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price gouging.jpgIn Monday’s morning docket, we asked whether price-gouging investigations during hurricanes were the new trend among attorneys general. Judging from the many investigations launched over the past week, the answer is a resounding YES.

Louisiana AG Buddy “Rattlesnake” Caldwell caught our attention for his battle cry against high hotel and gas prices during Hurricane Gustav. Now that Hurricane Ike has reared its ugly head, other attorneys general are joining the war, including:

  • Florida AG Bill McCollum has hit up four gas stations with subpoenas. [The Gainesville Sun]

  • South Carolina AG Henry McMaster has begun gas price-gouging investigations. [The Greenville News]
  • New York AG Andrew Cuomo is chilling for the moment, just “issuing warnings” about high gas prices. [Central New York Business Journal]
  • Texas AG Greg Abbott is investigating gas prices and filed suit against a Comfort Inn for doubling the cost of rooms during Hurricane Dolly. [MSNBC]
  • John Lott at Fox News does not think the AGs are fighting the good fight:

    You would think that people had learned their lessons about price controls during the 1970s, though memories have surely faded. Price controls didn’t stop the cost of gasoline from rising. They just changed how we paid for them. Instead of prices rising until the amount people wanted equaled the amount available, chronic shortages of gasoline had Americans waiting in lines for hours. Yet, the supposedly permanent shortages disappeared instantly as soon as price controls were removed.

    But AGs are responsible for ensuring the law is enforced, not analyzing economic systems. So investigate and sue away, noble attorneys general! And if your AG isn’t following the trend, what’s up with that?

    In Defense of Price Gougers [Fox News]

    wall street bull backside.jpgThough the dust has far from settled, it’s time for ATL to hand out some awards to the law firms and other participants that have done well for themselves, or wet the bed, as Wall Street runs with blood.

    The Grim Reaper Award: Weil Gotshal & Manges.

    Weil will be Lehman’s bankruptcy counsel, and they’ve been in talks with AIG. It’s not Weil’s fault that other people’s losses are Weil’s immeasurable gains. When Weil is tapping you on the shoulder, your time is almost up.

    The “Doesn’t Anybody Have Any Missiles Left?” Award: Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.

    Bear? Gone. Lehman? Going. Does this firm have any clients left? Or associates left?

    The People Under the Stairs Award: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

    We echo our commenters in asking, “Where the heck is Skadden in all this?” Good question. Better question: which Skadden partner is the point person on BoA business and how many people have rented space under his or her desk in the past 48 hours?

    The K-Y Jelly Award: Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

    Can anything happen in this economy without the lube provided by Wachtell? Don Fanucci didn’t wet his beak this much.

    The Melting ceremony continues after the break.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Meltdown Awards:
    Law Firm Winners and Losers “

    Paper Chase law school competition.jpgWe recently offered some helpful hints for new law students, distilled from over 200 reader suggestions. We now have an addendum to our list of tips, based on an ill-advised email that found its way into our inbox. Some background:

    Today, all members of last year’s Law Review Editorial Board at [George Washington University Law School] — who have since graduated — received the unsolicited mass email (reproduced below) from a current 1L student whom no one knows or has even met….

    Talk about a great example of what not to do as a 1L. What a way to endear yourself to your new classmates, not even a month into the school year! Can you say G-U-N-N-E-R?

    Check out the Gunner’s email, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “More Advice for Law Students: Don’t Do This

    We received a very interesting offer letter for the 2009 summer class sent out by Proskauer Rose:

    proskauer rose logo.JPGOur compensation level for next summer has not yet been set, but it will be no less than $3,077 per week – the salary that we paid to those summer associates who were with us in New York this past summer.

    This is most likely just a clumsily worded invitation to summer with the firm. This may well be their standard form letter for offers that they’ve used since 2007 and haven’t bothered to update.

    But consider two other possibilities:

    1) Isn’t Proskauer, like everyone else, looking to cut back on expenses where possible? Why would they lock themselves into $3,077 unless they thought that they could make cuts somewhere else along the way? What other factors could possibly come into play to push summer compensation higher than it was last year? Unless …

    2) Does Proskauer seriously think they might be able to raise salaries next year? Are they trying to signal to the market that they could be in a position to raise salaries if need be?

    Proskauer has already set a price floor, but hasn’t set a price ceiling. Why would they do that? If they are just using standard language from the past, they really should consider updating their offer letters and stop messing with people’s emotions.

    recession california associate pay raises.jpgIt wasn’t long ago that both associates and partners regarded moving in-house as a “golden ticket.” Better hours, comparable pay, and a sweet “Executive Vice-President” title.
    Now? Ask former firm lawyers who went over to Bear Stearns, Lehman, Merrill, or WaMu how their new gigs are working out. For that matter, ask attorneys at JPMorgan Chase, BoA, or Barclays how secure they feel about their jobs.
    As financial services firms break up and merge, what happens to the in-house attorneys caught up in the mix?
    Much of the value from in-house counsel comes from keeping as much work off the big firm plate as possible. It’s a volume business. When trading is tepid and profits non-existent, businesspeople often turn a greedy eye to in-house attorney salaries. Remember, it’s not like the businesspeople really like the lawyers hanging around anyway. It’s more of a “you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall” type of situation.
    But should an in-house attorney get laid off, how easy is it for them to get back into the Biglaw pipeline? Are firms going to be interested in hiring corporate attorneys with years of expertise in business platforms that are no longer viable?
    If you can’t go in-house, what exit options remain for Biglaw corporate associates? Litigators can always go litigate somewhere. There are lots of frivolous lawsuits just begging to be filed (and defended against). But for corporate attorneys, are you better off just keeping your head down and doing your best to ride out the storm?
    Alternative career resolution ideas are welcome in the comments.

