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Pfizer Warner Lambert Rezulin Above the Law blog.jpg* Two new SCOTUS rulings: some obscure-sounding tax decision, and a 4-4 ruling in a case against Pfizer, which leaves intact a Second Circuit decision allowing suits over the company’s Rezulin diabetes treatment to go forward. [SCOTUSblog; New York Times]
* California Supreme Court to hear case on gay marriage ban. (Judge Janice Rogers Brown, look at all the fun you’re missing out on — this is much sexier than all those D.C. Circuit admin cases.) [How Appealing (linkwrap)]
* Bernie Kerik got some lovin’ from book publisher Judith Regan. Her lawyers, not so much — which is why they’re suing her for unpaid fees. [Reuters]
* Judge Mark Filip, formerly of the N.D. Ill., confirmed as Mukasey’s #2 at the DOJ. [Chicago Tribune and Washington Post, via How Appealing]
* Musical chairs: Bill Ohlemeyer, the in-house lawyer who has overseen tobacco litigation for Altria for almost a decade, is joining Boies, Schiller & Flexner. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Suing Al Gore for “the fraud of global warming”? Good luck with that. [Business & Media Institute via Drudge]

hacker computer hacking Above the Law blog.jpgThe source who sent this nominee our way wrote: “Combo of sex, jealousy, and hacking. Just another day in the WV bar.” From the Charleston Gazette:

A Charleston lawyer could be suspended from the State Bar after admitting that he accessed another law firm’s computer system because he suspected his wife was having an affair.

According to a brief filed with the state Supreme Court by the Bar’s Lawyer Disciplinary Board, Michael P. Markins repeatedly accessed e-mail accounts at Offutt, Fisher and Nord, where his wife, Andrea N. Markins, worked as an associate.

Between November 2003 and March 2006, Markins logged on to OFN’s system more than 150 times, the brief states. At the time, he worked for the law firm Huddleston Bolen LLP.

Is this really that bad? We can think of worse ways to act upon a suspicion your wife is cheating on you. E.g., this.

Markins told investigators that he initially read the e-mails of his wife and another OFN lawyer because he suspected an affair. But he then began reading other lawyers’ e-mails out of “selfish curiosity,” the brief states….

In addition, Markins’ firm and OFN were representing clients on different sides of a mass litigation involving a flood while he was electronically snooping.

Okay, that might be problematic. Normally, though, we’d view excessive snoopiness as a venial rather than mortal sin. After all, curiosity and initiative are desirable qualities in a lawyer.
P.S. Our tipster is from West Virginia, so they’re allowed to poke fun at the West Virginia bar in this manner.
Lawyer admits computer breach [Charleston Gazette]

* So what if they’re laying off — or, at the very least, reshuffling — some of their lawyers? At least Dechert is supportive of its bloggers. [Drug and Device Law]
* Blog politics makes for strange bedfellows. Have Anthony Ciolli of AutoAdmit and the bloggers of Feministe found common ground? [Legal Satyricon]
* This could be fun if you’re sufficiently drunk: PowerPoint karaoke. [TaxProf Blog]
* Justice, Iranian style. [Res ipsa loquitur / Jonathan Turley]
* Carolyn Elefant and Dan Markel opine upon our recent Facebook woes. [Legal Blog Watch; PrawfsBlawg]
* Blawg Review #149. [Antitrust Review via Blawg Review]

New York University Law School NYU Law School Above the Law.JPGEmail screw-ups and law school listserves have provided us with tons of material in the past. Today’s cautionary tale comes to us from NYU Law School:

“Reply all” has its pitfalls, but so does the “reply to” address. Yikes!

[This student] was replying to an email from the professor sent out after the semester was over. The prof had sent the email via a listserver, so even if you just hit “reply” instead of “reply all,” everyone’s going to see it. The very same pitfall with the very same listserve caused a smart kid to broadcast an email griping because he had too many circuit court clerkship interviews one day.

And here’s the email that was sent to the listserv:

Prof. [xxxx],

I am writing to inquire about my grade in last semester’s [xxxx] class. I turned in the exam feeling that I had under-represented what I actually learned, but I was still somewhat surprised to recieve a C in the course. If you get a chance (and it is appropriate), could you tell me if the grade was purely the result of a sub-par exam or if other factors were included?

