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American Red Cross.jpgSome people question whether large law firms do enough to make the world a better place. These people wonder: Are Biglaw partners letting Third World babies die, just so they can enjoy their Ferraris?
Or is the “Baby vs. Ferrari” choice a false dichotomy? Here’s another way of looking at it. Lawyers at large law firms, by providing top-notch legal services to large corporations — corporations owned not just by fat cats but also by ordinary Americans, through mutual funds and similar investment vehicles — create value that otherwise would not exist. Some of this surplus value makes its way into the pockets of partners (and their Ferrari dealers). But some of it makes its way to charitable causes (as well as federal and state government coffers, in the form of tax revenue).
Last week we commended the firms of Dewey & LeBoeuf and Heller Ehrman for their generous donations in support of China earthquake relief efforts. And it seems that supporting relief organizations, just like raising associate salaries, may be contagious within Biglaw.
Several other leading law firms have donated to support China earthquake relief efforts (and a number of these firms, including Orrick and Weil, acted within a few hours of last week’s ATL post). Here are some that we know of:

1. Allen & Overy: $80,000 contribution + matching donations.
2. Kirkland & Ellis: $100,000 contribution + matching donations.
3. McDermott Will & Emery: $10,000 contribution.
4. Morrison & Foerster
5. Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe: matching donations, up to $100,000.
6. Sullivan & Cromwell: $100,000 contribution.
7. Weil Gotshal & Manges: $50,000 contribution.

We commend the foregoing firms and their employees for their generosity. If your firm has taken action and isn’t mentioned above, feel free to post a shout-out in the comments.
For those of you who are curious — perhaps your firm would like to start a similar initiative, and you’d like to lift some language for the announcement — the Orrick and Weil memos appear after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Humanitarian Crises in Asia: Law Firms Respond”

Legal%20Eagle%20Wedding%20Watch%20NYT%20wedding%20announcements%20Above%20the%20Law.jpgCongratulations to Keira Driansky and David Simon, chosen by ATL readers over Kristy Hong and Jonas Blank III as April’s Legal Eagle Couple of the Month.
Now for the next set of entrants, and it’s a crowded field. We think this week’s column sets a record for total number of Ivy League JDs. Here’s our latest crop of outstanding newlyweds:

1. Deborah Adler and Brian Sutherland
2. Rachel Hannaford and Justin Lerer
3. Zoe Segal-Reichlin and Daniel Garodnick
4. Alison Franklin and Shane Milam

Read up on their pedigrees and passions, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legal Eagle Wedding Watch 5.4 – 5.11: Penn-y Wise”

Affirmed race horse racehorse.JPGAlmost 2,000 votes were cast in the first round of our poll for the best legally-themed race horse name. We’ve winnowed the full field of 20 horses down to the top ten.
Now we’re in the final round. The polls will remain open through the Memorial Day weekend. Let the race begin!

Earlier: Legally-Themed Racehorse Names: And They’re Off! (Part 1)
Legally-Themed Racehorse Names? Your Nominations, Please

Asian language translation Asia language speakers ATL.jpgIn the last three installments of the Asia Chronicles, we’ve written about the perks and the (possible) disadvantages of working as a lawyer in Asia. We have been trying to give you a better idea of what it’s like to work over here and to help you decide if moving to Asia might be an option that you would like to explore.
But many of you have contacted us saying that you need to hear no more, you’re already convinced. You want to know what kind of skills American firms in Asia are looking for, and how to go about finding a job in this part of the world.
The most common question we get on this topic is about language ability: “How much of a difference will language skills, or lack thereof, make in the marketability of a job candidate?” As lawyers, none of you should be surprised that we can only answer this question with more questions:
1. How high is your language level, really?
We’ve seen a lot of job seekers come into our offices with resumes that describe their language skills as “proficient” or even “fluent,” but when we ask them even a basic question in that language, they often struggle to answer. In general, a few years of college language classes does not a fluent speaker make, and even people who have spent significant time immersed in a language environment rarely have learned the legal and business terminology that would be needed for common tasks such as reading due diligence documents, participating in a drafting session, or negotiating a comfort letter. Unless you are a native or legitimately fluent speaker, your language skills will honestly not be of much use to a law firm, and therefore will not balance out deficiencies in the core strengths of a candidate, such as graduating from a top-ranked law school with high grades or having valuable work experience.
That said, a glance at the attorney roster of many selective law firms in Asia reveals some lawyers with lower than average credentials but strong language and culture experience (time spent in the U.S. State Department is a common theme) that seems to have gotten them hired. However, having some lesser level of language ability could make a marginal difference with an otherwise qualified candidate because it may help convince a law firm that you are interested in and capable of living in a certain country and interacting well with people from that culture.
2. Do you really want to be hired based on your language ability?
One of the first hard truths that we learned after spending some time working in Asia is that having language skills might not always be something you want to advertise. We’ve seen many native and fluent speakers relegated to countless hours of foreign language documentary due diligence or translation because no one else in the office was capable of doing it. One of our colleagues has even been keeping her language ability a secret so that she can avoid being staffed on such mind-numbing projects. Lawyers who can speak and understand but cannot read or write (or at least pretend they can’t) have the advantage of being able to participate in the comparatively more interesting client meetings and negotiation while avoiding less enjoyable tasks.
Read more, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Asia Chronicles: Walking the Walk, Talking the Talk”

