As we mentioned earlier this week, Steve Sanders — a fourth-year associate at Mayer Brown, no relation to the 90210 character — argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday.
When we emailed him on Wednesday to set up an interview, we received this rather straightforward Out of Office message:
I’ll be traveling on client and professional business Monday, 11/2 through Saturday, 11/7. I will have access to email, but my response may be delayed. Thanks.
How modest! If we had been in Sanders’s shoes, we would have used this Out of Office auto-reply:
Oyez, bitchez!!! Today I’m arguing before the freakin’ Supreme Court of the United States. Later, haters!!!
But that’s not Steve Sanders’s style. He is dignified and professional, as we discovered when we caught up with him by phone after his argument.
As we mentioned in our recent open thread on appellate work, Mayer Brown has one of the best appellate and Supreme Court practices in the country. The firm is also known for being rather democratic when distributing SCOTUS arguments; they tend to spread the argument wealth around, instead of funneling all the arguments to a single prominent advocate.
Make that very democratic about doling out SCOTUS arguments. Today Steve Sanders, a fourth-year associate in Mayer’s Chicago office, argued the case of Pottawattamie County v. McGhee before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Of course, Biglaw associates have appeared before the high court before. E.g., Lindsay Harrison of Jenner & Block, who also argued — and won — her first case at One First Street. But one thing that’s unusual about Pottawattamie County is that it’s a paying case, not a pro bono matter.
Sanders has some serious opposition. Read more, after the jump.
In her excellent interview with Chief Judge Alex Kozinski at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, Solicitor General Elena Kagan poked gentle fun at the controversy surrounding what she should wear while arguing before the Supreme Court, as the first female Solicitor General. She quipped: “That this is the big question of the Washington Supreme Court bar probably tells you something about the Supreme Court bar.”
And yet, despite making light of the issue, Solicitor General Kagan simultaneously built the suspense over what she would wear to One First Street. She deflected Judge Kozinski’s inquiries regarding her attire: “I’ve ostentatiously kept it a secret as to what I’m doing. If I told you, I’d have to shoot you.” (She was willing to admit, under intense questioning from Judge Kozinski, that she would not be arguing in Jimmy Choos.)
On Wednesday, Solicitor General Kagan ended the suspense, when she appeared before the Court to argue the Citizens United case. For recaps of the argument in this important and highly charged case, see Adam Liptak and Dahlia Lithwick.
We’ll focus on what really matters: What did Solicitor General Kagan wear on Wednesday? She eschewed the traditional morning coat, or some feminized version thereof, in favor of a pantsuit.
And that’s where the disagreement begins. Leading Supreme Court correspondents had different takes on its color. Tony Mauro of the Legal Times described it as “a businesslike black pantsuit with an open-collared white blouse.” But Dahlia Lithwick of Slate described it as “a tasteful blue pantsuit.”
So, what color was the Solicitrix General’s pantsuit? We reached out for comment to someone who ought to know: the SG herself.
What should a female Solicitor General wear to the U.S. Supreme Court? It’s a hot-button issue. For some excellent analysis, see Dahlia Lithwick.
The topic of SCOTUS-appropriate attire for a Solicitrix General keeps coming up. It popped up yesterday in Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s interview with Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in Monterey.
From an attendee (who stayed at the conference longer than we did; we left the day after our panel):
In case you are not here, David: the solicitor general was just asked what she will wear at the Court, and she declined to say. But Judge Kozinski followed up to ask — expressly on your behalf [David Lat fka Article III Groupie] — whether she would be wearing Jimmy Choos. She said “no,” because the heels are too high to stand in while she argues.
Thought you’d want to know this breaking fashion news!
Lindsay Harrison at One First Street. Photo by Patrice Gilbert.
To paraphrase the controversial Campari ads at issue in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (aka The People vs. Larry Flynt), everyone remembers “their first time” — arguing in open court, that is. It’s a rite of passage that all young litigators must go through. At large law firms, associates (or even junior partners) typically tackle something minor for their first oral argument — e.g., a non-critical discovery motion — and then work their way up the ladder.
But that’s not the case for everyone; some people start at the top. Meet Lindsay C. Harrison. She’s a fifth-year associate in the D.C. office of Jenner & Block, who just had her very first oral argument — which happened to be in the U.S. Supreme Court. On Wednesday, she appeared before the nine justices to argue the case of Nken v. Mukasey (or, technically, Nken v. Filip; more on the name changes later).
Read our interview with Lindsay Harrison, after the jump.
President Barack Obama has hit the ground running. Even before President Obama was done flubbing taking the oath of office, the revamped White House website was launched. You can check the WH website, including the new “Briefing Room” blog, for news of notable nominations and appointments.
A few more names have surfaced since then. Some of them pertain to the Office of Legal Counsel, the most prestigious DOJ component to work for other than the Solicitor General’s office (and arguably more powerful). We once dubbed OLC the Finishing School for the Elect:
If you don’t land a Supreme Court clerkship that immediately follows your feeder judge clerkship, cool your heels at the OLC, then reapply to the Court. Success is practically guaranteed!
As previously reported, with the Senate’s consent, the headmistress of the Finishing School will be Dawn Johnsen (pictured). Professor Johnsen teaches law at Indiana University – Bloomington and served at OLC during the Clinton Administration, as Acting Assistant Attorney General and Deputy Assistant Attorney General, so she is well-prepared for the job. When we spoke at IU almost two years ago, students we met were already speculating that Professor Johnsen — described as a “brilliant” scholar, even if not the clearest or most effective classroom teacher — might someday return to government.
