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kirkland ellis logo.JPGIs the customer always right? In the legal profession, not necessarily. As a lawyer, sometimes your job is to talk some sense into your client — and to refuse to move forward if your client, ignoring your advice, orders you to prosecute frivolous (or borderline frivolous) litigation.

Perhaps this lesson needs to be learned by Kirkland & Ellis. The super-prestigious firm, known for its world-class litigation practice, recently got benchslapped by the Seventh Circuit. From Judge Posner’s opinion:

[T]he defendants’ motion for sanctions should not have been denied. The plaintiffs’ lawyers [at Kirkland] may secretly agree, for they make no attempt to counter the arguments for sanctions made in the defendants’ brief even though the district judge denied the motion without explanation. They follow suit by merely asking us, without explanation, to affirm the denial.

The motion complained that Carr is harassing the defendants with repetitive litigation, including a suit — this suit — that borders on the frivolous, even though he is an immensely successful lawyer represented on appeal by one of the nation’s premier law firms, Kirkland and Ellis, as well as by his son Bruce Carr of the Rex Carr Law Firm, which the plaintiff formed after the break-up of his old firm.

At least Judge Posner referred to K&E as “one of the nation’s premier law firms.” Slap that up on the Kirkland website?

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Dickstein Shaprio still basically relevant logo.JPGAdd Dickstein Shapiro to the list of firms that have decided to do away with lockstep associate compensation. As of January 22, Dickstein will adopt a new merit-based compensation system. Like many firms that have abandoned lockstep, Dickstein will be using a three-tiered system, similar to Orrick’s compensation structure.

Starting salary for new Dickstein associates will be $145,000. Or maybe it will be $160,000. Honestly, I can’t tell you with certainty what new associates will be making.

It’s not my fault. I read the original memo and everything. I talked to friends and sources and a spokesperson for the firm. I prayed on it. I just can’t seem to pin down one solid number for first-year associate salaries.

After the jump, why don’t you guys take a look at the memo? Maybe you’ll have more success divining its meaning than I did.

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Debevoise logo.jpgIs suing a former client for unpaid bills a wise idea? Maybe not. As John Marquess, president of Legal Cost Control, told the New York Law Journal, “If I were advising any law firm, I would tell them suing a client over fees is a no-win situation. It’s going to get you adverse publicity you may or may not recover from. And if it went before a jury, juries hate lawyers.”

And what if your ex-client is, say, a green company devoted to the cause of sustainable forestry? Going after that client seems like an even worse idea from a PR perspective. Al Gore would not approve.

But Debevoise & Plimpton decided to move forward anyway with its $6 million lawsuit for unpaid fees (see last item). Now the firm is on the receiving end of some unpleasant counterclaims….

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CPAC 2010 logo.jpgWhen I think of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), I think of, well, conservatives. When I think of Liberty University, which claims Jerry Falwell Jr. as its chancellor, I think of conservatives. So when Liberty Law School sponsors a CPAC event, I don’t expect there to be major conflicts between the two organizations.
And, apparently, I would be totally wrong about that. A tipster sent us this link from OneNewsNow:

Liberty University Law School has withdrawn as a co-sponsor of next month’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington because a Republican homosexual activist group is being allowed to co-sponsor the event.

If there are some people who think the anti-gay-marriage movement is nothing but bigotry in drag, it’s because of institutions like Liberty Law School.
More details after the jump.

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Haiti earthquake January 2010.jpgYesterday the United States officially halted the deportation of Haitian illegal immigrants, on a temporary basis. The New York Times reports:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Haitian deportations would be halted “for the time being,” without specifying a time period. Immigration officials said it was clear they could be putting Haitians’ safety at risk by sending them back to a country staggering from the vast destruction of the quake. About 30,000 Haitians in the United States are facing deportation orders, immigration officials said.

One could argue that there is a great and unfair disparity in U.S. immigration policy regarding Haitians as opposed to other Caribbean nations, like Cuba.
But it’s usually a bad idea to make long-term policy in the middle of a tragedy and crisis.
Still, the move from the Obama Administration here is different than the reaction of the Bush administration when hurricanes ravaged the island in 2008. Details, and a correction, after the jump.

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John Gotti Jr John A Gotti John Junior Gotti.jpg* Taxing banks for fun and profit — remember McCulloch v. Maryland? Obama will propose a tax on big banks, to recoup taxpayer losses from the Wall Street bailout. [New York Times]
* Josh Levin and Dahlia Lithwick discuss yesterday’s Supreme Court argument in the American Needle case, regarding the application of antitrust laws to the NFL. Conclusion: the justices should just stick to baseball. [Slate]
* Meanwhile, on remand from the SCOTUS, the “fleeting expletives” case was argued before the Second f**king Circuit. [How Appealing]
* The feds decide not to go for trial #5 against John A. “Junior” Gotti (pictured). [CNN]
* “Zoolander” meets “Legally Blonde”? Male model goes to Yale Law School. [Yale Daily News]
* A profile of executive pay czar Ken Feinberg. “Where there is death and suffering, or merely bankruptcy and financial ruin, there, oddly enough, is Kenneth R. Feinberg.” [Washington Post]
* Haiti relief efforts continue. If you’d like to contribute, it’s as easy as texting “Haiti” to the number 90999. [Bits / New York Times]

