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* Another prominent plaintiffs’ lawyer pleads. Today it’s Mel Weiss of Milberg Weiss, to plead guilty in an alleged kickback scheme. Any guesses as to the new firm name? Milberg LLP? [WSJ Law Blog]
* SCOTUS overturns conviction of Louisiana death row inmate, due to improper exclusion of African-Americans from jury. Vote was 7-2, opinion by Alito. [SCOTUSblog; How Appealing (linkwrap)]
* Exciting times for commodities investors spell scary times for regulators. [New York Times]
* SEC investigating Bear Stearns options trading. [Reuters]
* Charges filed in girlfriend-on-toilet case. [AP]

Thelen new Thelen Reid Brown Raysman Steiner LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law legal blog tabloid.jpgThe rumor making the rounds of lawyer and staff layoffs at Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner is true. We just spoke to Thelen’s co-chair, Stephen V. O’Neal, who provided confirmation and details.
The firm is in the process of laying off 26 associates and 85 staff members, on a firm-wide basis, “in response to recessionary pressures.” (Unlike President Bush, Mr. O’Neal was not afraid to use the “r” word.) Thelen has approximately 600 lawyers, per its website, so the cuts amount to roughly 4 percent of total headcount.
With respect to the location of the affected lawyers, the cuts affected all major offices. With respect to seniority — one source told us that some first- and second-year associates were fired — Mr. O’Neal said that “some were fairly junior, and some more senior.”
In terms of practice areas, Mr. O’Neal said the layoffs were spread out among groups, but with “some areas more impacted than others,” including certain parts of capital markets and cap-markets-related real estate work. He noted that other practice areas are “thriving and increasing in scope,” including renewable energy, cross-border M&A, China practice, litigation, and workouts / bankruptcy.
With respect to staff layoffs, Mr. O’Neal explained that they are due in part to the economic climate, but in part due to post-merger staff redundancies. The merger of Thelen Reid and Brown Raysman took place in late 2006, making the consolidated firm a little over a year old. But the firm did not do much cutting of staff in 2007.
Last year “was not a year when we tried to make deep cutbacks in anything, even though we had combined two good-sized firms,” explained Mr. O’Neal. “It was a year of building, coordinating, and consolidating. We wanted to understand how best to organize this new entity.” Now that the firm has a better understanding of its staffing needs, and is in the process of consolidating multiple offices in the same cities (e.g., New York), it is reducing staff redundancies.
As for associate severance packages, Mr. O’Neal stated that firm provided a “market-level” package. We floated three to four months as our understanding of market, and he said that the firm is “in that ballpark.”
“We are anticipating a profitable 2008,” said Mr. O’Neal. “We are being prudent businesspeople, and when you are dealing with recessionary pressures, you adjust your business so you will have — and maintain — a strong level of profitability, notwithstanding those pressures.”
We thank the firm for the information and candor with respect to the layoffs (i.e., not casting these departures as “performance-based”). If you have more information, feel free to email us.
Updates: A few additional nuggets:

1. As noted in the comments, total headcount includes partners and counsel, so the percentage of associates laid off is higher than 4 percent. Some of you suggest it’s around 10 percent.

2. We’re a little annoyed at Legal Pad for the lack of an ATL shout-out — in both the blogosphere and the MSM, it’s proper form to credit and/or link to the source that breaks a story first (even if you were working on the same story too) — but we’ll link to them anyway.

They have more on the Thelen layoffs here. Much of the info in their post appeared previously in ours, but they do add that the firm “is also trimming its summer program from eleven to eight weeks and is pushing the start date for first-years from September to January.”

3. A source at the firm tells us that the severance packages were in the two- to three-month range.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of layoffs (scroll down)

* Thoughts on the case of an English prof who posed on an S&M site with one of her students, from law prof Paul Secunda. [Workplace Prof Blog]
* Thoughts on private property, a favorite topic of his, from law prof Richard Epstein (who has a new book out on the subject). [PrawfsBlawg]
* Is the generally well-regarded Judge Barbara Jones (S.D.N.Y.) a judicial slacker? The numbers may mislead. Also, interesting data on average reversal rates in the Southern District. [Judicial Reports]
* Enter the VC’s March Madness pool. You could win a Supreme Court bobblehead doll! [Volokh Conspiracy]
* C’mon, folks — read your ATL. The move to 18 weeks of parental leave has been going on for months now. [National Law Journal via ABA Journal]

