Reality TV

ATL Idol Above the Law Idol AboveTheLaw Idol medium.jpg
Six lawyers, currently or formerly at large law firms, hoping to make the jump to the writing life (read: working in pajamas). One leading legal tabloid, in need of its next lead editor. A mass of angry anonymous commenters, looking for someone new with whom to have a love-hate relationship.
“THIS…. is ATL Idol.”
It’s a reality-show-style competition, in which site readers will pick the new editor in chief of AboveTheLaw.com — the recipient of some 3 million page views a month, described by the Washington Post as “a must-read legal blog.” We believe it to be the first time that a full-time blogging gig — one with a salary you can live on, health insurance, and even a 401(k) — has been awarded through a “reality blogging” contest.
Back in May, we posted a help wanted ad for a new full-time writer here at Above the Law. Over the weeks that followed, we received a slew of excellent applications. We also located additional prospects through personal networking. All in all, we probably considered almost 100 talented candidates.
We narrowed the list down to six highly impressive finalists. But we found the prospect of choosing just one of them to be agonizing.
So we’ve decided to outsource this task to you, the readership of Above the Law. Over the next three weeks, the finalists will blog on ATL, for your consideration. Just as they would on a true reality TV show, the “assignments” will vary from week to week (details about them to follow).
Each Friday, we will open the polls, allowing you to vote for your favorite — the blogger you’d like to see take the helm at this venerable legal tabloid. At the end of week one, the bottom two out of six finalists — the pair of contestants with the fewest votes — will be eliminated. Next week, the reader vote will take four finalists down to two. In the third and final week, the two finalists will go head to head, in a legal blogging deathmatch. Your votes will determine the winner, Above the Law’s new leader.
ATL readers are an opinionated bunch, so we expect you to have strong views about the contestants (which you should feel free to share in the comments). But to those of you who need more guidance when voting, fear not. Just like American Idol, ATL Idol will provide you with three “celebrity judges,” to offer their expert opinions of the contestants’ blogging, and to inform and guide the electorate.
Our judges, who are all leading legal bloggers in their own right, need no introduction. But we’ll introduce them anyway, briefly. They are (in alphabetical order):

  • Ann Althouse, Robert W. & Irma M. Arthur-Bascom Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, and author of her eponymous blog, Althouse;
  • Tom Goldstein, head of the D.C. litigation practice and co-head of the firm-wide Supreme Court practice at Akin Gump, and founder of SCOTUSblog; and
  • Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor of Slate (where she blogged at Convictions), author of two books, and a contributor to the New York Times and the Washington Post (among many other publications).
    Our impressive panel is well-balanced, featuring representatives from three major groups of legal bloggers: one law professor, one practicing lawyer, and one professional journalist. We’ll leave it to you to decide — perhaps based on how caustic their commentary is — who’s Simon, who’s Randy, and who’s Paula.
    Update: Professor Althouse emphatically rejects any suggestion that she’ll be the Paula Abdul of this contest. This is just as well; when we invited Dahlia Lithwick to serve as a judge, she called “dibs” on Paula.
    Check back later today, when we’ll post brief bios of the six finalists. And check back throughout this week – and, of course, over the next three weeks – to figure out which writers you love, and which you’d leave. The identity of ATL’s next editor rests in your hands.
    We’re expecting this contest to be fun and exciting. Please spread the word to your friends and colleagues. And once the polls are open, we pass along to you the exhortation of Ryan Seacrest: “America, don’t forget to vote!”
    Update: The bios of the finalists are now posted over here.
    Earlier: Help Wanted: ATL Seeks A New Writer

  • Jeremy Anderson.jpgSeveral loyal ATL readers (and Bachelorette watchers?) tipped us off to a lawyer being among the 25 bachelors competing on the ABC reality TV show this season.
    The eligible bachelor is 30-year-old Texan Jeremy Anderson. ABC cites his profession as “real estate attorney.” He’s a December 2007 grad of SMU Dedman School of Law.
    Speaking of layoffs at Hunton & Williams, our tipster says Anderson (who summered there in 2007) was let go from their Dallas office when he went on the show:

    A first-year Dallas associate (who took the February 2008 bar) was placed on probation by Hunton Williams after asking for a leave of absence to do The Bachelorette. The firm is apparently waiting for the season to air before making a final decision, although they obviously plan to fire him. Who has the gall to ask for a leave of absence during their first year, especially to do a reality TV show? But assuming it’s a legitimate reason to request time off, is Hunton’s reaction reasonable and fair?

