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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.

Look: If Lat and Mystal are silly enough to let me write a column about in-house lawyers when I’ve worked in-house for just ten months, then surely I can reminisce about blogging at Above the Law after just four weeks on the job. Fair is fair, guys.

So here are three thoughts, after four weeks of typing. First:

On November 15, Lat published the post announcing that my column would start in three days. Lat wrote the post; I had nothing to do with it. He promptly sent me a link to that post, telling me that we were up. I hung up the phone after finishing a business call and clicked on the link, viewing the post within ten minutes of its publication. Incredibly, the “commenters” were already out in force.

I scrolled through the comments and immediately learned that I’m (1) homophobic, (2) a failure in Big Law, (3) desperate for money, and (4) ugly.

Before I’d written a word.

Fortunately, an old friend sent me an e-mail providing emotional support: “Hey, Mark, you’re not homophobic.”


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As we just mentioned, Sullivan & Cromwell has not yet announced its bonuses. It seems that several other top law firms are keeping their powder dry until S&C fires.

But Weil Gotshal, which previously committed itself to “compensating Associates at market rates” and paying “2010 bonuses that are commensurate with bonuses paid by peer firms,” apparently believes that the “market rate” has been set — by Cravath.

Check out their latest memo, which also (1) confirms that Weil associates will get their customary seniority-based base salary increases in January (no surprise there), and (2) contains numbers for the “Distinguished” bonuses awarded to high-performing midlevel and senior associates….

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As of this writing — Thursday, December 16, at 10:30 AM — Sullivan & Cromwell has not yet announced its bonus scheme. We suspect that several other top firms that have yet to announce bonuses, like Davis Polk, Simpson Thacher, Cleary Gottlieb, and Debevoise, are simply waiting for the white smoke to emerge from 125 Broad Street. [FN1]

So… what’s going on at S&C?

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Teresa Giudice

* One gusher of a lawsuit: BP could pay more than $5 billion because of the oil spill. A small price to pay for unleashing Cthulhu. [Wall Street Journal]

* Prince Jefri owes his former lawyers more than $21 million. Time to cross another life-size sex statue off his Christmas list. Le sigh. [Washington Post]

* This WoW bot injunction is totally going to ruin my weekend. Now I’ll have to level up instead of attending my in-game wedding. Thanks, Ninth Circuit. [CNET]

* If the Senate doesn’t vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell before the holidays, they’re all going to get some huge lumps of coal in their stockings. [Los Angeles Times]

* Guidos in my high school used to forge signatures on court papers all the time, it was no big deal. Well, except for all of those “ethnic” violations. [New York Post]

* A jilted bride is suing her ex for almost $100,000, the cost of the would-be wedding. Seriously? I’d totally sign up for ATL dating if this guy was the prize. [ABC News]

Many of you know that the headline is the punchline to an awesome Dave Chappelle joke about black people and chicken. As far as I know, it is the only joke about black people and chicken (fried or otherwise) that is acceptable for white people to retell in 2010 America. I say again, it’s the only joke white people are allowed to make on this subject. (I’ll accept new submissions from African-American comedians — surely Kat Williams has something.) Obviously, if your name is Bill Maher, you are exempt from this rule, but that’s because Maher is pretty much the only white man in America who has figured out how to joke about Obama’s race, and he does so brilliantly.

For all other white people, I think this is a bright-line rule that should be easy to follow. They’re really not that many of them: you can’t make jokes about fried chicken or watermelon, you can’t use the “N”-word, you can’t comment on black women’s hair because you have no freaking idea what you’re dealing with. In exchange, you got a 300-year head start in this country, nobody ever profiles you, and just to be nice we’ll leave you hockey for your own sporting domination. That’s a good deal, right? There are a handful of jokes I can make that you cannot; if you think you’re getting the short end of the stick, call up a single mother living in the Bronx and ask her if she wants to trade.

Really, I didn’t think I had to write down the “no fried chicken jokes” rule. But the law firm of Morgan Hill in Washington State made me realize that sometimes you have to spell things out for people. Every Christmas, they send out their holiday party invitation in the form of a satirical newspaper. The flier contains funny, made-up stories about the big legal news items of the year in Washington.

At least, it’s supposed to be funny. This year, the invitation missed the mark. Badly….

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* Here’s a list of America’s Worst Bosses for 2010. Shocker: some of them are lawyers. [eBossWatch]

* Is this a legal and/or fair way to get a flaking eBay auction winner to pay up? Maybe all is fair in love and war e-commerce — although that approach didn’t work out well for Vitaly Borker. [Reddit via Consumerist]

* Remember the Syracuse Law satirical blog controversy? Well, now the administration is playing with FIRE. [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education]

* Filing a lawsuit against McDonald’s over Happy Meals makes me sad — and Walter Olson mad. (Disclosure: I once worked at McDonald’s.) [New York Daily News]

* Speaking of delicious things — and readers, please note my use of “delicious” to refer to food — how do you overcome the “cupcake challenge”? A panel of experts, including my law school classmate, Georgia state legislator Stacey Abrams, tackled this question in a panel discussion at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [The ChamberPost]

* Single D.C. lawyers, there’s still time to entrust your love life to Kashmir Hill. We have many responses, but there’s gender imbalance right now. Kash needs men — please help! [Above the Law]

Want to work for a top law firm with legitimate global presence? Check out the following profiles of law firms that are (1) most admired by Career Center readers and Lateral Link members and (2) known for their strong international practice. Don’t forget to check out the profiles for other firms, both international and domestic, and see what each firm’s associates really think about their employers.

