Welcome to the second installment of Under the Shingle, an occasional round-up of news and musings from the world of small firms and solo practitioners. In other words, you get a break from me — mostly.
I’ve added a bit of play-by-play to explain and connect these links, which cover such topics as the intersection of solo firms and SCOTUS, solos going big, and the big bad ABA trying to put their laws on your solo body.
Solo to SCOTUS:
A 33-year-old solo on why he left his Biglaw office in favor of working out of a spare bedroom and having his mother as his paralegal: “I wanted to create my own reality.” Well, now his reality includes SCOTUS experience after being granted cert at the last second. Before any of you aspiring solos out there get too excited, know this: his reality also includes borrowing cash from his little brother and eating a lot of PB&Js.
This should not come as a huge surprise, but Solicitor General Elena Kagan was just confirmed by the Senate as to be the 112th justice of the United States Supreme Court. Kagan, the first woman to serve as Solicitor General, is the fourth woman ever to serve on the Court.
CORRECTION: I replaced “as” with “to be” after receiving this from a former White House official: “I feel compelled to point out that the Senate confirmed Kagan TO BE the 112th justice, after which President Obama likely appointed her AS the 112th justice. Marbury, Madison, etc.”
Fifty-eight Democrats and independents, as well as five Republicans, voted for Kagan. Thirty-six Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted against the nominee.
The five Republicans who supported Kagan were Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.
The current U.S. Supreme Court lineup (once Kagan is officially sworn in): Chief Justice John Roberts (Bush 43) and Justices Antonin Scalia (Reagan), Anthony Kennedy (Reagan), Clarence Thomas (Bush 41), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Clinton), Stephen Breyer (Clinton), Samuel Alito (Bush 43), Sonia Sotomayor (Obama) and Elena Kagan (Obama).
UPDATE: In case you’re curious, President Obama’s prior SCOTUS nominee, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was confirmed last year by a vote of 68-31, with nine Republicans in support. Three Republicans voted for Sotomayor but not Kagan: Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Christopher Bond (Mo.), and Voinovich (Ohio). Scott Brown (Mass.) — who introduced Kagan at her hearings, by the way — voted against her (but wasn’t in the Senate yet for the Sotomayor vote). So did George LeMieux (Fla.), who replaced Mel Martinez (a pro-Sotomayor Republican).
After the Kagan vote, the Divine Miss K’s successor as Harvard Law School dean, Martha Minow, sent out a celebratory email at HLS….
As I noted in my liveblogging of Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings, Solicitor General Kagan decided to wear the same outfit that then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor wore to day one of her confirmation hearings: an electric blue blazer over a black blouse.
A reader who was also struck by this sartorial similarity sent us a photographic comparison. Check it out, and vote in our reader poll….
Sorry, we didn’t mean to get your hopes up (or maybe we did). The famously sphinx-like Justice Thomas did not ask a question at oral argument yesterday — but he did open his mouth and emit hearty laughs. From CNN:
Sometimes the most complicated of cases at the Supreme Court brings out the best arguments. It certainly brought out the giggles in a little-watched appeal Tuesday over federal prison terms.
The justices managed to crack themselves up — along with the public audience — at least a dozen times in the hour-long oral debate. Justice Clarence Thomas rarely speaks at the high court’s normally sober sessions, but he especially enjoyed the gentle insults and self-deprecating jibes his colleagues showered on each other. His booming laugh could be clearly heard at times.
Justice David H. Souter may be gone from the Supreme Court, but he has not been forgotten. He still gets recognized in public, for example. From an ATL reader in Beantown:
After a day of toil for a client adamantly opposed to paying for nighttime cab rides home, I walked to Boston’s Park Street subway station. A little before 10:00 PM last night, as I turned the corner at the turnstiles, I saw an impeccably dressed man in a form-fitting suit and a red tie. Turns out it was Justice David Souter, in Boston for some pinch-hitting on the First Circuit.
Sonia Sotomayor: In August 2009, this Wise Latina Woman made history, becoming the 111th justice, the third female justice, and the first Latina justice of the United States Supreme Court.
A. William Urquhart: Bill Urquhart, a name partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, is one of the country’s top litigators. In October 2009, he sent out a famous firm-wide email urging all Quinn lawyers to show constant vigilance in checking their email. (This spawned the “CHECK YOU EMAILS” meme in ATL comments, from a typo in his email’s subject line.)
So who prevailed? Make your guess, then learn the identity of the 2009 honoree, after the jump.
The most recent New Yorker features a profile of the newest resident of the High Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Given the tone of the piece, you might think One First Street is turning into Melrose Place. Journalist Lauren Collins describes Sotomayor as “the first celebrity Justice”: a “diabetic, a divorcée, a dental-bill debtor, a person who, the night before her investiture ceremony, belted out “We Are Family” in a karaoke bar at a Red Roof Inn.”
The profile covers some familiar territory, highlighting attacks on Sotomayor’s intellect during the confirmation process and indignation over her aggressive questioning during oral arguments since taking a seat on the High bench.
Overall, though, it’s more favorable in tone than the profile of John Roberts in the magazine last year. As the WSJ Law Blog notes, Sotomayor comes across as “eminently personable” and as a “stickler for preparation.”
Tina Brown of the Daily Beast, a former editor of the New Yorker, is a bit more graphic in her reaction to the piece for NPR:
Brown says the justice comes across as an “up-from-the-bootstraps woman who loves to bust out a poker game and knock back a scotch.” But, Brown adds, she also comes across as meticulous, rigorous and heavily influenced by her mother, a nurse, who emphasized education above all else…
“Sotomayor is not a great prose styler, not a fancy-flourish merchant,” says Brown. “She’s not a person who’s going to reinvent the philosophical approach to law, but she does believe that the law is to be understood by the common man in the street. And I think that there’s a lot to be said for that, actually.”
We concur with Brown’s ruling on the piece. We’ve excerpted our favorite anecdote from the profile after the jump. Clerking for Sotomayor sounds fun….
Thanks to everyone who submitted possible nominees for our Lawyer of the Year award. We reviewed your 160+ comments and developed a slate of ten worthy candidates.
Before we reveal them, we’ll talk about a few folks we passed over. A number of you suggested Mike Leach, the lawyer turned football coach who was recently fired by Texas Tech University. Although Leach’s achievements on the gridiron are considerable, he’s more of a football figure than a legal figure, so he didn’t make the team.
A few of the lawyers you suggested, while certainly well-known, really belong to years prior to 2009. These include former New York governor and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace after his dalliances with prostitutes came to light; former administrative law judge Roy Pearson, of the infamous $54 million (originally $67 million) pants lawsuit; and prominent IP litigator Jeremy Pitcock.
Also named: Kathy Henry, a former Legal Secretary of the Day, whose alleged oversight could have cost PepsiCo a pretty penny — over a billion dollars (until the default judgment was vacated). But since she’s a legal secretary rather than a lawyer (or even a law student), we passed her over.
So who made the cut? Check out the nominees and vote for your favorite, after the jump.
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This year, the Trust Women conference will take place 18-19 November in London. From women’s economic empowerment to slavery in the supply chain and child labour, this year’s agenda is strong and powerful. Speakers include Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate and founder of the Grameen Bank; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women; Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking and many other influential leaders. Find out more about Trust Women here.