court’s new strategy for this term in a New York Times article this weekend:

The court is working at a brisker pace than it has in recent years. It is accepting more cases and hearing them earlier in the term. In October and November, the court will hear three arguments a day, rather than the usual two, returning after lunch for the third one.

By frontloading the arguments to the beginning of the term, which generally runs from October to June, the court may be able to issue decisions more regularly and avoid the usual end-of-term barrage of significant rulings.

The National Law Journal has a nice distillation of the particularly interesting cases on the docket this term:

  • Business is seeking federal pre-emption of state personal injury suits in the pharmaceutical drug and tobacco arenas.

  • Employees and employers square off in two job bias cases, one involving retaliation and the other pregnancy leave and retirement credit.
  • Sexual harassment in schools draws the justices into the interplay of two major discrimination statutes.
  • And an unusually large number of environmental cases — four — will be argued, ranging from Navy sonar and its effect on marine mammals to the use of cost-benefit analysis in setting environmental standards.
  • Among other issues, there also are “dirty words” in a Fox Television challenge; a free speech challenge involving a monument to the “Seven Aphorisms” of the Summum religion; liability-immunity issues for prosecutors and top federal officials; terror victim compensation lawsuits; and counsel representation in state clemency proceedings.
  • In keeping with the spirit of one case on the docket, FCC v. Fox Television Stations, we’d like to say, “SCOTUS, welcome the f**k back.”

    Justices Return to Work, With Less Meaty Docket [New York Times]

    In the New Term, High Stakes for the High Court [The National Law Journal]

    Earlier: SCOTUS to Weigh In on F**king S**t

    oj simpson mug shot Above the Law no pun intended.jpgThis news came in overnight. Via the AP (story filed at 2:33 AM Eastern time):

    O.J. Simpson, who went from American sports idol to celebrity-in-exile after he was acquitted of murder in 1995, was found guilty Friday of robbing two sports-memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room.

    Simpson, 61, could spend the rest of his life in prison. Sentenc[ing] was set for Dec. 5….

    The Hall of Fame football star was convicted of kidnapping, armed robbery and 10 other charges for gathering up five men a year ago and storming into a room at a hotel-casino, where the group seized several game balls, plaques and photos. Prosecutors said two of the men with him were armed; one of them said Simpson asked him to bring a gun.

    Talk about timing:

    The verdict came 13 years to the day after Simpson was cleared of murdering his ex-wife and a friend of hers in Los Angeles in one of the most sensational trials of the 20th century.

    Karma is a bitch. We previously expressed pessimism about the prospects of a conviction, but we can’t say we’re unhappy to be proven wrong.

    Update: (Mystal, J., concurring): I do think that the verdict was bull$#TTT because a white man who tried to get his own stuff back would never have been found guilty of a “crime” in a western state like Nevada. But I’m not going to lie (go to the 6:15 mark); the man killed two people back in the day.

    I was happy that he got off back then, Fuhman was a racist cop, and I was happy that “society” learned that there is no justice when racist cops are involved. But I don’t suborn support killing people.

    Acquittal via the race card, conviction via the race card … seems fair to me.

    Simpson guilty on all charges in robbery trial [AP]

    O. J. Simpson Found Guilty in Robbery Trial [New York Times]

    Earlier: Do I Smell A Fuhrman?

    Heller Ehrman LLP Above the Law blog.JPGThis won’t come as a galloping shock to the pessimists out there, but Heller Ehrman is not going to pay out the accrued vacation time of their associates and staff. The disappointed employees were told today via a firm-wide email:

    On behalf of the Dissolution Committee:

    To Our Employees:

    The Dissolution Committee is sending this message to keep interested employees as informed as possible of relevant developments. A number of people have raised questions about accrued vacation pay payable upon termination. We regret to inform you that the banks’ which now control our ability to write checks — Bank of America and Citibank — have informed us that we may not pay terminating employees for accrued vacation. This decision was made despite our strenuous, repeated efforts to convince the banks otherwise.

    We will continue to seek the banks’ permission to pay these amounts as soon as possible. The Dissolution Committee did obtain the banks oral permission to fund the payroll due next Friday in all other respects. We are now awaiting their written confirmation, which we expect to receive later today.

    We sincerely regret that the banks are preventing us from paying our terminating employees the full amount to which they are entitled at this time. We wish it were otherwise, and we will continue to press the banks to change their position.

    The Dissolution Committee

    As we’ve discussed before, the banks really do have the ultimate authority when it comes to these situations. However, Heller made many protestations in the immediate aftermath of the dissolution that associates and staff would be paid all that they were owed.

