Latest Stories

It’s the last day of December, so it’s a good time to look back on the year that was. And everyone else is doing it — e.g., the ABA Journal (the most popular stories of 2010); the National Law Journal (the defining moments at the Supreme Court in 2010); and the WSJ Law Blog (the key news themes of 2010).

We’ll do what we did last year and identify the ten biggest stories of the past year as decided by you, our readers. With the help of Google Analytics, we’ve compiled a list of our top ten posts for 2010, based on traffic (as represented by pageviews).

By the way, in terms of hot topics, the most popular category page for the year was Law Schools. In 2009, it was Layoffs. This seems like a sign of progress, since the former subject is somewhat less depressing than the latter (at least to most people; harsh critics of law school, such as the “scambloggers,” might disagree). It also reflects increased public discussion about legal education and the value proposition of going to law school.

What were the most popular individual posts at Above the Law in 2010? Let’s find out….

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Thus far we’ve looked at holiday gifts from the perspective of the giver. What (or how much) did you give to your secretary this year? Is it appropriate to get a present for your boss (and if so, what)? How about some holiday gift ideas for other lawyers in your life?

But it’s not really better to give than to receive, is it? As we know from our coverage of lawyer compensation and bonuses, our readers are greedy SOBs like getting as much as giving. So here’s an open thread for discussion of your favorite gifts from this holiday season. (I’m wearing one of mine right now — a toasty fleece that my cousin got me from Uniqlo.)

When it comes to Christmas / holiday gifts from professional contacts, folks at firms do fine. When I was at a firm, I’d get small gifts — a bottle of wine, a Tiffany money clip — from vendors hired by the firm for various projects.

But in-house readers probably make out the best in this season, since they get gifts from law firms with big budgets. In fact, the idea for this post came from an in-house reader: “[W]hy not have a holiday schwag column to show what in-house counsel are getting from firms this season? It may be an interesting contrast to the bonus (or lack thereof) news you’ve been reporting on.”

This reader got the ball rolling with the story of a pretty sweet gift he got from a law firm he gives work to….

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Guns of the Cuyahoga?


* Given LeBron, the Browns, and everything else, the one thing I think the city of Cleveland needs more of is guns. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Am I in favor of a 68-year-old man punching a 15-year-old boy for not turning off his cell phone in preparation for landing? Hey man, it takes a village. [Business Insider]

* Having a spare kidney is like having a “get out of jail free” card. [Gawker]

* Mmm… recess appointments. [Washington Post via Instapundit]

* If you support the cause of making law schools report accurate employment statistics, maybe you can support the Law School Transparency people. [Law School Transparency]

* Last chance to vote in the ABA Blawg 100 awards. Thanks for all of your support in 2010; we look forward to keeping you informed and entertained in 2011. [ABA Journal]

We hope you’ve enjoyed following our series on Top Partners to Work For, as we’ve made our way around the country highlighting the law firm partners who are not only great at what they do, but are also great to work for. As we mentioned earlier, this survey is now closed — but we’ll run it again in the future, so keep an eye out for it.

Earlier this month, we introduced six Chicago partners for whom associates enjoy working. Today we wrap up our coverage by leaving you with top partners who shine in the legal markets of Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, New Jersey, and even Hong Kong. Although some of these markets may be smaller, the firms are some of the biggest and best in the profession: Fish & Richardson, Ropes & Gray, Goodwin Procter, Jones Day, Brooks Kushman, Skadden, and Drinker Biddle.

Let’s take one last look at the partners who made the list….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s new column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

I really don’t care much about compensation.

Let the abuse begin.

If you hate your job, then no one can pay you enough to make going to work every day worthwhile. And if you love your job, you won’t be sitting around fretting about your pay. I understand that this is America and all that, but within very broad limits, you’re nuts to accept one job over another because of a small difference in compensation.

(I understand that you may be trapped in a job, because of student loans, or kids in college, or the like. I understand; trapped is trapped. And I understand that I personally have been awfully lucky, because I’ve never had to worry about finding money to pay next month’s rent, so I speak from a particular point of view. Despite all that, I stand by what I said — if job A and job B are meaningfully different from each other in ways that matter to you, and you’re not trapped, you’re nuts to take one job over the other just to earn a few extra grand each year. Period.)

Naturally, since I’m not interested in the subject, you can guess the question I’ve been asked most often since Above the Law anointed me an in-house counsel guru:

How does in-house compensation work, and what questions should I ask about compensation if I’m interviewing for an in-house job?

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I find it funny that firms that want to skimp on bonuses also expect associates to make sure they are helping the overall health and performance of the firm. At some level, why should associates care if the firm is up to date on its collections? It’s not like that money is going to trickle down to the time keepers once their hours are realized. Hell, we’ve got people in the comments claiming they are going to purposely underbill in order to hurt firms in 2011 for stinginess in 2010.

The firms aren’t wrong to be doing everything they can to get associates to enter in their hours in a timely fashion. Time keeping is more accurate when you do it every day (as opposed to trying to recreate your days at the end of the week or month). Firms are struggling to collect from their clients. And, for what it’s worth, billing hours is part of the job for attorneys. I just find it ironic that firms are trying to pressure their associates to produce more money for them even as they are sharing a smaller percentage of those profits with associates.