* One helluva sexual harassment suit. Runner-up Lawsuit of the Day? [Jezebel]
* Jerry Springer’s Northwestern commencement speech. Also: Is tax law professor Paul Caron friends with Pete Wentz? [TaxProf Blog]
* The hidden talents of law students: hog wrestling? [Tex Parte]

Harvard Law Review Andrew Crespo Above the Law blog.jpgIn January, after the Harvard Law Review published a rather embarrassing, bleeding-heart Case Comment, we wrote:

Last year, we ran a popular series of posts on the Harvard Law Review. The gist of the coverage was that the Review’s new, left-leaning leadership “is running the journal into the ground with a cabal of radical ideologues, making the outgoing editors nervous about the future reputation of the journal.”

We got some flak for our HLR coverage. But in view of what the Review is publishing these days, as discussed extensively in the blogosphere — see, e.g., the Volokh Conspiracy and PrawfsBlawg — we can’t help gloating. Just a little.

Or a lot. A tipster draws our attention to a Note that was just published in the latest issue of the HLR:

I think you should break this story. It is a guaranteed comment clusterf**k.

This Note (PDF) basically says that anyone who doesn’t go in to public interest work is immoral and is killing babies in third world countries (most of this analysis is in section 4 of the article). I think it just came out in electronic form today, so you should get a jump on anyone.

Our correspondent’s summary is shockingly accurate. Check out the article for yourself by clicking here (PDF).
As it turns out, we’re not the first to take note of the Note. We believe that would be Professor Paul Horwitz, over at PrawfsBlawg. After alluding to the notorious Case Comment from several months ago, Professor Horwitz writes:

I am reading the latest issue of the Harvard Law Review [which contains] a Note titled, after an inscription on a statue in Cambridge Common, “Never Again Should a People Starve in a World of Plenty.” It’s unusually thinly sourced for a Harvard Law Review Note — not that I’m encouraging people to use more footnotes! And it has a certain voice (“There is injustice everywhere. The last place there should be injustice is in the justice system.”) and theme that . . . . well, I find myself wondering whether we have found our anonymous author once again.

I don’t mean to be unduly gossipy about this sort of thing; it’s worth a two-paragraph blog post and not more. And I am not knocking the observation that injustice is bad; heaven forfend. Just the same, I’m curious whether this is the same author.

We don’t share Professor Horwitz’s shyness. We’re happy to write more than two paragraphs about the Note (ha — we already have). And there’s no such thing as being “unduly gossipy” in our book.
So gossip away, in the comments. Do you think this Note was written by the same author as the prior Case Comment? Do you feel that the Harvard Law Review — once headed by Senator Barack Obama, its first black president — is tilting too far to the left?
Or, if you prefer, don’t gossip; engage substantively with the arguments in the Note. Clearly the author wants associates and partners in large law firms to sit up and take notice, to think about whether what they’re doing professionally is worthwhile — or even morally defensible.
We’re sure the anonymous author will be grateful to us for bringing his or her work to the attention of ATL’s many readers in Biglaw. Whoever you are: you’re welcome!

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Working in Biglaw = Killing Babies?”

Tilda Swinton Karen Crowder Ally McBeal Calista Flockhart.jpgThat’s the title of our latest column for the New York Observer, which reflects upon recent television and film portrayals of women litigators.
It touches upon some of the same themes highlighted in Amy Kolz’s excellent American Lawyer article from last year, but it’s more focused on fictional female litigators, as opposed to real-life ones. Here’s how it starts:

Whatever happened to Ally McBeal? If recent movies and television shows are any guide, the life of a female lawyer has gotten a lot less pleasant since the carefree, charmingly neurotic days of dancing babies and bathroom kisses. But today’s portrayals may be more accurate, and certainly more critically acclaimed.

Last January, Glenn Close won a Golden Globe for her compelling performance as Patty Hewes, a fearsome and wildly successful plaintiff’s lawyer, on the addictive TV show Damages. The following month, Tilda Swinton snagged an Oscar for stepping into the pumps of Karen Crowder, a hard-charging in-house litigator, in Michael Clayton.

In March, Julianna Margulies (of ER) returned to television as aggressive defense lawyer Elizabeth Canterbury, the title character of Canterbury’s Law. Even Katey Sagal, who embodied the famously vulgar Peggy Bundy on Married With Children, reincarnated herself this year as Marci Klein, the sleek, powerful, and ruthless founding partner of the law firm on Eli Stone.

