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We received just over one thousand responses to last Tuesday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on politics in the workplace. Seventy-four percent of respondents reported that they discuss politics in the workplace. Eighty percent noted that associates discuss politics, and sixty-four percent said that partners discuss politics. Only thirty-eight percent said that staff members discuss politics.
While political discussion apparently fills the halls, political campaigning is less pronounced. Twenty percent of respondents said that associates at the firm had tried to convince them to vote for someone, and about fifteen percent said that an associate had asked them to contribute to a campaign. Only twelve percent of respondents said that partners had tried to swing their vote, but roughly sixteen percent reported that a partner had solicited a contribution. About sixteen percent of respondents felt that their firms encouraged them to participate in political events, either for personal satisfaction or as a rainmaking opportunity.
Barack Obama Hillary Clinton Above the Law blog.jpgDespite all the politics in the air, less than three percent of respondents felt that they needed to conform to a particular view. Eighty-two percent of respondents felt no such pressure, and about fifteen percent reported that they only felt pressure to conform around certain people. Huckabee supporters felt the most pressure, with 37% feeling pressure to conform around certain people, and another 10% feeling pressure to conform in general.
Overall, Obama supporters outnumbered both Clinton and McCain voters roughly two to one, and McCain had a better than two to one lead over Mitt Romney, who has since dropped out of the race. Only one percent of respondents heart Huckabee as a candidate. (In the “who made Mike Huckabee” vote, Chuck Norris held a slight edge over Stephen Colbert, who, in turn, outpaced Conan O’Brien almost eight to one. Most respondents, however, attributed Huckabee’s success to support by evangelical voters.)
Earlier: Featured Job Survey: Office Politics?

A Plus grade pass fail grading law school Above the Law blog.gifMost law students are well into the spring semester of law school. First- and second-year students will soon have to pick their courses for fall 2008.
Here’s a subject that may be on some of their minds: pass / fail grading. Check out this interesting article in the Stanford Daily (from last month; we came across it belatedly, while going through our 4,000-email backlog over the weekend):

In a departure from tradition, record numbers of first-year law students chose to take at least one of their first semester courses pass-fail this year.

Law students have traditionally found themselves in a bind when choosing to “3k,” the common term for pass-fail grading. Students interviewed independently described the situation repeatedly as a “prisoner’s dilemma,” referencing the archetypal problem of decisions made with imperfect information.

Choosing to be graded pass-fail, whatever one’s personal reasons, could cause problems if the student is one of only a handful of students to do so in the law school class. However, last semester somewhere between one-third and one-half of first-year students elected to take a class pass-fail, a fact which affects the way the action is perceived by others.

There was this whole issue before where employers might say it’s an oddity,” said first-year law student Chris Wells. “[From orientation onwards] a lot of us wanted to make it a real option at the law school.”

The SLS students were spurred to action by one of their peers:

First-year law student John Kimble drafted an open letter about the 3k decision and sent it to the first-year student email list on the last day students could choose their grading basis. Seeing the letter and the excitement it generated emboldened students to take the pass-fail option and also gave the student body an indication of the movement’s support.

So, ATL readers, what do you think? Is taking more courses on a pass-fail basis a smart move, or is it ill-advised? What types of courses lend themselves best to being taken pass-fail? For those of you involved in hiring — of law firm associates, law clerks, AUSAs, etc. — do you askance at transcripts with lots of pass-fail classes?
And will this trend spread to other law schools? Or is it a luxury available only to students at places like small and selective Stanford, where even academic underperformers can still land good jobs?
P.S. Stanford Law School students seem to be in the vanguard these days when it comes to taking a stand against some of the more stressful or unpleasant aspects of the legal profession. The school is also the home of Building A Better Legal Profession, a group of law students pushing to reform Biglaw. For their mission statement, click here.
First-years go pass-fail [Stanford Daily]
building a better legal profession [official website]

Oscars Academy Awards Above the Law blog.jpg* Sen. Obama sweeps weekend contests; Sen. Clinton replaces campaign manager. [New York Times]
* Lithwick on waterboarding: it’s not a good thing. [Slate]
* Union leaders reach deal in writers’ strike — in time for Oscars. [Washington Post]
* Rep. Waxman expresses concern after Clemens lawyer threatens to eat IRS agent’s lunch. [ESPN]
* Some states allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries. [CNN Video]

Kathy Rentas Kathy E Rentas Kathy B Rentas Kathy Brewer Rentas Above the Law blog.jpgA very strange story, from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (via David Markus):

A private attorney has been charged with physically assaulting a federal prosecutor in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom by shaking her hand up and down so hard that it injured her shoulder.