Thank you,

By the way, this is not very skillful grade-grubbing. An email is too easily ignored, and it lacks emotional force. If you want to grade grub, set up an appointment with your professor, and do it in person.
Let them see you, in the flesh — and with tears in your eyes. Make them fully understand how they’ve shattered your dreams of a Vault 10 law firm job or a feeder-judge clerkship — unless, of course, they revisit their prior determination, and give you a grade that more accurately reflects your true abilities….

We have not forgotten last week’s promise of an ATL caption contest. To refresh your recollection, here’s the photo:
Greenberg Traurig lawyers blackout Miami Above the Law Blog.jpg
Here’s the actual caption:

Lawyers, from the left, Alan Lash, Justin Fienberg, and Alex Mendez, not lawyer, working on a project at Greenberg Traurig, on 27th floor of 1221 Brickell, went to lunch and found the building out of power.

Check out the suggested alternative captions, and vote for your favorite, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Caption Contest Nominees: The South Florida Blackout”

opportunity knocks knocking on heaven's door Abovethelaw Above the Law legal blog.jpgA suggestion for a discussion topic, from the ATL mailbag:

I searched through the archives for a thread on this, but couldn’t find anything. As a second year law student headed to NYC Biglaw after graduation, I’m already assuming that I will work for the firm I start with for no more than three or four years. The idea of being a Biglaw partner does not sound like the life for me.

What really interests me is the possibility of moving to the business world to work for a big bank or a Fortune 500 company. Yet the qualifications and legal experience that an associate needs to get to make that sort of move are still very vague to me. It is a topic that I would be afraid to talk about at my firm as well.

So I was hoping you could start an open thread where people talk about their experience in moving from Big Law to Big Business, and how young associates should go about making the move. I hope this topic can be discussed on abovethelaw soon. Thanks.

We’re happy to oblige; here’s the requested open thread. Our general advice — which is, we admit, pretty obvious — would be: get your clients to like you as much as possible. Many of the lawyers we’ve known who have made the transition from law to business jumped over to a client who loved working with them. Some went to work for the client in a legal capacity, then moved over to the business side later; others went over directly to the business side.
In addition, to the (very persistent) commenter(s) seeking a place to talk about MBA degrees in Biglaw — special bonuses for business degree holders, enhanced job prospects, seniority credit, etc. — feel free to chime in as well.
(We previously posted an open thread on MBAs and Biglaw. But that was back in August 2007, so we figure it’s okay to revisit the subject now.)
Earlier: In Biglaw, Does It Pay To Have An MBA?

Thacher Proffitt Wood LLP Above the Law blog.jpgWe’ll be posting an update on the Dechert situation sometime soon. We’ve received some interesting tips that we’d like to pass along.
In the meantime, we have some news about Thacher Proffitt & Wood. The firm’s official position is that they haven’t laid off anyone; they’ve simply had lots of voluntary departures, some spurred by buyout offers. But that position seems harder and harder to maintain, in light of what we’ve been hearing. Even if there might be a difference in form, there isn’t much of a difference in substance between (1) getting laid off and (2) taking a buyout and/or leaving the firm, after being told that if you stay, you’ll be laid off.
Here are the latest things we’ve been hearing about TPW:

1. “[A] large part, if not all, of the people who had taken the buyout in NY, but were still staying on until May, were told to leave on Friday (buyout still intact).”

2. “Thacher is pushing harder for people to leave. Associates, especially the young ones, that were guaranteed steady work (and jobs) when this first broke last fall have been consistently billing less than 100 hours (as low as 50 hours) per month since. The slowdown is worse than the partners had initially anticipated.”

3. “About another 40 laid off and partner Ollie Armas has left with the entire Mexico City Office.”

We presented the foregoing information to the firm, which responded as follows:

To reiterate our recent statement, Thacher Proffitt has increased our efforts to provide associates with outplacement in practice areas that have been most affected by current market conditions. Other areas, such as litigation, bankruptcy and banking are very busy.