You can read the full column over here.
Farewell, Ally McBeal; Enter the Litigatrix [New York Observer]

Legal Pad (a Cal Law blog) has a link to this amazing complaint [PDF] filed by paralegal Jason Herrera against Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

Herrera’s complaint — “for discrimination, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and fraud” — reads like a reality TV show pitch about the lives of paralegals. Herrera has been a paralegal in Weil’s Silicon Valley office since 2004. In his complaint, he talks about:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: As the Paralegal World Turns…”

laptop small pink girl woman Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPGThat’s a question that our friends at the ABA Journal are planning to tackle in a forthcoming article. Perhaps you can help?
Some background, from reporter Richard Acello:

We’re looking to do a story on law firms’ tech savvy or lack thereof. At a recent technology conference, some IT people complained about how their technological requirements were just not accepted by the older partners. But the young lawyers, used to more advanced technology, had no problem adapting when changes were made.

We’re looking for some examples from associates, as well as suggestions for new associates who come in and are appalled at how backward the tech is at their law firms. Yes, we will allow anonymity.

You can email Rich Acello, the writer on the story, at richace at cox dot net. Also feel free to comment on this post if you have some thoughts on law firms and how “with it” they are when it comes to tech.

Holland Knight staff layoffs secretary secretarial firings.jpgThe bad news continues to roll in. Becker & Poliakoff, which just announced across-the-board pay cuts for its lawyers, isn’t the only Florida firm that’s hurting.
From a report by Julie Kay, for the upcoming issue of the National Law Journal:

In another sign of the hard times facing the legal industry, particularly in real-estate heavy South Florida, two local law firms — Holland & Knight and Shutts & Bowen — have laid off non-lawyer staffers.

On a day that could be dubbed Black Friday in South Florida legal circles, Tampa-based Holland & Knight, one of Florida’s largest and most venerable firms with 1,150 lawyers, laid off 70 staffers Friday, including legal secretaries, IT and accounting staff. No lawyers were laid off.

The layoffs of about four employees in each of Holland’s 17 offices represented 5% of Holland’s non-lawyer workforce.

Shutts & Bowen, a 200-lawyer, Miami-based firm, Friday laid off nine people, all entry level file clerks or paralegal clerks. No lawyers or legal secretaries were affected.

Holland & Knight spokeswoman Susan Bass told the Daily Business Review that the firm “had some redundancies and inefficiencies.” Seventy staffers is a whole lot of redundancies.
Read more — about prior layoffs at H&K, and the situation over at Greenberg Traurig — below the fold.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: More South Florida Suffering”

Bad Report Card.jpgAh, those inscrutable transcripts from the University of Chicago Law School — gotta love ‘em. They’re chock full of numbers, but they don’t use the standard “As = 90s, Bs = 80s” scale. For example, if your grades are all in the 80s, you’re a rock star.
Nobody can make heads or tails of the U. Chicago transcripts. So what’s wrong with a little “tweaking” here and there? From the ABA Journal (via TaxProf Blog):

A lawyer who attended the University of Chicago Law School has been accused in an ethics complaint of lying about his grades when he applied for a summer position at Sidley Austin.

Loren Elliotte Friedman is accused in a complaint filed May 6 by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. He was listed as an associate at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle in New York on the firm’s website earlier Tuesday, but his name was removed by the afternoon.

Joseph Pizzurro, managing partner of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, told that Friedman, a bankruptcy associate, disclosed the bar complaint to the law firm on Friday and submitted his resignation.

The complaint says Friedman altered transcripts of his law school grades in 20 classes to reflect better grades than he received. Friedman worked at Sidley Austin the summer of 2002, and the firm extended an employment offer for him to begin work as an associate in 2003.

The complaint also alleges that Friedman failed to reveal he flunked out of medical school in his application to law school, and that he failed to disclose the altered law school transcripts in his bar application.

It looks like medicine, and now law, haven’t worked out for Loren Friedman. What’s next?
Maybe betting on horse races? The Legal Profession Blog has dubbed his three alleged omissions a “trifecta.”
More details, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day: Loren Elliotte Friedman”

funny-pictures-cat-loves-food.jpgLast week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on trimming summer associate programs is still open, but we’ve already been getting some interesting debate in the comments.
For law students, trimming the summer programs — or at least the summer salaries — would be a critical financial blow:

[L]aw School tuition is fucking EXPENSIVE. I take out 55k per year in loans here at CLS (45k of which goes to tuition + fees). Luckily, I have no undergrad debt. The financial aid office suggests that the average student take out 64k per year in loans. In sum, you misers need to talk to school adminstrations before cutting pay.

But once they’ve achieved permanent (or not so permanent) employment status, some associates would prefer to see a slimmer summer experience:

It’s not right that in a market where good associates are being kicked to the curb for economic reasons we’re throwing buckets of money at a bunch of kids who don’t know anything and just teaching them how to be (more) entitled. Shorten the summer and pay them a salary that has some correlation to what they’re worth – they are mere interns.

Other associates, however, are still in favor of lunch:

I thought ATL was on our side. The open budgets and free lunches are a perk to associates too.

And one tipster wonders just how free those lunches are from firm to firm:

Might be a good time next week or two weeks from now to do a post about summer lunch budgets. I just heard on the grapevine that we’re having $25/person limits, with anything over it coming out of the associate’s pockets. I know some other firms have a $30 or $50 limit.

So, today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey focuses on both lunch and morale. How much can you spend on lunch with the summer associates, how often do you do lunch, and would associates at your firm be upset if the summer program went away?
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

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

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