Winston Strawn LLP logo Above the Law blog.JPGThe Washington office of Winston & Strawn was the site of a “mystery protest” this afternoon. For more details and a photo, see here. Wonkette’s tipster writes: “What they did to deserve a protest is beyond me.”
Our guess? Fashion-forward feminists, really pissed off about this.
Mystery Protest On Rain-Slicked D.C. Corner! [Wonkette]

sasso_richard copy.jpgTechnically, this New Jersey judge is our Ex-Judge of the Day, since he retired in January for “health reasons.” He is accused of PUI (presiding under the influence), bullying people in his courtroom, and tearing up a go-go bar. Oh, is that unusual behavior for a judge?
From NJ.com:

The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct today released a complaint against a former municipal court judge from Somerset County, accusing him of multiple offenses, including presiding while intoxicated, causing a ruckus at a Bound Brook go-go bar and calling a police chief to retrieve him because he was too drunk to drive.

Richard Sasso, 52, retired from the bench earlier this year citing health reasons. He formerly served in Bridgewater, Bound Brook, Warren and Watchung.

You can check out the complaint filed against Sasso here (PDF). There are some great transcripts of Sasso abusing his judicial power. But our favorite line was uttered to a bartender at Torpedo’s Go Go Bar, a “gentleman’s club,” of course:

“Do you know who I am? I’m the Bound Brook judge.”

Not anymore.
Ex-Judge Charged With Drunkenness in Court, Disorderly Conduct in Public [New Jersey Law Journal on Law.com]
Ex-judge charged with misconduct [Courier News]
Somerset judge named in 7-count conduct complaint [The Star Ledger]

hamster.jpgOur readers are certainly aware of the compensation/personal life trade-off involved in taking a high-paying law firm job. Salaries go up, but so do the billable hours. Building a Better Legal Profession, a group we have discussed in these pages before, is working to change that.
The group gets a nice shout-out in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times:

Young associates at many firms rarely see the inside of a courtroom and get little feedback on their performance. On top of that is the crushing pressure to make partner — a status awarded to a small percentage of associates after years of toil that can mean stratospheric incomes but also a lifetime of weekends and evenings in the office.

So last year [Stanford law student Andrew] Bruck and about 25 other Stanford students founded Building a Better Legal Profession, which is aimed at forcing law firms to change the way they hire and promote young lawyers.

Among the students’ concerns about the legal profession’s future are inefficient work habits, widespread unhappiness, and deteriorating mental health. While ATL may contribute to the first, we hope we’re helping you fight off the latter two.
More discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems?”

sloan.jpgAt ATL, we have a special place in our heart for the intersection of law and media. Thus, we are moved to report on the publisher of Slate, Cliff Sloan, leaving the media world to become a partner at Skadden Arps. From The Washington Post:

Slate, the daily online magazine owned by The Washington Post Co., said publisher Cliff Sloan will leave to become a partner in a law firm. John Alderman, vice president of business development at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, or WPNI, will replace Sloan on April 1, the company said. Sloan will join Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

The double Harvard grad is a member of the Elect (Stevens / OT 1985). Someone needs to update his Wikipedia page with the new gig.
There’s no announcement on the Skadden site yet, so we don’t know what his focus area will be. Maybe he’ll work to improve the Skadden website. The bright red background hurts our eyes!
As for Slate, they’ve just launched Convictions, a new legal blog, with oodles of boldface legal names as contributors. We’d list some of the writers, but that would risk omitting others, and almost all of them are bigwigs of the bar or blogosphere. So just check the site out for yourself, by clicking here.
Slate Publisher to Leave for Law Firm [The Washington Post]
Slate Announces New Publisher [Business Wire]
Convictions [Slate]

AutoAdmit xoxohth Anthony Ciolli Above the Law blog.JPGBased on all the non-sequiturs appended to Non-Sequiturs, some of you clearly want to talk about the latest filings in the AutoAdmit case. So here’s an open thread for you to go wild (but not too wild).
Most people who follow the case are already up on the recent developments. But if you need background, see The Legal Satyricon. Professor Marc Randazza writes: “Excuse me while I greedily devour this slice of humble pie…. If you want to see the dumbest thing ever done in litigation, feast your eyes on this letter [PDF] that AK47 sent to the Plaintiffs’ attorneys. What a nimrod.”
AK47 Pwned [The Legal Satyricon]
Earlier: Pro Se Litigant of the Day: ‘AK47′ of AutoAdmit

