Asia

This is your brain on drugs in Singapore.

Singapore is where crime goes to die. The country is well-known for having strict laws against crime and even stricter punishments for criminal offenders. Caning gets a lot of press, probably because beating people with sticks sounds barbarous.

State-sanctioned killing is also fairly barbaric, and Singapore does it with even more gusto than our own United States. Singapore has a “zero tolerance” policy for drug use, which means drug users in Singapore can be hung by the state.

Now, Singapore’s deputy prime minister says the country will be loosening the rope around drug offenders. But druggies in Singapore shouldn’t get too excited…

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As we mentioned earlier today, retired partners of Dewey & LeBoeuf received some potentially good news. These former partners, whose unfunded pensions were supposed to be funded out of firm profits, will have a voice in the firm’s bankruptcy proceedings. As reported by the WSJ Law Blog and Am Law Daily, the U.S. trustee’s office has appointed an official committee of former partners (in addition to the standard official committee of unsecured creditors). The four ex-partners on the committee are David Bicks, Cameron MacRae, John Kinzey, and John Campo.

What prompted the move? As legal consultant Edwin Reeser, whose analysis of the Dewey situation recently appeared in these pages, told the WSJ, “The retired partners have uniquely separate interests which warrant consideration as a special class of creditors.”

It’s nice that they have a seat at the table, but will the ex-partners end up with any money at the end of the process? That’s less clear. As Jerome Kowalski, another law firm consultant, told the Journal, “There has never been a law firm bankruptcy that resulted in any payment being made to the equity partners… They’ll have zero sway other than perhaps some moral imperatives, and moral imperatives don’t have much play in bankruptcy courts.”

The unsecured creditors might have more luck than the former partners. Who’s on the unsecured creditors’ committee?

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

Remember Green Acres, that fish-out-of-water comedy wherein Eddie Albert drags Eva Gabor out to live on some tumbledown farm in the middle of nowhere? She’s a Park Avenue socialite, but he’s the husband and the penis-haver and it’s the 1960′s — so what he says, goes. If he’s jonesing for fresh air and farm living, she has no choice.

I don’t remember much more than the theme song and opening credits, but the concept — giving it all up, packing your bags and fleeing for the sticks, spouse (and maybe kids) in hand — resonates with my lawyer clients. Some are beginning to sound like aspiring Eddie Alberts.

I’d like to say there’s a great lawyer return to the land on the way — driven by a love for nature and the outdoors. To some extent that’s true. But mostly, it’s a product of desperation. The big themes are escaping Biglaw misery, seeking adventure, looking for a healthier lifestyle… and fleeing school loans. One client’s story weaves these themes into a magical tapestry of personal growth, spiritual awakening, and debt avoidance.

He was suffering modestly at a Biglaw firm in L.A. Then he got posted to an office in Asia, where he happened to speak the language. There he discovered how bad bad can be. The U.S. office dished out standard-issue Biglaw brutality. Nothing could have prepared him for the Asia office. The cruelties committed by the local staff and attorneys would make Hieronymus Bosch wince. In their laser-beam-like focus on punishing my client for speaking their language and attempting to work in their homeland, they achieved new plateau of sadism on a weekly basis. He developed insomnia, migraines, then panic attacks — and was fired a year later, without comment.

That’s when the Green Acres theme began playing in his head….

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* How many of these suggested New Year’s resolutions should the members of the Supreme Court consider following? Eight out of ten resolutions wouldn’t be too shabby. [Huffington Post]

* Like a virgin, detained for the very first time: thanks to this court order, Egypt will be forced to come out of the dark ages and ban virginity tests for female detainees and military prisoners. [CNN]

* Oh, hell no. Judge Jed Rakoff issued an order 78 seconds after the Second Circuit decided to delay the SEC’s Citigroup case. His pimp hand is strong (which is impressive!). [WSJ Law Blog]

* As an attorney, you should know that the law stops for no one, not even Santa Claus. Major deals in Asian markets kept many Biglawyers working hard this holiday season. [Am Law Daily]