It’s pretty clear that being a part of a Biglaw firm isn’t a “team” proposition. Everybody for themselves; that’s how the partners act, and that’s how partners expect associates to act.

And so Hughes Hubbard is bringing a little personal punishment to associates who are late with their time…

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* In the new economy, new strategies are necessary in hiring law firms. A new paradigm is upon us and we must think outside the box. Synergy, people. Consultants are here to help. [New York Times]

* David J. Stern, Florida’s Foreclosure King, is the gift that keeps on giving. Like syphilis. [Palm Beach Post]

* On Tuesday, Paul Allen revised his patent suit against… well, pretty much the internets. Gotta pay the troll toll. [Reuters]

* U.S. prosecutors arrested a California woman yesterday on insider trading charges. Immediately after the charges were filed, Michael Douglas’s ex-wife sued the woman for royalties. [CNET]

* A Los Angeles law firm, Glancy Binkow & Goldberg, is being sued for maintaining a hostile work environment and being generally pervy. The article raises several important questions. None more important than this: What the hell is a bikini bar? [Los Angeles Times]

* A primer on Bill Richardson’s possible pardon of Billy the Kid. Emilio Estevez hasn’t been this stoked since the Men at Work premiere party. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Vernon, a small town in California, has hired Latham & Watkins in an effort to save its status as a city. Pretty fascinating read. [Los Angeles Times]

* A former Israeli President, Moshe Katsav, was convicted of rape. [Bloomberg]

* And finally, what about Brett Farv…ra? Out $50,000. And he may face future litigation over those harmless Croc shots. [New York Daily News]

Here in New York City, the headquarters of Above the Law, we’re still dealing with the aftermath of the Great Blizzard of 2010. Check out our slideshow for some images (like the one at right).

Although the snowstorm ended on Monday, and it’s now Wednesday night, many streets remain unplowed and many sidewalks uncleared. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, generally praised for his tremendous competence, is taking a lot of flak for the city’s inadequate response.

And that’s just in terms of politics and public relations. Wait until the lawyers get involved!

What possible causes of action could arise out of the snowstorm? Let’s discuss….

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Christine O'Donnell

* Warning to criminal defendants: if you say “f–k, y’all” in open court, it might be you who ends up getting f**ked. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times via WSJ Law Blog]

* Musical chairs: Epstein Becker & Green closes up shop in Miami, after managing partner Michael Casey defects to Duane Morris (with lawyers and staff in tow). [Daily Business Review (subscription) via ABA Journal]

* Law enforcement mistakes end in tragedy in Detroit. [Mother Jones]

* Former Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell is not a witch, but she might be in trouble with the feds. Her knowledge of constitutional law and Supreme Court history might not have carried over into FEC rules. [New York Daily News]

* Justice Souter is still opposed to cameras in the courtroom. [Josh Blackman]

* As discussed by Steven Davidoff and Larry Ribstein, Abercrombie & Fitch wants to reincorporate from Delaware to Ohio. Hopefully this won’t affect A&F’s eye-catching catalogs. [Truth on the Market and Dealbook / New York Times]

Unfortunately, her reasoning has matters exactly backwards. She defers to government officials who regulate private conduct, but attacks those who run government facilities. That basic mindset shows bad intellectual judgment which will lead to a decline in economic and social fortunes that no amount of compassion can cure.

— Professor Richard Epstein, in a piece on Ricochet.com entitled Sonia Sotomayor’s Misplaced “Humanity”.

Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to advice@abovethelaw.com

Dear ATL,

Since the holiday season is getting well underway, I was wondering… What is the expected gift-giving at the office?

Presumably every associate out there will give a nice sum in the form of cash, check or gift card to his assistant and paralegal(s) as appropriate.  But what about those farther up the food chain?  Is it appropriate or expected to give gifts to those who give you work?

– Cleveland Rocks

Dear Cleveland Rocks,

At firms, the s**t rolls downhill, as does gift giving. You’re expected to give your secretaries and admins gifts (pro tip: secretaries LOVE Precious Moments angel figurines), because they help you dodge phone calls and make less than you. And if you don’t give individual gifts, people will come around the office begging for alms “asking” you to donate to the gift fund for back office staff. Yet for reasons that defy logic, partners with whom you work closely are miraculously excused from giving their direct underlings – the associates – gifts during the holiday season, as if the “gift” of continued employment were more than enough. That’s like when my parents used to buy me socks and underwear, hide them in the closet until December and then call them Hannukah presents. It’s not a gift if they owe it to you….

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Last week, Hogan Lovells announced its associate bonuses. It’s the first bonus season for the firm since the merger of Hogan & Hartson and Lovells. Unfortunately for some associates, the transatlantic deal apparently did not pay off for them at bonus time.

The memos are individualized, but the associates who have reached out to Above the Law are not happy. Here’s one tipster’s report:

Most people with whom I’ve spoken received $2500-$5000 less than the Cravath-model for billing around 2150 (our hours requirement is 1950). This is true no matter the class year.

A number of associates left the office as soon as the memos came out because they were so disgusted. I predict a mass exodus of associates leaving HoLove this coming year, because a lot of people have been pissed about the hours anyway and these bonuses are just insulting.

But according to a Hogan Lovells spokesperson, the HoLove bonuses matched the market. So why are associates upset?

(Please note that we’ve added some UPDATES after the jump.)

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