    • 16 Sep 2008 at 10:12 AM
    • Uncategorized

    Sidley to Associates: Be Cool Boy

    Sidley Austin new logo Sidley Austin Brown Wood ATL Above the Law blog.jpgWhat do you do when your biggest client gets sold to a bunch of guys from North Carolina? What can you do other than keep cool?
    While Sidley Austin declined to comment to ATL on the Merrill Lynch/Bank of America merger, they did send around an internal memo to their associates. Sidley essentially told their people: “DON’T PANIC!!!!!!!!!”
    Apparently, the firm opened up their books to show the percentage of their business that comes from the companies affected by the yesterday’s meltdown. Merrill Lynch represents well less than 10 percent of the firm’s overall business, so they think they should be fine.
    All of the messages we are hearing from Sidley associates reflect the same theme. People are interested, but as one tipster put it, “nobody is freaking out just yet.”
    But is that a minority opinion or a consensus feeling? How are you Sidley associates feeling this morning?

    snowmobile.jpg* Judge James Peck, the second-most junior bankruptcy judge in Manhattan, will handle the Lehman case, the biggest bankruptcy in history. [Bloomberg]
    * No vroom for snowmobiles in the national parks, rules Judge Emmet Sullivan. [New York Times]
    * First day of the O.J. Simpson robbery trial. But people are already totally over it. No crowds were there to greet O.J. and friends, just a man holding a “Jesus saves sinners from hell” sign. [Los Angeles Times]
    * Former ATL “Lawyer” of the Day, Howard Kieffer, will not defend himself in his lawyer impersonation trial. [Associated Press]
    * Manhattan restaurant owner + $5,000 designer umbrella + negligent supermodel = a fed-up judge. New York Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden fines attorney $500 for filing a frivolous claim and wasting judicial resources. [Associated Press]

    Paul Clement Paul D Clement US Solicitor General.jpg
    Could it be? A message for ATL from Paul Clement, the 43rd Solicitor General of the United States?
    (It’s not completely out of the question. We have written about Clement a fair amount, and we have also met him in person.)
    The lowercase type for his name seemed a little odd. But some very prominent attorneys, like John Quinn of Quinn Emanuel, use lowercase type for email messages. Based on the subject line, “Order,” we guessed that perhaps the former SG wanted to share a funny court order with us.
    Read the message from Paul Clement, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “An Email From the Former Solicitor General?”

    law firm merger.jpgLast month we reported on merger talks between Heller Ehrman and Mayer Brown. Those talks have now been called off, as reported earlier today by Am Law Daily. This leaves the San Francisco-based Heller with another failed romance.
    From an email sent out today on behalf of Mayer Brown chairman James Holzhauer:

    As you are aware, the firm has been exploring the possibility of a merger with Heller Ehrman. After careful consideration, we have decided not to pursue that course.

    Heller Ehrman is a fine firm with outstanding lawyers. Like us, they have a long heritage of excellence in their work and service to clients. A merger with them would have offered potential benefits for both firms and our clients. In the end, however, various issues, including client and practice conflicts, could not be resolved, and we have ended our discussions.


    Speculation has now turned to which other firms might be in the market for Heller. Orrick? Covington? Check out the comment threads for the latest and wildest rumors.
    The only thing we do know for sure is that Heller has once again been jilted. We’ll bring you all of the new suitors as soon as they reveal themselves.
    Mayer Brown Calls Off Merger Talks With Heller Ehrman []
    Earlier: Law Firm Merger Mania: Heller Ehrman Is At It Again

    anna torv fringe law.JPG* The many beautiful lawyers of Boston calendar is available. None of them are as beautiful as Anna Torv, the star of Fox’s new hit Fringe, but you have to dig the beautification of Boston. [f/k/a]
    * Global warming as a defense for eco-terrorism? Not in America, at least not yet. [The Independent]
    * The legendary Canadian sense of humor does not apply to file sharing. [IsoHunt]
    * A family feud about whether drug companies and compassion can live in the same house. [Drug and Device Law]
    * Look people, stop bringing your BlackBerry to bed. Just stop. Your partner does not like it. At all. Unless your partner is a fellow Biglaw attorney, in which case you have badder fish to fry. [NY Post]
    * Big business isn’t doing so hot, so this week’s Blawg Review is looking at small businesses. [Small Business Trends via Blawg Review]

    Covington Burling LLP logo Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPGA couple of tipsters have let us know that Covington & Burling has scheduled a firmwide meeting tomorrow.
    We don’t think they’re going to announce a merger (because no suitable partner comes to mind). We have it on good authority that they’re not announcing layoffs (or anything else negative).
    So what gives? Why does a firm pull all of their associates and counsel into a room? Did they just buy a coat factory?
    Let the rampant speculation begin in the comments. We’ll update with actual facts as soon as we receive them.
    Update: The actual facts appear here.

    houston ike lawyers work.JPGIn the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the Houston legal community is getting back to work. WRAL news channel 5 reported that Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell expects to reopen Wednesday. Andrews Kurth has their attorneys working remotely. According to the WRAL report, an Andrews spokesperson said, “all of our BlackBerrys are working.”
    Other Houston area firms were contacted by ATL directly. The most important news is that everybody is safe.
    Mike Conlon, partner-in-charge of Fulbright & Jaworski’s Houston office, said:

    [W]e have been able to assist all that have needed temporary housing. While our Houston office is closed today, our lawyers are working from remote locations, including our other offices in Texas. All computer support functions are operating, and other offices are providing additional support where needed, which is part of Fulbright’s disaster recovery plan.

    Fulbright & Jaworski plans to be fully functional by tomorrow.
    More news from Houston after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Houston Lawyers Get Back To Work After Ike”

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