    His name is Jeremy Anderson… There’s a rumor that he makes it to the final three. His bio was taken off Hunton’s website.

    When we called Hunton about the layoff rumors in Charlotte, we also asked about Anderson. The only comment we got from their spokesperson was, “On a personal note, I love the show.”
    We appreciate your sending this along, ATL readers. As one of you predicts, we will “enjoy covering Jeremy . . . and his abs.”

    Denise Gitsham K&L Gates The Bachelor Above the Law blog.jpgWhen law students are choosing among law firms, they inquire into such predictable things. What’s the firm’s billable hour requirement? How is work distributed? What about pro bono? For lawyers involved in recruiting, it must get boring to have to answer the same questions over and over again.
    So law students, next time you interview with a firm, ask about something that really matters: What is the firm’s policy towards associates who want to participate in reality television shows?
    Is the firm supportive of such endeavors? Can I take a leave of absence for the show’s filming, and then return in good standing? If so, will my year-end bonus get prorated?
    As it turns out, Biglaw shops take different approaches to reality TV. It was rumored that Sidley Austin was none too pleased when associate David Otunga decided to participate in I Love New York 2 (and he is no longer at the firm). As for his performance on the show, the Harvard Law School grad made it to the final three, before losing to “Buddha” and “Tailor Made.”
    K&L Gates Kirkpatrick Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgContrast Sidley’s reaction to that of K&L Gates. The firm allowed an associate in its Washington office — the highly attractive Denise Gitsham, 30, a recent Georgetown Law grad and former Bush aide — to take leave to be on “The Bachelor.” Now it welcomes her back with open arms. From an email recently sent around by D.C.-based partner Mark Ruge:

    All:

    This Monday, at 9:30 p.m. on ABC, is the season premier of the hit television show, The Bachelor. (“The Bachelor” is the nation’s highest-rated reality TV show in the 18-45 female demographic group. It is now entering its 12th season on network television.)

    Believe it or not, one of the contestants this season will be our own associate Denise Gitsham, who was away “on location” during much of February. Here is a link to the show’s web site and Denise’s bio:

    http://abc.go.com/primetime/bachelor/index?pn=bios#t=bachelorettes&d=85609

    Denise’s name, photo, and bio were submitted to the show by her cousin, and Denise was selected to be one of the show’s 25 bachelorettes out of more than 12,000 applicants. She was under extreme confidentiality requirements during her adventure (and still is to some degree). At least now, though, she is free to admit what she was doing during her mysterious leave in February.

    Just thought you would like to know…

    Mark

    K&L Gates lawyers: if you need to send something to Denise via intra-office mail, the delivery should be accompanied by a rose. Thanks.
    P.S. We can’t find Denise Gitsham on the firm website (although we did find a “Denise Stiffarm” in Seattle). We’re guessing that Denise has been too busy filming The Bachelor to fill out all that pesky bar admission paperwork.
    Update: Denise Gitsham is now on the K&L Gates website.
    Denise Gitsham bio [The Bachelor]

    This short video clip requires little introduction. Res ipsa loquitur. Just watch Judge Marilyn Milian, of The People’s Court, benchslap a cute-but-insolent 2L from the University of Miami:

    What is up with all these female Floridian jurists? See also Judge Laurel Myerson Isicoff.
    The People’s Court – Judge Milian Flips out on Defendant [YouTube]
    The Hon. Marilyn Milian [Wikipedia]

