Latest Stories

Grand Theft Auto IV MoFo Morrison Foerster.jpgLabor Day is behind us. You know what that means: no wearing white, no gin and tonics, and no qualms about sending summer associate stories to ATL. If you have an SA story to share that we haven’t previously covered, please email us.
This latest tale, posted below, puts the “MoFo” in Morrison & Foerster. These kiddies are badass. As always, please don’t name or provide additional identifying information about them. Thanks.
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This summer MoFo hosted a firm-wide retreat in Napa, first-class all the way — every attendee stayed in a private one-bedroom condo at the host resort, people got spa treatments, went on wine tastings, open bar every night, etc. Once the bar closed, the real troopers would head over to someone’s condo for an after party. The firm covered minibar tabs, so people would stop by their own places and stock up on drinks to bring along. Nothing out of the ordinary, as far as big firm summer blow-outs go.
The only problem with the trip was the tremendous size of the resort. The condos were scattered all across a large compound. Some rooms were miles away from others. The resort provided shuttle service, but often (especially late at night) the shuttles were slow in coming. Very slow. It was definitely a nuisance.
A couple of days into the retreat, two or three summers apparently got sick of waiting for a shuttle to take them to their far off condos at the end of the evening’s after party festivities. One of them was sick and vomiting or something, so they had a sense of urgency. In a haze of drunken entitlement (or perhaps a twisted sense of altruism: their friend was sick!), these summers decided to “borrow” a car from the resort’s valet to drive home.
Audi A6 Morrison Foerster MoFo.jpgThey busted into the valet key box and swiped the keys to an Audi A6 — first-class all the way! — got into the car, and started it up. Luckily for them, before they could get it into gear and get moving, a recruiter got wind of the operation and came RUNNING AND SCREAMING out of the after party. She got them out of the car; the keys were returned to their rightful place.
But the plans of drunken MoFos are not so easily foiled. Undeterred, they RETURNED to the valet box once the recruiter was out of their way, stole the keys AGAIN, and started up the car once more. This time a MoFo PARTNER saw the situation, ran over to the car, and put a stop to the ill-fated scheme.
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What happened to the summers in question? We don’t know for certain, but we’re guessing they got no-offered. While creative problem-solving and taking the initiative are usually desirable qualities for lawyers to possess, stealing cars and driving drunk raise character and fitness issues.

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft new logo CWT AboveTheLaw blog.jpgIn his defense in the Wall Street Journal (subscription) of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, America’s Firingest Law Firm™, Ashby Jones wrote:

[W]hile it might take several months to determine the full damage, so far the firm hasn’t seen large groups of partners bolt for the door, a phenomenon that can create a mini-panic at a firm and result in the loss of entire practice groups. Of course, the handsome partnership payouts provide good incentive to Cadwalader partners to stay put. And while Cadwalader might never be called a “collegial” place, its partnership is at least cohesive. It consists of a manageable 114 lawyers located predominantly in lower Manhattan.

Make that 113 lawyers. From a press release issued today by Steptoe & Johnson:

Andrew Perel Andrew J Perel Cadwalader CWT Steptoe Johnson.jpgSteptoe & Johnson LLP, a pre-eminent international law firm, today announced the addition of Andrew J. Perel as a new partner in its New York office.

Mr. Perel, former Chair of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft’s Environmental Practice Group, will also become the resident member of the management committee of Steptoe’s New York City office and that office’s representative on the firm’s Executive Committee.

“Andrew is the ‘go to’ environmental lawyer in New York. He is a leader in his field and highly respected nationally. Through his practice, he provides Steptoe with additional entrée into the financial services clients that are the backbone of every New York law firm practice,” said Steve Fennell, head of Steptoe’s Litigation Department.