* Social media subpoena fail: “Haha. Boston PD submitted to Twitter for my information. Lololol? For what? Posting info pulled from public domains? #comeatmebro” [Boston Herald]

* 2011 didn’t bring us a white Christmas, but New Yorkers are still pissed about the Great Blizzard of 2010. The trapped A-train passengers have finally brought suit against the MTA. [New York Post]

* A former stripper is suing a police officer for allegedly stealing money from her purse. This girl fit $714 in dollar bills in a small, Coach bag? That’s actually a real accomplishment. [ABC News]

* It’s been seven hours and fifteen sixteen days, since you took your love away. Nothing compares to a Vegas wedding, because Sinead O’Connor’s marriage is already over. [Los Angeles Times]

It takes a while to get over squandering an empire. As our habit of placing the prefix “Great” before “Britain” suggests, we’re still not quite there yet. But deep down we know we blew it. The evidence is everywhere: from our dentists, who don’t really know what they’re doing anymore, to our universities, which are crumbling, just like our schools, hospitals, and public transport.

Somehow, though, the U.K’s legal system has avoided being dragged into this spiral of decline. Yes, we’re still good at law — so good, in fact, that London is the top destination in the world for international companies to settle disputes, and English law the most popular among international in-house counsel (40% use it, with just 14% opting for New York law). And, in spite of the relatively tiny size of the British domestic legal market, our law firms manage to give yours a run for their money, with the Magic Circle quartet of Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Freshfields and A&O outdoing most of their U.S. rivals in terms of turnover and profits.

Doubtless part of this success stems from the fact that Britain is the home of the Common Law, which, unless some joker on Wikipedia is deceiving me, was invented around the 1150s by King Henry II. And as we saw during the April nuptials between Prince William and his bride Kate, our “Ye Olde Ingland” nostalgia sells very nicely to foreigners….

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This news is more than a little scary.

Google announced yesterday that hackers in China had gotten access to hundreds of Gmail accounts. And it wasn’t just anyone’s email. The attack targeted senior government officials in the United States, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries, military personnel, and journalists.

I have a feeling we will hear a lot more about this over the next few days. For the moment, let’s take a look at the details we know so far….

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Lobsang Sangay could be the new leader of the Tibetan government in exile.

I’m not a hippie, but I have attended a Free Tibet rally (it was college, I was experimenting). I support a free Tibet, in that American way of admonishing China while in no way depriving myself of any Chinese products or consumer markets. My dog is a Tibetan breed (Lhasa Apso). I spent a not-insignificant amount of time trying to add a Tibetan motif to her playthings, until I realized I was engaged in the dumbest anthropomorphism of all time. I think it’s cool when the Dalai Lama makes cameo appearances, like in the movie 2012.

All of this is by way of saying that the ongoing Tibetan occupation and oppression seems bad but doesn’t really make the list of top ten unacceptable world situations that somehow are allowed to continue.

And if I may be so bold, I think some of that has to do with the Dalai Lama himself. He seems nice, thoughtful, and at peace. The very picture of a 20th-century saint. But maybe it’s time to turn up the volume? More rending of garments and fiery speeches?

The Dalai Lama wants to step down and relinquish his political leadership to focus on his spiritual mission. And right now the front-runner to replace him is currently a fellow at Harvard Law School.

Surely an HLS man will be more skilled at the bitching and moaning I’m looking for from 21st century exiles…

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On Tuesday we told you that McGuireWoods, Dewey & LeBoeuf, and Weil Gosthal were all contributing to the relief efforts under way in Japan. The response has been pretty great.

While some people seem to think Japan’s status as a rich nation means it doesn’t need any international aid, I don’t see how the country’s long-term ability to recover has anything to do with the immediate humanitarian crisis. Japan will undoubtedly be able to rebuild in the future, but its citizens need food and water today.

We’ve now received word that even more Biglaw firms are pitching in to do what they can. If you know of additional firms supporting relief efforts that we have not mentioned, please tell us in the comments to this post….

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