Kristen 3 Eliot Spitzer Ashley Youmans Ashley Alexandra Dupre Above the Law blog.JPGIf you have Eliot Spitzer fatigue, stop reading here. If not, feel free to continue.
The Spitzer scandal raised this question: How are lawyers like prostitutes? It’s an admittedly groan-worthy joke, fit to be told by an inebriated guest at a local bar association dinner. But maybe there are a few insights to be gleaned from comparing the learned profession to the oldest profession. For brief musings, see our column in this week’s Observer.
Additional Spitzer whore news, from the AP:

Stop that $1 million check: It turns out the call girl linked to Eliot Spitzer had already shed her clothes for “Girls Gone Wild” as an 18-year-old while partying in Miami, Florida, the video company’s founder said Tuesday.

Upon learning that Ashley Alexandra Dupre was already in his company’s archives, Joe Francis revoked his $1 million offer for her to appear in a non-nude spread for his company’s new magazine.
But shed no tears for “Kristen.” As Rachel Sklar reports over at Eat the Press, the sultry songstress has earned a small fortune — definitely six figures, possibly seven — from online downloads of her music. She also has offers to pose for Penthouse and Hustler that could yield a million-dollar payday.
Big Law and Big Pimpin’ Together at Last [New York Observer]
Millionaire Call Girl? Spitzer’s Hooker Rakes In A Fortune Online From Her Music [Eat the Press / Huffington Post]

smiley face greedy face Above the Law blog.jpgLast week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey asked, “If you knew then what you know today, would you still choose to join your current firm?”
We received 540 responses, and, overall 68% of you said yes. But the gruntlement (i.e., satisfaction) varied quite a bit from market to market:
  • Atlanta – 50%
  • Boston – 74%
  • Bay Area – 79%
  • Chicago – 70%
  • Dallas – 80%
  • Houston – 82%
  • Los Angeles – 71%
  • New York – 71%
  • Philadelphia – 75%
  • Washington, DC – 68%
Apparently, “everything is bigger in Texas” includes job satisfaction, and the Bay Area is close behind, followed by Philadelphia. Meanwhile, firms in Boston have managed to produce slightly happier associates than firms in New York, notwithstanding the city’s often lamented bagels and challenging pizza scene — a challenge Chicago offices, hampered by quiche deep dish pizza, have been unable to surmount. Washington, DC lags a bit behind, and Atlanta clearly needs a hug.
Associates at a few firms were particularly likely to say they’d make the same choice today. Find out which firms have especially happy campers, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Featured Survey Results: Would You Do It Again?
(And: Which firms’ associates have no regrets?)”

Sam Arora 2 Hillary Clinton Georgetown Law Above the Law Blog.jpgWhile standing outside the U.S. Supreme Court building this morning, Georgetown Law student Sam Arora sent us this message (with photo):

I’m #2 in line for the SCOTUS 11 AM argument. A policewoman standing at front told me I wasn’t allowed to wear my Hillary button “on the plaza.” She said it was rules.

I asked if she was sure, because I’m just standing here in our single file line with my friends. She said wearing a button was “demonstrating,” and I had to take it off.

I asked again if she was sure, because that seems to run afoul of First Amendment protections, but hey… I want to see my professor (Mike Gottesman) argue in Chamber v. Brown at 11am, so I took it off.

I asked her who in their office I could talk to about their policy, because I just don’t understand its grounding. She barked at me, “JUST TAKE IT OFF!.”

Well, dang, she has a gun, so I’m just going to petition the government… at a later time when she can’t hurt me!

So, readers, what do you think? Does Sam have a legitimate grievance? Or will his petition be denied?

P.S. Sam Arora is identified here with his permission. Our default rule at ATL is anonymity for tipsters. But Mr. Arora is a quasi-celebrity here inside the Beltway, as one of The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill. Sadly, the Supreme Court policewoman proved immune to his charms.

George Washington students have created a series of YouTube videos riffing on the Bud Light Real Men commercials. Best in the law-student-mocking series is “Guy who asks about summer jobs”:

Our favorite line: “Public interest is for gays and hippies.”
To see more of the Real Men of Law School videos, check out the TaxProf Blog.
Real Men of Law School [TaxProf Blog]

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