Crushing Debt Obligations.jpgWe’ve previously written about Denise Megan Bronsdon, who graduated from the (unaccredited) Southern New England School of Law and then failed the bar three times. Not surprisingly, she had some difficulty finding gainful employment. Then she wound up in bankruptcy.
Bronsdon tried to get her $82,000 in student loans discharged in bankruptcy. A bankruptcy judge ruled in her favor, finding that having to repay the (normally non-dischargeable) student debt would constitute “undue hardship.”
But then a district judge, on an appeal brought by her lender, vacated and remanded. Chief Judge Mark Wolf (D. Mass.) concluded that the bankruptcy judge erred by failing to consider, in the “undue hardship” analysis, the fact that Bronsdon was eligible for a debtor-repayment plan available to law school graduates.
On remand, Bankruptcy Judge Joel Rosenthal — who’s about to retire, by the way — stuck it to the district court. Judge Rosenthal reached the exact same result as before (and snarked on Judge Wolf in doing so).

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Supreme Court 6 Above the Law blog.JPGShortly before 5 p.m., the Supreme Court ruled against broadcast of the Proposition 8 trial, currently taking place in San Francisco. The Court split 5-4, with the majority setting forth its reasoning in a 17-page per curiam opinion. Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor.
You can read the per curiam opinion and Justice Breyer’s (excellent) dissent over here. Analysis and commentary, from Lyle Denniston and Chris Geidner, can be accessed at SCOTUSblog and Law Dork.
(We’ve already told you how we feel about this issue. In addition, about 80 percent of you support broadcast of the Prop 8 trial.)
Prop 8 Court TV blocked [SCOTUSblog]
SCOTUS Blocks Broadcast [Law Dork]
Earlier: Cameras in the Prop 8 Courtroom: Why Not?

Bankers before congress.jpg* It’s a new year, time to get back to ogling Article III judges. [Underneath Their Robes]
* The unwritten rules of law firm life. [Legal Blog Watch]
* The IRS commissioner needs a good tax attorney. [Going Concern]
* Referrals are all about trust. [Trusted Advisor]
* U.K. law firms that are good for gay people. [Am Law Daily]
* You learn risk aversion in law school. But is it a good strategy when dealing with clients? [What About Clients?]
* More thoughts on how to market your firm without using FindLaw. [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]
* All you ever wanted to know about the NFL’s antitrust stand. [Infamy or Praise]
* If you didn’t get a chance to watch the congressional ass-kissing hearings of investment bank managers, we’ve got you covered. [Dealbreaker]

Haiti earthquake January 2010.jpgLarge law firms have a track record of stepping up to the plate and providing aid when major disasters strike. For example, back in spring 2008, several leading law firms made sizable donations to support China earthquake relief efforts.
Last night, a major earthquake — the worst in the region in more than 200 years, with a magnitude of at least 7.0 — struck Haiti. The death toll could climb into the hundreds of thousands. For more details and analysis, read this post by Elie over at True / Slant. (Elie has family in Haiti.)
The earthquake just happened, but law firms are already taking action. From a tipster at Paul Hastings:

Who says law firms are all bad? I’m happy to see that whatever bonus money I may miss come March is going to a good cause at least. PH donated $100,000 to earthquake relief.

Is your firm taking similar action? Feel free to let us know, in the comments. You can also make a personal donation in support of Haiti earthquake relief via Doctors Without Borders, the organization that Paul Hastings is supporting, or via the Red Cross (disclosure: ATL advertiser).
UPDATE: You can also donate $10 to the Red Cross simply by texting the word “Haiti” to the number 90999. See here.
The full Paul Hastings memo, after the jump.

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Career Center AboveTheLaw Lateral Link ATL.jpgWelcome to the next article in our series of monthly Ask the Experts Career Development posts, brought to you by the ATL Career Center.  Just a reminder that previous Career Development articles, as well as career coaching information, are available in the Resources section of the Career Center.  
This week, we spoke with Jordan Abshire, Managing Director at Lateral Link who works with partner and associate candidates on law firm and in-house searches in Washington D.C and the Southeast.  We asked Jordan for advice on networking – what it is, how it works, and why you need to do it even if you are not actively looking for a new job.  
If the economic downturn has taught attorneys anything, it is that meeting the annual billable hours requirement no longer guarantees any kind of real job security.  Networking is more crucial than ever for attorneys who want to stay in control of their career development.
Q: Why do so many people cringe when they think about networking?
Find out the answer, plus more, after the jump.

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Stepford Secretary Bingham McCutchen.jpgBe nice to your secretary. It’s the right thing to do.
What, basic human decency doesn’t appeal to you? Alright, how about: be nice to your secretary — or else she might totally screw you over by revealing your secrets.
It’s advice product liability lawyer David Gross might have wanted to take. The ABA Journal reports:

An unhappy secretary has brought ethics troubles for a prominent product liability lawyer in New Jersey.
The New Jersey Disciplinary Review Board has recommended that litigator David Gross be disbarred for failing to share a $50,000 check with his law firm partners, the New Jersey Law Journal reports. Gross’ secretary, Claudette McCarthy, revealed the check to Gross’ partners at Budd Larner four years after he received it in 1998.

You know what, that secretary has CHARACTER.

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