Scott Turow

Scott Turow

My years as a prosecutor were an extraordinary education in the negative capacity of humanity. You’re like a proctologist — looking at human beings through the wrong end.

Scott Turow — former federal prosecutor, current Dentons partner, and critically acclaimed, bestselling novelist — at an interesting panel at this past weekend’s New Yorker Festival. The panel, moderated by Jeffrey Toobin, focused on writing about murder. Turow’s latest novel, Identical (affiliate link), is about a re-investigation of a murder many years after the fact.

Cyrus Vance Jr.

Mr. Vance performed well. The collateral damage to the career of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who resigned in disgrace from the I.M.F., was clearly unfair, but that was caused largely by his sensational arrest, which Mr. Vance had no choice about effecting….

Given the attention paid to Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, Mr. Vance deserves enormous credit for pulling the plug on a highly publicized prosecution, especially since he could foresee the political damage to himself.

Scott Turow — current SNR Denton partner, former federal prosecutor, and acclaimed author — assessing Cyrus Vance’s handling of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, in a New York Times op-ed.

Scott Rothstein George Clooney Up in the Air.jpgIn the new movie Up in the Air — which is worth seeing, if you haven’t already — Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, is on a quest to rack up 10 million frequent flyer miles. That’s a heck of a lot of miles. In the Walter Kirn novel the film was based on, it was a more realistic one million miles (but, as film critic Kenneth Turan notes, “that’s product placement and inflation for you”).
To some people, however, 10 million miles — or points, the credit-card version of miles, also redeemable for free air travel and other goodies — is chump change. From the Miami Herald:

[Ponzi schemer Scott] Rothstein (inset left) racked up 20,920,701 rewards points on his Amex card — and the feds want to grab them all to help pay back his victims. Generally, American Express doles out one point for every dollar charged on the card, which can be used to buy merchandise, airline tickets, hotel rooms, restaurant meals and gift cards.

So, what did Scott Rothstein do to accrue all those points?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Scott Rothstein and His Amex Card: He Never Left Home Without It”

lawyer walks into bar 2 Above the Law blog.jpgOver the past few months, a number of you have written to us about A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar. It’s a critically acclaimed, independent documentary film about lawyers and the legal profession.
The movie made the rounds on the film festival circuit earlier this year, and now it’s out on DVD. Here’s a brief synopsis:

A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar… is a celebration of the law and triumph over adversity that follows 6 future lawyers of all ages and backgrounds as they undertake the rigorous and excruciating California Bar Exam while also dealing thematically with certain hot button issues in our profession. The [themes of the film] include, among other things, stress, big firm economics, substance abuse, law as a calling, frivolous litigation, bar exam economics, women in the law and other threads that you can likely intuit.

These subjects are all near and dear to the hearts of ATL readers. And there’s stuff in the film that ties into this week’s special theme, non-top-tier law school graduates:

The cast members run the gamut, from a former Marine who has taken and failed the California Bar Exam 41 times, to top and middle graduates of the Loyola and UCLA Law Schools, to a Latina activist from East L.A. who attended a non-accredited law school, to other diverse and interesting people.

Sadly, the film was produced before the rise to fame of Loyola 2L. But it features other legal celebrities, such as Alan Dershowitz, Scott Turow, and Nancy Grace — all of whom appear in this short clip:

Some of our favorite films are documentaries — e.g., Spellbound, Capturing the Friedmans — and some of our favorite people are lawyers. We haven’t seen A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar yet, but we intend to; it looks like it’s right up our alley. Exciting stuff!
A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar [official website]
A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar [trailer]
A Lawyer Walks Into A Bar [Amazon]

clock time billable hour Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.gifTo follow-up on the Fried Frank post about prompt submission of one’s time, a reader sent in this suggestion:

You should start a thread re: billing practices. For example:

1. Do you bill when you go to the bathroom?

2. Do you bill when a co-worker stops and talks to you for five minutes?

3. Have you seen partners bill for time not spent on actual client matters? (I know I have.)

4. Perhaps more commonly, have you noticed specific ways in which partners manage to lengthen conversations, hold extra internal meetings, or get people involved who really aren’t necessary to get the job done?

I guess we’re talking about a very subtle form of “padding” here. It would be interesting to know what associates have noticed — far more interesting than law firm policies about turning your timesheets in…..