Is Perel’s departure an isolated occurrence? Or could it be the first of several partner exits? Time will tell.
Andrew J. Perel Joins Steptoe as Partner in New York Office [Steptoe & Johnson (press release)]
Andrew J. Perel bio [Cadwalader via Google Cache]

do_not_urinate.jpgOur Lawyers of the Day are do-gooders by day, but public-urinators and face-spitters by night. Brendan Relyea and Michael Pate hail from the Legal Aid Society of New York; their bad behavior at a Brooklyn bar made its way into the pages of the New York Post:

A Legal Aid defense lawyer dropped his briefs in a Brooklyn bar and made a motion to relieve himself – sparking a brawl that landed him and a colleague in legal trouble of their own, The Post has learned.

We almost stopped reading after that terribly punny lede paragraph, but we managed to persevere. Relyea has been charged with public urination, and both are charged with assault, menacing and harassment.
Details of their wild night in Brooklyn, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyers of the Day: Brendan Relyea and Michael Pate”


chad johnson name change Palin kids.jpgCincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson legally changed his name to “Ocho Cinco,” his preferred nickname since 2006.
Johnson Ocho Cinco wears the number 85 for football related activities, making the new name multicultural yet entirely redundant.
As we’ve previously reported, sometimes changing your name to or away from something stupid can be difficult. But luckily for Mr. Cinco, Florida’s name changing laws are straightforward, provided you have $40.
These might be the kind of laws that Governor Palin’s kids would want to look into. Here are Todd Palin’s thoughts on naming conventions, via People Magazine:

Sarah’s parents were coaches and the whole family was involved in track and I was an athlete in high school, so with our first-born, I was, like, ‘Track!’ Bristol is named after Bristol Bay. That’s where I grew up, that’s where we commercial fish. Willow is a community there in Alaska. And then Piper, you know, there’s just not too many Pipers out there and it’s a cool name. And Trig is a Norse name for “strength.”

As soon as my parents are too addled to care, I’m changing my name to Max Power.
Bengals wide receiver changes last name to Ocho Cinco [ESPN.com]
Earlier: What’s in a Name? Quite a Lot, Rules New Zealand Judge

yale law school.jpgYour outgoing editor is a Yale Law School grad, and your incoming editor is a Harvard Law School grad. So the two schools’ rivalry in the rankings is a subject of interest — and good-natured trash-talking — here in the office.
In a provocative post entitled Is the End Near for Yale’s Dominance?, Professor Brian Leiter writes:

[T]he awakening of the sleeping giant Harvard Law School under Dean Kagan’s tenure and its entry into the lateral market has meant that Yale now faces real competition at the very top. Add to that Yale’s chronic vulnerability–namely, its location–and the eagerness of both Columbia and NYU to hire almost any Yale faculty member at the drop of a hat, and it does mean that Yale Law School will have to work harder than a generation ago to remain on top.

Yale will continue to be helped, to be sure, by the small school bias of US News, which has insured (through the per capita expenditures measure) that YLS has remained #1 in US News even in years when HLS has higher reputation scores. And until the changes in faculty quality translate into changes in clerkships and academic placement, one suspects that YLS will continue to have its pick of prospective law students for the foreseeable future.

Professor Bill Henderson agrees — and has the empirical support to back it up.
Read more, below the fold.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Will Harvard Overtake Yale in the Rankings? Don’t Hold Your Breath”

Richard Jones Richard D Jones pants lawsuit.jpgDo you miss Roy Pearson, the administrative law judge who sued his dry cleaners for $54 million over a lost pair of pants? If so, you might get a kick out of this tale, from the West Virginia Record:

In a case that mirrors a recent headline-grabbing lawsuit, a Charleston attorney claims a dry cleaner lost clothes he had left to be cleaned.

Richard D. Jones filed the suit July 25 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Pressed For Time and Lisa Williams.

Jones is an attorney for Flaherty, Sensabaugh and Bonasso.