    I Love New York 2 Tiffany Pollard Tiffany New York Pollard.JPGWe just caught the second half of I Love New York 2 (previously discussed here and here). Wow.
    Even by the debased standards of reality television, the show couldn’t be any more trashy. We felt our IQ plummeting as the minutes passed. We won’t tune in next week, since we don’t have the points to spare.
    And no, we’re not TV snobs. Our favorite shows include ANTM, Gossip Girl, and Desperate Housewives. We like good trash TV as much as, if not more than, the next guy (or girl). But it has to be quality trash, if that makes any sense. (As for defining quality trash, we cite Justice Stewart: we know it when we see it.)
    But look, don’t take our word for it. From a commenter (one of the few to opine on the show itself, as opposed to affirmation action, the legal academy, and the plight of minorities in America):

    Since I’m not arguing about race, HLS, Obama or any of these issues, my post probably doesn’t belong. But I was personally quite amused to [see] a Big Law associate on my secret vice: vh1 reality programming….

    Though I would have to say, seeing as how law firms are in the business of questioning the “good judgment” of associates, I think exhibiting an interest in dating NEW YORK [a/k/a Tiffany Pollard] is clearly a poor example of judgment.

    She’s crazy, looks like a [transsexual] with a cheap breast enhancement, and did I forget to mention CRAZY?

    Frighteningly enough, the exact same description — “crazy, looks like a [transsexual] with a cheap breast enhancement, and did I forget to mention CRAZY” — also applies to Tiffany “New York” Pollard’s mother, Sister Patterson. While we harbor a weakness for strong, African-American women, we want them to look like women (and work at the Justice Department).
    And what about the fate of the two legal eagles on the show — David Otunga, a Harvard Law School graduate and former Sidley Austin associate, and Juan McCullum, a 2L at Mississippi College of Law? As you can see from the show’s Wikipedia page, which has already been updated with the results of tonight’s episode, they’re both still in the running.
    And Christopher Columbus Langdell is turning over in his grave.
    I Love New York 2 [VH1 (official website)]
    I Love New York 2 [Wikipedia]
    Earlier: Sidley Hates on Old People, Reality TV Stars
    He Feels Pretty, Oh So Pretty

    Pretty I Love New York Above the Law blog.jpgWhen we wrote about David Otunga, the Harvard Law School graduate and former Sidley Austin associate now known as “Punk” on the reality show I Love New York 2, we requested more information about a second contestant with a legal background: a current law student who goes by “Pretty.”
    A number of you kindly obliged. We now know that “Pretty” is Juan McCullum, 24, a 2L at the Mississippi College School of Law. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mississippi State University, where he was a Student Association officer. He was working at the Mississippi Attorney General’s office this summer.
    For more about McCullum, read this article, from the Clarion-Ledger. Or turn down the volume on your speakers and check out his MySpace page, which is almost as annoying as David Otunga’s.
    Juan McCullum is a handsome guy, so his nickname of “Pretty” makes sense to us. But he may not be the “prettiest” person on his campus. That honor may belong to Katie Rader, a 3L at Mississippi College law school and one of the Hawaiian Tropic girls.
    Check out her photo, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “He Feels Pretty, Oh So Pretty”

    David Otunga Sidley Austin I Love New York Above the Law blog.jpgLaw firms love free publicity. Especially law firms that have been in the news for having to pay $27.5 million to settle age discrimination claims by former partners.
    Or maybe not:

    David Otunga, a 2006 graduate of Harvard Law School and former associate at Sidley Austin, appeared in the first episode of I Love New York 2 on VH1 last night.

    In case you’re not familiar with the show, here’s a synopsis:

    “Tiffany “New York” Pollard is jumping back into the dating pool to find the man of her dreams. A fresh crop of twenty men are brought together to compete for her heart and this time the selection process has a twist….some of the chosen contestants vying for New York’s heart have been hand-picked by online users and some have been chosen by Tiffany’s outspoken mother, Sister Patterson.”

    Back to our tipster:

    [Otunga] was brought in as one of three or four “Mama’s Boys” (potential suitors selected by New York’s mother) and nicknamed “Punk.” He told New York that he was perfect for her, since he was an HLS grad and a lawyer at “one of the top law firms in the world.”

    Unfortunately, that law firm — Sidley Austin — didn’t appreciate his appearance on the show, and the firm recently “suggested” to him that it may be in his best interest to pursue his “acting career” instead of his legal career. He’s no longer on the firm’s webpage.