Kathy Brewer Rentas spent Thursday night in solitary confinement at the Miami Federal Detention Center. She was released on a $100,000 bond on Friday morning and ordered to get a psychological evaluation to see if she needs counseling or anger management training.

Jailed over a handshake. Seriously?
Update: The charges were subsequently dropped, in July 2008. See here.
Read the rest, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day Weekend: Kathy Rentas”

Tom Cruise Thomas Cruise Thomas Mapother Cruise Scientologist Above the Law blog.jpg* What’s that you say? The IRS can’t discriminate in favor of Scientologists (and against Christians and Jews)? But this is the Ninth Circuit! [TaxProf Blog]
* Is your client a Certified A**hole? Find out by using the the A**hole Client from Hell Exam (ACHE). [Electric Pulp]
* Are legal academic conferences less fabulous than they used to be? A sucky mascot, an absence of swag, and a giant pool of…. something. [PrawfsBlawg]
* Is Wesley Snipes being sentenced too late — as in after Tax Day (April 15)? And why hasn’t he paid his property taxes on his $8 million home? [Sentencing Law and Policy via TaxProf Blog]

O'Melveny Myers LLP logo Above the Law blog.jpgEarlier this month, we passed along a rumor that O’Melveny & Myers was conducting a “witch hunt” for ATL tipsters and commenters. For the record, OMM has denied the rumor (not to us, but at internal meetings).
Back in our prior post, we tossed out this hypothetical:

You’re a lawyer at a major law firm. You provide negative information about your employer to ATL and/or post a comment on ATL (or a similar message board), complaining about the terms and conditions of your employment (e.g., salaries, bonuses, fringe benefits). Your employer finds out what you did, and promptly fires you.

You’re a lawyer — a well-educated, highly-paid professional ($160K+). You are not a member of a union; your office doesn’t have one.

You want to sue your former firm for firing you. Do you have any claim that your conduct was collective activity protected under the NLRA? Might you have any other cause of action, under federal or state law?

We concluded: “Maybe our friends at Workplace Prof Blog can enlighten us?”
And enlighten us they have. One of the blog’s editors, Professor Paul Secunda, kindly sent us a wonderfully detailed analysis. After all the conflicting opinions in the hundreds of comments to our post, it was nice to receive some clarity.
Read Professor Secunda’s response, the model answer to our law school exam hypothetical, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The O’Melveny & Myers ‘Witch Hunt': Some Answers from an Employment Law Professor”

Palau American Samoa Above the Law blog.jpgSome people clerk for the experience. And some people clerk for the experience. From an interesting article entitled “Clerks in Paradise,” which appeared in last month’s American Lawyer:

[Some go clerk for feeder judges, and some go clerk for] courts in the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and other tropical locales in the Pacific Ocean. These former United Nations trust territories have legal systems similar to those of the United States, and appeals from their courts traditionally lie with U.S. courts. Many of these territories invite American law graduates to spend a year or two working in their courts as clerks and counsel.

The pull of the Pacific can be powerful.

When Timothy Schimpf accepted a position as court counsel in Palau, a nation of more than 300 islands that became independent in 1994, he turned down a permanent job as a trademark attorney with the federal government. “It’s absolutely worth it to take a chance and go do something outlandish,” he says.

The $40,000 salary he earned in Palau wouldn’t go far in America, but life in the Pacific Islands had its perks. From Schimpf’s government-provided beachfront housing, after-work swims and kayak sessions were easy.

Sounds like a pretty sweet gig. Read more — about clerking in paradise, and about the current job market for law clerks applying to large law firms — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Clerks in Paradise? Maybe Not When It Comes To Hiring”

Scrabulous Scrabble Hasbro Mattel lawsuit Above the Law blog.jpgProgramming Note: We don’t blog that much on the weekends. This weekend, though, we plan to do some remedial blogging, to cover some things we’ve missed in recent weeks. So if you’re going to be in the office over the weekend, check ATL — we’ll keep you company.
* For fans of Fergie and Scrabulous, a music video inspired by the latter’s legal troubles. [YouTube]
* Hungarian lawyer breast: tastes like chicken? [Orange UK]
* Magistrate judges: the handmaidens of justice (or at least of the district judges). Mag judges to $160K! [Newark Star-Ledger]
* A final word on L’Affaire Berenson. [Drug and Device Law]

New York City Law Department NYC Law Dept Michael Cardozo Above the Law blog.jpgA tipster just wrote us: “Post this, and we can have at it in the comments!”
Happy to oblige. From the New York Times:

If a group is to be recognized as a significant force in municipal life, it needs a nickname. The police have been dubbed New York’s Finest longer than anyone can remember. Firefighters go by New York’s Bravest. Sanitation workers are the Strongest and correction officers the Boldest. Attempts have been made to cast public school teachers as the Brightest.