Jones’s bio on the firm website shows that, interestingly enough, he’s a civil litigator on the defense side. How would he respond to a case like the one he just filed?
More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: The Brotherhood of the Litigation-Inducing Pants”

Kwame Kilpatrick Mayor Kwame M Kilpatrick Above the Law blog.jpgSadly, I don’t own a Kevlar vest. If I did, I would be coming to you live from Detroit today, because it appears that today is the day that they finally remove Kwame Kilpatrick’s feeding tube.
Mayor Kilpatrick has become an embarrassment to his city, a nearly impossible task given that he represents Detroit. Kilpatrick had an affair with his chief-of-staff, lied about it under oath, and allegedly paid off a police officer to keep it quiet. If Michigan could beat Utah, perhaps Kilpatrick could have flown under the radar, but in this charged political climate the mere appearance of gross incompetence and corruption is enough to get a man in trouble.
The fact that Kilpatrick has held onto his job for this long is a testament to the people of Detroit and their utter hopelessness.
At 10:00 a.m. eastern time, Judge Robert Ziolkowski will rule on whether Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has the authority to fire the embattled mayor. That ruling should set up a very interesting 2:00 p.m. hearing on the mayor’s sexual perjury case. Reports are flying that Kilpatrick will take a deal prior to the latter hearing, in order to avoid jail time.
Most observers believe that Granholm does have the authority to remove Kilpatrick from office under established principles of Michigan law. Kilpatrick’s main defense appears to be that he doesn’t have time to mount a credible defense. The man is busy trying to stay out of jail, how can he possibly focus on serving the citizens of Detroit?
Complicating Kilpatrick’s defense are five lawyers that Kilpatrick wanted to testify on his behalf. They will not, apparently because they enjoy being lawyers and are afraid of losing their law licenses by associating in any way with Kilpatrick.
Granholm has already scheduled an ouster hearing for Wednesday.
Hearings loom as plea talks stumble [Detroit News]
Stakes high today in Kilpatrick legal drama [Detroit Free Press]
Earlier: Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Indicted

Sarah Palin Alaska Governor Sarah Palin hottie.jpg* The Republican Convention kicks off this week in St. Paul. They were worried about Hurricane Gustav, but Hurricane Sarah Palin has been the talk of the weekend. The Republican Veep candidate revealed that her 17-year-old daughter is a baby mama. [New York Times]
*… And O’Melveny and Myers partner Arthur B. Culvahouse, Jr. is to blame. Not for the baby, but for the vetting process. [New York Times]
* …And here’s almost everything else you want to know about Sarah Palin and the law. [American Lawyer]
* Former attorney general Alberto Gonzales can breathe a sigh of relief. The Justice Department says he made some mistakes with classified information, but that criminal sanctions are unlikely for him. [Washington Post]
* In Texas, they like their justice blind… and aroused. Judge Samuel Kent has been indicted for federal sex crimes, but he’s going to continue hearing cases. [Houston Chronicle]
* More details in the human trafficking lawsuit against Iraq contractor Kellogg Brown & Root. Worst bait and switch ever. [Courthouse News Service]

Labor Day barbecue barbeque.jpgIt seems that a few of you are reading today — but not many. No surprise there; it’s a holiday. Happy Labor Day!
Here’s a bit about the holiday, from the Department of Labor:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

And that includes Biglaw associates, a sizable chunk of the Above the Law readership. Granted, they’re not a unionized bunch. But with the help of ATL, as well as many other blogs and message boards, associates now have ways of organizing to improve their compensation and working conditions (and to protect themselves against adverse actions, like layoffs).
Speaking of Above the Law, Saturday the 30th was the second anniversary of ATL’s public launch. Happy Birthday to us!
We extend our deepest gratitude to you, our loyal readers, for the site’s continued success (in terms of traffic, revenue, media mentions, and other metrics). We’re grateful to you for your frequent visits to ATL, including all the comments and browser refreshing; your spreading the word about the site, by mentioning ATL to your friends, colleagues, or classmates; and your sharing information and tips with us, by email and in comments.
So once again, Happy Labor Day! If you’re away from your computer, we hope you’re enjoying the holiday. If you’re stuck in the office, you have our sympathies — and we hope you get out of there soon.
The History of Labor Day [U.S. Department of Labor]
Labor Day [Wikipedia]
Earlier: Happy Birthday to ATL — and Happy Labor Day to All!
Letter from the Editor: Welcome to Above the Law