    More after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Sidley Hates on Old People, Reality TV Stars”

    Bachelor Bachelorettes Above the Law Blog.jpgNo wonder the producers of The Bachelor are so eager to have a lawyer as the Bachelor. With their impressive educational pedigrees and generally high incomes — even non-top-tier law grads earn more than the average American — lawyers are a desirable demographic. And relying upon the contestants to keep lawyers watching might not be a smart idea, since legal eagles keep getting shot down on the show.
    From a tipster (a distinguished law professor, which goes to show that even geniuses enjoy trashy TV shows):

    [O]n last night’s season premiere of the Bachelor, both of the law students were sent home in the first cut. The Phoenix Suns dancer stayed.

    I only caught the beginning, when they were all being introduced, and I noticed the two law students – couldn’t figure out for sure what schools they were at. I’m guessing this show was taped over the summer, so this may have been their substitute for a summer associateship. In hindsight, a bad decision….

    I was on the phone the rest of the time, and only learned later that they were both cut. They were decent-looking, though, so I wonder if it was their winning law school personality that made the difference…

    We agree. The eliminated contestants — Juli, 24, of Chicago, and Natalie, 25, of Duncanville, TX — are quite comely. We’re guessing they go to non-top-tier law schools, which have hotter students.
    We don’t watch The Bachelor; we prefer to spend our trash TV time on Gossip Girl. But if you saw the season premiere, and paid more attention than our tipster, we welcome your thoughts on why the law students got cut.
    Update: From another source:

    “Not sure what law school Juli attends (I believe it’s Michigan, but I don’t have confirmation on that), but I CAN confirm that she was a summer associate at Katten’s Chicago office. She left partway through the summer to film the show, and she STILL got an offer. True story.”

    Hopefully she left Katten early enough to avoid having her ass grabbed.
    Season Premiere: Episode Recap [The Bachelor (ABC)]
    Earlier: Here’s One Way To Escape from Biglaw

    Bachelor The Bachelor Lawyer Attorney Above the Law Blog.jpgLawyers have a pretty decent track record as reality show contestants. We went to law school with Yul Kwon, winner of Survivor: Cook Islands. So maybe this idea isn’t as dubious as it might seem:

    An alert reader sent us along his very own invitation to be on The Bachelor. ‘”Apparently they are randomly spamming New York lawyers,” says our spy, who works at a top-ten firm. Casting directors are looking for someone “who is successful, good-looking, has an out-going personality, is ready to settle down, is around 6 ft tall and, usually, is between 27 to 36 years of age.” Guess you’re shit outta luck, shorties!

    “We’ve never had an attorney be ‘The Bachelor’ so we are definitely looking to go that route,” the e-mail admits. The producers seem to know a little bit about the law profession — specifically, that good catches are harder to find than you’d think. So they’re casting their net wide and offering $5,000 reward to anyone who finds an attorney who could make the show.

    If you get cast on the show, please mention that you read about it on ATL — we’d be happy to collect the five grand.

    But though they know a bit about lawyers, it’s clearly not enough. Here’s the last line of the e-mail: “Please DO NOT forward to the press. We try to make this part of the process as private as possible.” Silly casting agents! Don’t you know that 50 percent of all law firms’ billable hours are spent forwarding private e-mails?

    So, so true. Please continue to forward us private emails, early and often.
    Update: A reader forwarded us the original email, which appears after the jump.
    ‘The Bachelor’ Casting for New York Lawyers [New York Magazine]

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Here’s One Way To Escape from Biglaw”

    Okay, this isn’t as amusing as the Alexandra Korry haikus that have been unleashed in the comments. But then again, few things are.
    Courtesy of ATL reader “Josef Stalin,” here’s a Lolcat graphic, in honor of Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell:
    lolcat Sullivan Cromwell Aaron Charney Above the Law blog.jpg
    Lolcat [Wikipedia]
    P.S. Please vote for Jordin Sparks in American Idol!!! Call 1-866-IDOLS-02, or text “VOTE” to 5702.
    Even Professor Althouse, a diehard Blake Lewis fan, kind of agrees: “So, okay, let Jordin win. Blake will be fine. It will be better this way.”

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