Good idea. So here’s an open thread for discussion of billing practices. The billable hour has been widely criticized, even by Biglaw partners like Scott Turow (who, to be sure, probably earns more from his writing than his legal practice). But as long as the billable hour is still with us, questions like the ones raised above must be confronted.
The bathroom break question is an interesting one. When we worked at a firm, we would stop the clock when we went to the bathroom (which was often, due to heavy consumption of coffee and bottled water). But recently we were chatting with a friend in Biglaw who doesn’t, and she regarded the idea of stopping the clock when you go to the bathroom as laughable.
The Billable Hour Must Die [ABA Journal]
Bye Bye to the Billable Hour? [Concurring Opinions]
Earlier: Fried Frank: Doing Hard Time

John Osborn John Jay Osborn John Osborne Paper Chase Above the Law.jpgLast week we wrote about how John Jay Osborn, a law professor and author of The Paper Chase, sniffily dismissed One L, by Scott Turow. “One L is competent,” he said. “But it doesn’t have a HEART.”
Now a prominent blogger has come to Turow’s defense. In this Times Select column, grande blogress diva Ann Althouse defends Turow — and, in the words of a tipster, “cattily trashes John Jay Osborn, author of the Paper Chase, for his suggestion that law profs not teach via the Socratic method in order to make students ‘happier.'”
Money quote, comparing Osborn’s “The Paper Chase” to Turow’s “One L”:

I preferred the memoir [of One L], the account of an ordinary man as he encounters some interesting, fallible human beings who did the work that both Osborn and I do now.

Though none of the law professors I know are much at all like Kingsfield, Osborn chided us law professors for making our students so unhappy: stop calling on them; listen only to volunteers; don’t dictate how they should think; let them tell their own stories.

Law should connect to the real world. But that doesn’t mean we ought to devote our classes to the personal expression of law students. The cases we read for class are always based on factual disputes that arose in real life….

So law is not abstract unless one makes the mistake of turning it into an abstraction. We law professors tend to worry about seeming like Professor Kingsfield. But we ought to worry less about that prospect and more about preserving and respecting our own tradition of teaching from the cases.

The students who come into our law schools are adults who have decided that they are ready to spend a tremendous amount of time and money preparing to enter a profession. We show the greatest respect for their individual autonomy if we deny ourselves the comfort of trying to make them happy and teach them what they came to learn: how to think like lawyers.

Ann Althouse David Lat David B Lat Professor Ann Althouse Above the Law.JPGGood stuff (even it it’s not as catty as we had hoped). It’s worth noting that Professor Althouse, whose own excellent blog is less academic than many other law professor blogs, is not opposed to “personal expression.” It’s just that she believes, and rightly so, that there’s a time and place for everything.
P.S. Random aside: Professor Osborn’s daughter, Meredith, is a Harvard Law grad now clerking on the Ninth Circuit.
P.P.S. We had the pleasure of meeting Professor Althouse at the NYLS conference last week (see photo at right).
More photographs from the conference, of superior quality, are available at Althouse and Soloway.
‘A Skull Full of Mush’ [Times Select]
At the “Writing About the Law” conference [Althouse]
Ripped From the Headlines [Soloway]
Earlier: John Osborn to Scott Turow: “Game On, Bitch”

John Osborn John Jay Osborn John Osborne Paper Chase Above the Law.jpgWe just got back from a most engaging luncheon talk at the NYLS legal writing conference by John Jay Osborn, a law professor at the University of San Francisco and author of the 1973 novel, The Paper Chase (which led to a movie and television series).
Here’s the Westlaw headnotes version of John Osborn’s talk:

Law students, you need to rediscover and take back your narratives. Law school is all about forcing you to give up your narrative and play by someone else’s rules. Don’t let them do that to you.

Osborn covered a number of topics during the course of his remarks — legal education, law and literature (especially Bleak House), the trajectory of legal careers, the genesis and evolution of The Paper Chase. Great stuff.
Here are a few money quotes. On Scott Turow’s One L, which someone raised in Q-and-A:

“One L is competent,” he sniffed. “But it doesn’t have a HEART.”

Osborn, a former associate at Patterson Belknap, left the legal world for a year to write. He encourages lawyers not to be afraid of trying new things or stepping off the treadmill:

“The nice thing about the law is you can go away and come back… Don’t be afraid to go off and do different things. They’ll ALWAYS take you back. They ALWAYS need associates.”

Finally, Osborn shared with us a great quote from John Houseman, the actor and producer who won an Oscar for his work in The Paper Chase.
Some folks wanted Houseman to perform a scene in The Paper Chase that he didn’t like. He refused, declaring: “I’m too old and too rich to put up with this bulls**t.”
Author of The Paper Chase Joins USF School of Law [USF School of Law]