Since President Obama is a former legal academic, it should come as no surprise that he’s recruiting so many law profs to join the upper echelons of his administration. The marquee names of Kagan, Sunstein, Johnsen, Barron and Lederman will also be joined by one of the brightest young stars of the legal firmament: Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal (pictured), of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld fame. As reported by the Legal Times (via the WSJ Law Blog), wunderkind Katyal has been tapped to serve as Elena Kagan’s right-hand man, principal deputy solicitor general.
For a comprehensive listing of the top legal eagles in the Obama Administration, see this handy round-up over at the BLT. As you can see, these are big, boldface names — gods and goddesses of our profession. Congratulations and good luck to all of them (not that they’ll need it).
We’ll have more hiring news — including items about less celestial beings, more junior lawyers, people you might actually know — in subsequent posts. If you have info to share, please email us. Thanks.
Update: Add Harvard’s Einer Elhauge to the list of legal academics bound for the Obama Administration. Details via Brian Leiter.
Students who received a prestigious Bristow Fellowship with the Solicitor General’s Office will be informed today.
The Office of the Solicitor General confirmed with us this morning that the decisions have been made and successful applicants will be told today. If you applied, you might want to keep your phone lines open.
But if you are a student from Yale Law School, this year might not be your year. An inside source tells us that no student from Yale received a fellowship this year.
That’s rough. Students from Yale Law are getting shut down before Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan even takes over. But we shouldn’t expect Kagan to be unduly influenced by Harvard-Yale competition in her new role. Talent always rises.
Let us know which schools did well in securing a fellowship this year in the comments.
Many have speculated that Harvard Law School’s hot and high-powered dean, Elena Kagan, might be a Supreme Court nominee in an Obama administration.
Dean Kagan is one step closer to sitting on the Court. Assuming her confirmation process goes smoothly — which it surely will, given how universally adored and admired she is, by liberals and conservatives alike — Elena Kagan will soon be arguing before the SCOTUS, as the Solicitor General of the United States.
As expected, President-elect Barack Obama has selected her as his SG nominee. From a message just sent out by Dean Kagan:
I am writing to all of you – the community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Harvard Law School – to let you know that today President-elect Barack Obama will announce his intention to nominate me to serve as Solicitor General of the United States. If confirmed by the Senate, I will resign the deanship of the Law School and take a leave of absence from the faculty.
If Dean Kagan makes the jump from solicitor general to justice, it won’t be unprecedented. The justice for whom she clerked, Thurgood Marshall, served as SG from 1965 to 1967, until President Johnson appointed him to the Court.
Back in 2007, Dean Kagan lost out on the presidency of Harvard University. Near the end of the Clinton Administration, she was nominated to the Most High D.C. Circuit, but never confirmed. Is 2009 going to be her year?
The full announcement from Dean Kagan to the HLS community, after the jump.
New lawyers to lead the nation are sending in their résumés. Already, UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley has received a choice position as part of Obama’s transition advisory board. (I wonder if he’s accepting resumes from his students?)
Here’s an interesting choice for Edley and the rest of the transition team that will be picking the next Solicitor General. According to the Legal Times:
No woman has ever served as solicitor general, but a number have been mentioned as candidates for the job in an Obama administration. Stanford Law School professors Kathleen Sullivan and Pamela Karlan and Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan are possibilities, as well as Morrison & Foerster partner Beth Brinkmann and MetLife litigation counsel Teresa Wynn Roseborough.
They could also be considered to lead of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which produces legal opinions on complex matters for the attorney general and the president. Lawyers who have held both positions have gone on to become Supreme Court justices. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Justices Stanley Reed and Thurgood Marshall were solicitors general. The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist and current Justice Antonin Scalia once headed the Office of Legal Counsel. That experience could come in handy should one or more Supreme Court justices step down in the next four years.
Speculation has also centered on prominent African-American attorneys who may be ready to step forward:
Valerie Jarrett (Stanford, Michigan Law): Jarrett is a longtime Obama adviser, who’s now one of three people heading his transition team. She told the WSJ that blacks won’t be pigeonholed into “historically conventional” roles, such as secretary of housing and urban development or assistant attorney general for civil rights.
As the old saying goes, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a lawyer to be hired as a lateral partner at Williams & Connolly.” The last lateral partner to be hired by the super-elite litigation shop, which people and corporations turn to when they’re in the deepest of doo-doo, was Gerald Feffer, brought into the fold over two decades ago.
So this latest move is fairly big news. Appellate superstar Kannon Shanmugam, one of Washington’s top 40 lawyers under 40 (see #21), is leaving the Solicitor General’s office, where he has served for the past four years as an Assistant to the Solicitor General. He’ll be joining Williams & Connolly — as a partner.
“It’s very hard to leave the Justice Department, but I’m excited about the challenge of helping to build the appellate practice at Williams & Connolly,” Shanmugam told us. “It’s arguably the best firm for litigation in the country, but what ultimately attracted me to the firm is its distinctive culture.”
“We are thrilled to have Kannon join us,” said Robert Barnett, a member of the firm’s Executive Committee (and author rep to the stars — he’s negotiated book deals for the Clintons, Barack Obama, Bob Woodward, Lynne Cheney, and Alan Greenspan, among others). “He’s our first lateral partner in 22 years, which is indicative of how rarely we have lateral partners join us.”
“Almost everyone at the firm is homegrown, coming up through the associate ranks and making partner,” explained Barnett to ATL. “Kannon, because of his exceptional qualities, is going to be a rare exception to that pattern. On a personal level, he’s a terrific individual. But we are also extremely respectful and welcoming of his legal skills.”
Word on the street is that Shanmugam received offers from about half a dozen other firms. “He was sought by many firms, and being as competitive as we are, we’re pleased to have won the Kannon sweepstakes,” said Bob Barnett.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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