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E train New York City subway car Above the Law blog.jpgConfidentiality. Lawyers get lectured about it all the time. Despite all the warnings, attorneys young and old routinely get themselves in trouble through indiscretion (not just Eliot Spitzer).
Sometimes Supreme Court clerks are overheard talking about their cases. Sometimes law firm partners are overheard talking about firm business. An in-house tipster provides this account of a morning subway ride:

I was sitting on the E train at approximately 9 AM today. Next to me was a tall, older woman with a short (obviously dyed) blond hair cut. A younger (I would guess in his 40s) man saw her and made some comment about how funny it was to see her. She made a face, said she was in a rather bad mood, and showed him an email on her blackberry.

Now this conversation only lasted from the 7th Avenue stop on the E to the 5th Avenue one where Male (I’m assuming Partner) got off in order to attend a meeting, and Female (I’m assuming Partner) got off at the Lexington/Third Avenue stop [at 53rd Street].

Note: Thelen’s offices are at 875 and 900 Third Avenue, around 53rd Street….

The conversation continued to express FP’s concern regarding the person in the email. That FP would “talk to her” as soon as she got in. MP seemed somewhat unconcerned as he “suspected something like this would happen.”

Talk to Her — the title of a critically acclaimed Almodovar film. In this context, however, we’re guessing that FP’s secretary or assistant got laid off (or is about to get laid off) — and FP needs to discuss the situation with her.

Then MP mentioned your piece in AboveTheLaw.com (which is how I figured out what they were talking about), stating that the firm was reflected fairly well all things considered, and how the piece could have been worse. FP made a comment about how it only got bad when you read the comments, where it seems a lot of information was given out that made her very unhappy.

Ah, the comments. Sometimes they make us “very unhappy” too — although, for the most part, we are grateful for the insight and humor contained therein.
Welcome to the internets, FP. And exercise greater discretion next time — you never know who might be listening.
Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner

I had been planning to share the results from last week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on which other firm you would want to go to today, but in light of recent events at Thelen Reid and Edwards Angell, let’s just leave that survey open for a bit longer. Let’s talk about whether the slowdown is going to hit your firm as well, and how you might cushion the impact.
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

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

libby.jpgCNN reports that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby has been disbarred in the District of Columbia:

The former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney was convicted last year of lying to a grand jury and federal agents probing the leak of the identity of a CIA agent, Valerie Plame Wilson.

“When a member of the Bar is convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, disbarment is mandatory,” the District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote in its opinion, which is posted on its Web site.

“When convictions on more than one count are involved, disbarment is mandated if any one of them involves moral turpitude,” the court added.

The D.C. Court of Appeals opinion is posted [PDF]. POTUS commuted Libby’s 30-month prison term last year. So Scooter may be disbarred, but at least he’s not behind bars.
Good editorial cartoon of “Scooter” flying off cliff while Cheney looks on, by Steve Breen of Copley News Service, available here (click on thumbnail to enlarge).
Cheney’s former chief of staff disbarred [CNN]

lincoln town car dewey leboeuf above the law blog.jpgLast week, our colleagues over at Dealbreaker reported on changes to the “Evening Meals and Taxis” policy of Goldman Sachs in London. The upshot: the firm’s dining@mydesk service — okay, that doesn’t sound fun, but it’s still a perk of sorts — and a GS-covered taxi home will kick in at 10 PM instead of 9 PM, the old cutoff. Memo here.
Similar changes to car and dinner policies appear to be happening on this side of the pond. For example, we hear through the grapevine that Mayer Brown’s New York office recently pushed the free-car cutoff back to 9:30 PM.
At your law firm, when do you get a free dinner and / or transportation home? Has the firm changed its policy recently? Any thoughts on what the cutoff ought to be? Some firms have deadlines that vary by season. E.g., Debevoise (9 p.m. during the summer).
Please weigh in, on these and related matters — e.g., stories about crazy and/or incompetent car service drivers — in the comments.
Update: According to this comment, “MBRM has always moved cars back to 9:30 once the clocks change.”
Unacceptable [Dealbreaker]

* 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

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