We’ll keep you posted. If you have layoff news, especially if it’s about a firm not previously mentioned in these pages, please email us. Thanks.
Update: Although Ollie Armas still appears on the TPW website, we’ve confirmed that he and an unspecified number of other TPW lawyers in Mexico City are moving over to Chadbourne & Parke.
Further Update: Perhaps the Mexico City group was no great loss. From a TPW tipster:

Two practice groups left: ’40 act team (3-4 lawyers) and Latin America team (along with entire Mexico City Office). Word is the latter were loss leaders and were cut loose. Both went to join Am Law 100 firms.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Thacher Proffitt (scroll down)

Facebook logo MySpace Friendster Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgAs we mentioned in passing on Friday, we’ve been mysteriously banned from Facebook, the popular social networking website. Our account was disabled without notice or explanation. We have not been informed of the allegations against us that led to the suspension of our account, nor have we been given the opportunity to confront our accusers.
To be sure, the Bill of Rights does not apply to Facebook. But being kicked off the FB still makes us sad. We’re going through their appellate process now, but they’re taking their sweet time in disposing of our appeal.
Professor Dan Solove has some interesting thoughts on Facebook and due process over here. Also, if you use Facebook, you might want to check out this interesting post, which lists some reasons people get banished from Facebook. Some of the rules are so vague that you could end up violating them without even knowing it.
Update (1:25 PM): Yay!!! We’ve been reinstated. More details, after the jump.
Further Update (3/5/08): We wrote more about our Facebook expulsion for the New York Observer.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Facebook Banishment and Due Process”

Dechert LLP logo Dechert Price Rhoads Above the Law blog.jpgDon’t believe everything you read in these pages. If a gossip site isn’t flat-out wrong a sizable percentage of the time, it’s not sufficiently gossipy.
But we were right about something being afoot at Dechert LLP. This morning we wrote:

We’ve been hearing vague rumblings of something about to go down over at Dechert LLP. Said rumblings are reminiscent of what we heard in the days and hours leading up to Cadwalader’s Thursday Morning Massacre….

We hear that certain groups at Dechert are super-slow, and morale in some quarters is super-low. These are, of course, often harbingers of lawyer layoffs.

Now we learn this, from Gina Passarella in the Legal Intelligencer:

The slowing economy has hit home at Dechert which has just let go 13 associates strictly in its finance and real estate practice, according to a source inside the firm….

Dechert has given the 13 associates, who have worked in Dechert offices throughout the United States, until the close of business Tuesday to leave. No one was asked to leave Friday, the source said….

There were no additional layoffs prior to today, but some attorneys were shifted into other practice areas, the firm source said. The layoffs comprise less than 10 percent of the 167 attorneys listed in Dechert’s finance and real estate practice, which includes mortgage finance, structured finance and securitization, investment, and mergers and acquisitions.

The attorneys who are leaving were offered three months severance, six months of paid medical benefits and transition placement support, the source said.

Three months seems to be “market” in terms of severance. There was some fear that laid-off Dechert associates were going to get less.
ATL gets a shout-out in the piece:

Legal blog Above The Law has reported extensively on associate and staff layoffs across the country. The reports included associate layoffs at Thacher Proffitt, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft and Clifford Chance, mainly in the structured finance, real estate and capital markets practices of those firms.

Today, Above The Law posted a blog on rumors of low morale at Dechert, questioning whether layoffs were imminent.

The article closes with a helpful overview of the layoff landscape:

Dechert’s news puts the U.S. legal scene over the 100-attorney mark in terms of attorney layoffs and offered buyouts this economic cycle. According to data collected by The American Lawyer, 35 attorneys were laid off at Cadwalader Wickersham; 24 Thacher Proffitt mid-levels were offered buyouts plus an additional five first-years took optional buyouts; six Clifford Chance associates were laid off and 23 associates at McKee Nelson took buyouts.