But what about the roughly 690 lawyers on the city payroll? (This is your first and last chance to insert a lawyer joke, if you must.)

Seriously, members of the city’s Law Department labor without a punchy nickname. They could use one.

So go ahead; have at it, in the comments. If enough possible nicknames are generated, we’ll take the top contenders and create a reader poll — and then pass along the winning entry to the NYC Law Department.
Always on the City’s Side in Court, and Without a Good Nickname [New York Times]

  • 08 Feb 2008 at 3:50 PM
  • Uncategorized

So What’s Up With MoFo in the OC?

Welcome to the OC Bitch Above the Law blog.jpgThis rumor, about the Orange County office of Morrison & Foerster, has been making the rounds:

“A couple of my classmates are now scrambling for new summer jobs after MoFo OC told them to start looking elsewhere, because the office basically has no work and they’re already moving lawyers to other offices. They just got told this week. MoFo didn’t even offer to accommodate them in other offices.”

Unwelcome to the OC, bitch?
As it turns out, however, much of the rumor is incorrect. We reached out to the firm, and heard back from no less an authority than Keith Wetmore, the firm’s handsome (and openly gay) chairman:

By virtue of some internal redeployments within the firm, our OC office has declined in size and scope of practice over the past six months, to a point where we did not feel we could offer summer associates a full summer experience or appropriate assurances of permanent offers in that office. For example, we are exiting the corporate practice there so can no longer offer corporate experience to summer associates. There is no shortage of work for the lawyers who remain — one the biggest cases in the firm has historically been, and continues to be, staffed from that office.

We offered all the summer associates positions in a number of our other offices across the globe or split summers between Orange County and those other offices. We have also offered them financial support should they want to work in pro bono for the summer. Understandably, some of them have chosen to consider other firms for the summer before they make a final decision.

We thank Mr. Wetmore and MoFo for this information. We especially appreciated the promptness of their response (within an hour of our original inquiry).

Barack Obama small Senator Barack Hussein Obama Above the Law blog.JPGFrom a politically-minded tipster:

Can we get a thread to find out how Barack Obama was as a law professor at Chicago? It would be perfect for the election season. Not to mention that I really want to know what he was like in the classroom.

Not that many people on Above the Law could probably help with this one, but I’d love to hear any reports of Hillary Clinton at Arkansas too. She did teach a few classes back in the 70s…

Thanks! My whole family of lawyers love your blog!

If you have any anecdotes about Professor Obama to share — we’ve heard a few, but they were given to us off the record, so we can’t use them — please dish in the comments, or email us.
If you’re hoping to have a class with Professor Obama in the future, you may be out of luck. As Lawrence Hurley of the Daily Journal reports, “the man who could be the next president of the United States is still listed as a member of the faculty” on the University of Chicago website — but as his faculty profile notes, he “is currently a candidate for the office of President of the United States.”
That U. Chicago profile, by the way, lists the candidate’s personal AOL email address. Add him to your AIM buddy list! But don’t be surprised if he’s not online much these days — he’s kind of busy right now.
Obama Keeps His Teaching Options Open [Washington Briefs]
Office Hours with Professor Obama? [WSJ Law Blog]
Barack Obama: Senior Lecturer in Law [University of Chicago Law School]
“I Got a Crush…On Obama” By Obama Girl [YouTube]

It’s Friday afternoon, and things are kinda slow. So please forgive the randomness.

Remember Kirkland & Ellis’s big gay party from last month, featuring cocktails and hors d’ouevres, but open only to LGBT lawyers? A source at our former firm writes:

Hors d’ouevres? That’s nothing! At Wachtell Lipton, the gay partners (and whatever associates/summers are out and proud) go to a verrry nice dinner every year. Last year it was at Per Se.

Magnificent. We’ve been to Per Se — on our own dime, not Wachtell’s — and it lives up to the hype.

So if you’re summering at WLRK, say that you’re gay (whether you are or not). You can always “change your mind” when you return to school in the fall; sexuality is fluid. And Per Se’s salmon tartare cornets are to die for!

Earlier: Kirkland & Ellis’s Big Gay Party: Discriminatory?

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