calendar Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re a little late in passing along this news, which is from last month. But when it comes to coverage of certain topics, like start dates and layoffs, we aim for completeness.
An article in Crain’s Chicago Business focuses on delayed start dates at major law firms in the Windy City. Most of the news in the piece was previously broken by ATL. See, e.g., Seyfarth Shaw; DLA Piper.
But there’s one nugget of news:

With starting attorney salaries reaching $160,000 a year, delaying new-hire dates is one way to trim expenses. Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, which has 186 attorneys in Chicago and a substantial real estate practice, pushed back starting dates for seven lawyers by two months, to mid-November, a spokeswoman says.

So add Sonnenschein to the list of firms that have delayed start dates for incoming associates. Just like no-offering summer associates, pushing back starting dates is less than ideal. But as we wondered on Friday, such measures may be the lesser of multiple evils (with lawyer layoffs as a greater evil — although some firms have done both).
P.S. Lee Miller might want to coordinate better with his public-relations team. The DLA Piper PR folks previously explained that the change in start dates was made “to provide a uniform start date across all our offices… [and] to have a uniform orientation process.” But Miller tells Crain’s that it’s the economy, stupid:

“Any firm that isn’t careful in this economy is nuts,” says Lee Miller, joint CEO of DLA, Chicago’s eighth-biggest law firm. Mr. Miller says the firm also plans to cut next summer’s recruiting class by as much as one-fifth. “The transactional practices are slower, mirroring the economy, and the capital markets are in turbulent times,” he says.

P.P.S. Today, of course, is Labor Day. Is anyone reading?
Update / Correction: The Sonnenschein start date news was first reported by Bloomberg News on August 5, in a very interesting article on partner pay. As Lindsay Fortado reported, the firm pushed back start dates for 20 of its 24 incoming first-year associates from September to November 15. (The seven lawyers referenced in the Crain’s article appear to be Chicago associates; the firm-wide number appears to be 20.)
Tougher times on the docket [Crain's Chicago Business]
Wall Street Lawyers Ask Bank, Can You Spare $250,000? [Bloomberg News]

Terry Christensen Terry N Christensen.jpgAlong with his colorful co-defendant, private investigator Anthony Pellicano, prominent entertainment attorney Terry Christensen is now a convicted felon. Earlier today, a federal jury convicted the pair on conspiracy charges relating to illegal wiretapping.
Not a great way to kick off a holiday weekend. And not good news for the 110-lawyer firm that Christensen founded — Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro.
(That firm name may ring a bell. Name partner Robert Shapiro famously served on O.J. Simpson’s victorious defense team.)
Private eye Anthony Pellicano, attorney Christensen convicted of wiretap plot [Los Angeles Times via WSJ Law Blog]
Terry N. Christensen bio [Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro, LLP]

jury trial John Morgan.jpgWhen it comes to seating juries, desperate times call for desperate measures. Like arresting — and shackling — jury duty deadbeats, which is what’s done in D.C.
Out in Oregon, they conscript jurors from off the street:

A juror shortage forced a judge to look through a phone book before sending sheriff’s deputies out into the street to round up enough people for a trial.

Lane County Presiding Judge Mary Ann Bearden said an unusually large number of criminal trials combined with an equally unusual number of no-shows for jury duty forced her to invoke a little-used state law.

“I dealt with some angry people,” the judge said. “They didn’t think it was fair.”

Their anger is understandable. These folks were out for a nice morning stroll, on a sunny day in August. The next thing they knew, they were jurors on a sex abuse trial — for a man accused of screwing the pooch aggravated animal abuse. And the defendant wasn’t even a federal judge.
Democracy: what a bitch.
Oregon judge tries dialing, rounding up jurors [AP via Seattle Times]

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