Check out the full article, which also discusses Dechert’s record-setting year in 2007 — $836 million in gross revenue, and more than $2.3 million in profits per equity partner — by clicking here.
Update (5:15 PM): Okay, we’re confused. We just received this email, sent out by firm chairman Barton Winokur, and forwarded to us by a Dechert source. Our source had heard that the 13 were being laid off. But this email implies otherwise:
From: Winokur, Barton
Sent: Friday, February 29, 2008 4:37 PM
To: ALL Dechert Users
Due to the major shift in market conditions affecting client demands in our Finance and Real Estate practice area, we currently do not have sufficient work for all the associates in FRE. As a consequence, we have told 13 associates in the U.S. FRE group that we see no demand for them in that group in the foreseeable future. However, due to increased and substantial demand in other practice areas, we will be offering those lawyers the opportunity to work in those other groups.
Barton J. Winokur
Dechert LLP
Update (5:40 PM): We have reached out to Barton Winokur for clarification. We will let you know if and when he gets back to us.
Update (6:20 PM): The Legal Intelligencer has revised its piece somewhat, in light of the Winokur email:

The slowing economy has hit home at Dechert which just issued layoff notices to 13 associates strictly in its finance and real estate practice, according to a source inside the firm.

Shortly after the firm confirmed the planned layoffs, the source said Chairman Barton J. Winokur issued a statement that the firm would then offer the 13 associates positions in other practice groups. [Reprints the email.]

There was no word as to whether those associates, who had been given severance packages, accepted the revised offer to switch practices.

Update (6:35 PM): We’re hearing conflicting things about whether these 13 lawyers really are being given the opportunity to switch practice groups, or whether they’re being laid off outright, with additional lawyers getting moved internally.
We will continue to monitor and report about what’s going down at Dechert. If you can clarify this somewhat murky situation for us, please email us. Thanks.
Layoffs Hit Dechert Following Record Financial Year [Legal Intelligencer]

Arnold.JPG* Arnold Schwarzenegger gets his tank back, offers rides to children. [Houston Chronicle]
* The Morality of Trade: “Commerce is not a cuss word.” [Commerce Law]
* Did anybody remember that it’s a leap year? [PrawfsBlawg]
* Perhaps the shortest jury deliberation ever. [CNN]
* Virginia Supreme Court strikes down taxation without representation. So close, DC! []

Yoshino.jpgNYU School of Law announced today that it has hired Professor Kenji Yoshino as a tenured faculty member. He was a visiting professor at the school last year and again this spring.

Professor Yoshino graduated from Yale Law in 1996 and is influential in the fields of constitutional law, anti-discrimination law, and law and literature. It’s quite a score for NYU. Read the original email announcement, from Dean Ricky Revesz, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “NYU Hires Kenji Yoshino as Permanent Faculty Member”

Heller Ehrman LLP Above the Law blog.JPGHere’s some happy news from Heller Ehrman. It appears they have heard the complaints, and they’ve done something about them. From one source:

Attached is the long awaited Heller Ehrman compensation memo, and at first glance, I’m pretty impressed. They seemed to have listened to associates’ concerns and made some pretty significant changes. They reinstated the 2000 hour bonus and have decided to retroactively pay the 2000 hour bonus to all eligible associates for 2007. I’m happy about the compensation bump which brings us more in line with the market, but what I’m really excited about is that the firm has decreased the first year billable expectation to 1600 without decreasing salaries. With the launch of a new mentoring program and this announcement about 300 career development hours for first years, the firm is actually acting on its long-stated goal of promoting associate development.

Another tipster concurs, also zeroing in on the new program for first-year associates:

Attached is the Heller Ehrman 2008 Associates Compensation memo, which associates received this morning. I think the compensation memo demonstrates that the firm has responded to associates’ concerns in a very positive way. The firm is reinstating the 2000-hour bonus for 2008, and making retroactive 2000-hour bonus payments for 2007.

Perhaps most positively, the firm is providing 300 hours of career development for first-year associates, so that first-years will now have only a 1600-hour billable requirement. I think law students and first-year associates will see this as a very positive development, which recognizes associates’ desire for career development, but also gives the firm a way to recognize clients’ staffing concerns.

After the bad press the firm has been getting in recent months, I think this memo is some good news, and I hope ATL will recognize it as such.

We do. Check out the memo, after the jump.
Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: A Heller Ehrman Update

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Happy News at Heller Ehrman: Bigger Bonuses, Better Billables (for First Years)”

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