  • With lackluster bonus announcements from most lockstep law firms, associates at this firm should be happy with their performance-based bonuses – even if they aren’t transparent.  Most Career Center readers agree and rate this firm #10 among the most admired law firms.  There are several opportunities for the firm’s 2,400 associates to work on international “newsworthy” matters, out of any of its 31 offices worldwide.
  • Associates at the #2 most admired law firm appreciate the level of freedom when it comes to getting international caliber work via this firm’s free-market system.  While there is no official billable hour requirement, most associates agree that 1,950 is the magic number to qualify for bonuses.  Even if international work is not your thing, this firm is also known for its involvement in notable Supreme Court cases.

Let’s look at a few other firms with robust international practices….

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Yesterday we reported on a change in management at Nixon Peabody. We understand that some people at Nixon hope that the shift at the top will be followed by a return to Nixon Peabody’s old law firm culture.

But maybe NP people will have to get ready to assimilate into an entirely different culture? A well-placed tipster reports that some Locke Lord partners were told that the firm is exploring a possible merger with Nixon Peabody.

Locke Lord denies the rumor, while Nixon Peabody won’t comment. But our sources have been right before, especially when it comes to potential mergers…

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Why is Bob smiling? Because police now need a warrant to check his email (joke stolen from Julian Sanchez).

Thanks to a huge decision out of the Sixth Circuit, your email and the Fourth Amendment just got better acquainted. The police need to get a warrant to take a peek at the contents of someone’s inbox, writes Judge Danny Boggs — once rumored to be on the SCOTUS shortlist — in the court’s opinion (PDF, via a thrilled EFF).

The court says that the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which grants law enforcement access to email older than 180 days old with a simple subpoena or court order, is unconstitutional, since it enables the police to conduct unreasonable searches.

“This is a very big deal,” writes law professor Paul Ohm. “[T]his is the opinion privacy activists and many legal scholars, myself included, have been waiting and calling for, for more than a decade. It may someday be seen as a watershed moment in the extension of our Constitutional rights to the Internet.”

The case that led to the decision dealt with extensions of a different variety. The defendant that challenged the po-po’s warrantless search of his email is Steven Warshak, the mastermind behind Enzyte, a questionable herbal supplement purported to increase the size of a man’s erection. Sometimes, new constitutional protections pop out of the strangest places…

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Judge Vanessa Gilmore, a self-identified judicial diva.

Back in 2007, I declared Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore (S.D. Tex.) to be a judicial diva (a term I first popularized over at my original blog, Underneath Their Robes). Judge Gilmore earned this delicious distinction through such behavior as allegedly throwing objects at attorneys in open court and dumping motions in the trash for using the incorrect font.

Well, it appears that Judge Vanessa Gilmore was pleased rather than perturbed by her diva designation. As she told the Texas Lawyer, she used it in the title of her new book, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Tales From a Judicial Diva.

This is Judge Gilmore’s second book. Her first literary effort, A Boy Named Rocky, was “a coloring book for the children of incarcerated parents.” (They sure could use it — if any kids need to be taught to stay within the lines….)

Let’s learn more about Judge Gilmore’s latest book — and check out the delightfully ridiculous cover art….

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You know the only thing worse than getting run over by some rich joker in a Mercedes-Benz? Getting run over by a rich joker in a Mercedes-Benz who gets a slap on the wrist because his Mercedes-Benz is a brand-new Mercedes-Benz.

Dr. Steven Milo knows that pain all too well. Our sister site, Dealbreaker, explains the situation:

Back in November, it was reported that last summer, Morgan Stanley financial adviser Martin Joel Erzinger… had driven over a doctor who was on his bike and then kept going, “until he reached a Pizza Hut parking lot, where he stopped and called Mercedes auto assistance to report the damage to his vehicle.”…

The part of the story that was somewhat more shocking was that rather than be slapped with serious to quite serious charges, a court decided that for his crime, MJE would be hit with two misdemeanor traffic violations and restitution to the victim. People were somewhat outraged, to say the least. But! That was prior to hearing all of Marty’s side of the story.

According to Erzinger’s defense lawyers, Erzinger suffers from sleep apnea, and that condition was exacerbated by the new car smell of his month-old Mercedes. And that all caused him to lose consciousness during the hit-and-run fiasco.

I knew having a new Mercedes was a status symbol; I didn’t know it was a designer drug…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legal Defense of the Day: New Car Smell Diminishes Your Capacity to Have A Soul”

Thanks to this week’s advertisers on Above the Law, who are putting gifts under our trees this holiday season:

If you’re interested in advertising on Above the Law or any other site in the Breaking Media network, please download our media kits, or email Thanks!

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