    Is “orderly dissolution” a thing of the past? Hellerites weigh in after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Anatomy of a Dissolution:
    BoA & Citi Tell Heller Ehrman There’s No Money For Vacation Time “

    Palin Vogue.JPGEarlier today, Governor Sarah Palin released her tax returns. It turns out she makes a little more than most “hockey moms” but she’s no Joe Biden. TaxProf Blog breaks down how she stacks up to the other Article II contenders:

    Gov. Palin’s charitable contributions do not approach the 10% tithe required by her evangelical church, but they are in line with the average charitable contribution of Americans with her income and they are over ten times greater (on a percentage basis) than Joe Biden’s miserly charitable contributions.

    But Paul Caron was also right on the money about another issue: Palin’s failure to report her per diem reimbursement she received as governor of Alaska. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have mentioned these reimbursements before.

    Palin tonight responded with authority to these allegations. The campaign released a letter (pdf) from D.C. tax attorney Roger M. Olsen:

    Unless employees have reason to know that the W-2 is incorrect, the IRS expects employees to rely on the employer’s W-2 as prepared & filed with the IRS, as Governor Palin did. The income tax aspects of fringe benefits are complex and highly technical, and not subject to second-guessing by laymen. The State of Alaska is confident that its position is correct. Its employees were entitled to rely on that determination, So was Governor Palin.

    Sounds like Olsen just called the liberal media “TTT.” Caron points out that Olsen is more qualified to speak about Palin’s tax returns than your average cable news anchor:

    Mr. Olsen has a tax LL.M. from George Washington and is a former Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division under President Reagan.

    Are there any uber-qualified attorneys that would like to support the Olsen-Palin position? Or stand opposed?

    Gov. Palin Releases Law Firm Opinion Letter Justifying Her Not Reporting Per Diem Expenses as Income [TaxProf Blog]

    Palin Releases Tax Returns and Financial Disclosure Forms [TaxProf Blog]

    Roger Olsen Letter (pdf)

    women playboy want wall street.jpg* The real Spiderman gets hit for tax evasion. Times are tough so I guess the IRS can’t just go after black actors and rappers anymore. [TaxProf Blog]

    * A chance meeting with Sandy Dee. [Dr. Frank's]

    * A sneak peak at the Simpson’s upcoming Treehouse of Horror episode. [io9]

    * I knew Eliza Doolittle. Eliza Doolittle was a friend of mine. Madame, you are no Eliza Doolittle. [What About Clients?]

    * If your firm’s janitor stops coming around, your firm might be trying to help you. [Law and More]

    * The Beautiful Lawyers of Boston Calendar launch party was last night, and their photo gallery is now online. Until GULC does a “women of K street issue” I’m not going to get too interested. [f/k/a]

    * I speak from some experience here; when breaking media says they are looking for new writers, they are totally serious. [Dealbreaker]

    • 03 Oct 2008 at 4:19 PM
    • Uncategorized

    Skadden/DPW v. S&C: Boom Goes The Dynamite

    wall street bull backside.jpgThe deal between Citigroup and Wachovia fell through, allowing Wells Buffet Fargo to swoop in and pick up the ball Citigroup dropped.

    Citigroup is considering whether to increase it’s bid for Wachovia or sue Wachovia according to the Wall Street Journal. They might also consider crying themselves to sleep on their huge pillow.

    But legal insiders are busy blaming people for the aborted merger between the two commercial banks. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog suggests that Sullivan and Cromwell –counsel for Wachovia on both mergers– attorneys hit the snooze button one too many times:

    We lobbed a call over to Wachovia’s lawyer, S&C’s Rodgin Cohen, to find out. Cohen declined to comment on the record. But in looking for clues this morning, we came across this National Law Journal story entitled, “Crisis mantra for sleep-deprived M&A attorneys: don’t sweat the small stuff.

    Discussing the feverish pace of three recent billion-dollar bank mergers, the NLJ quoted Cohen in explaining how to put such deals together so quickly: “We all understood, you can’t sweat the small stuff.”

    The Law Blog claims that the “small stuff” might be an exclusivity agreement:

    Citi claims the letter of intent it reached with Wachovia contained an exclusivity agreement prohibiting Wachovia from trying to lure other bidders. …

    An M&A partner at a large New York firm who spoke with us this morning says no. “Quite often, letters of intent don’t include exclusivity agreements.”

    Additional winners and losers after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Skadden/DPW v. S&C: Boom Goes The Dynamite”

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