Beauty Contests

Sheryl Sandberg

* Shocker: tenured law professors are well-paid (check out their median salaries), and they enjoy high job satisfaction. [TaxProf Blog]

* Congratulations to David Boies and Ted Olson on winning the American Bar Association Medal, for their remarkable work on Perry v. Schwarzenegger (aka the Prop 8 case). [American Foundation for Equal Rights]

* In other LGBT news, lawyer turned pundit Ann Coulter makes nice with the gays, claiming her crown as the “Queen of Fabulous.” [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* Meanwhile, the Queen of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, gets profiled by the New Yorker. Here is Professor Christine Hurt’s take. [The Conglomerate]

* In the law firm world, beauty contests pit one law firm against another. In the strip-club world, beauty contests pit one vajayjay against another. [Fashionista]

Harry Wellington

* If you leave your bag of meth at the tanning salon, don’t go back for it. [Legal Blog Watch]

* The London riots show how technology and social media can be used to commit or to combat criminal activity. [Associate's Mind]

* Obama is taking his time on judicial nominations but at least he’s promoting diversity, reports John Schwartz. [New York Times]

* The ideas that Zach Shemtob and I discussed in our NYT op-ed are explored in greater detail in this (mercifully short) piece for the Tennessee Law Review. [SSRN]

* Harry Wellington, former dean of Yale Law School and New York Law School, RIP. [Yale Law School]

We ran a “request for proposal” process several months ago, asking a dozen law firms to make proposals for handling one aspect of our work. We interviewed five finalists, and we chose one winner.

One of the also-rans wrote to complain: “I’m terribly disappointed by the result of your RFP process. My firm is exceptionally talented in this area. We do precisely this same work for many other clients, and those other clients are delighted with our work. We indicated a willingness to be flexible on fees. I just don’t understand why we didn’t win this work.”

Ha! Observe the delusion of personal exceptionalism!

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As an in-house lawyer who occasionally influences our selection of outside counsel, I hear an awful lot of law firm pitches. And I must admit that I’m often entertained by them. I spent better than 25 years in the private practice of law, where attracting new business was an important part of the game. I was never sure which pitches had a chance and which didn’t, so it’s pretty amusing to sit on the other side of the table to see how other folks approach this.

I recently saw one good pitch and one bad one, and I just have to share.

First, the bad one. Several lawyers from a firm visited us for a chance to explain their firm’s capabilities. I don’t remember why we were meeting with them — we actually had a need for them; someone recommended them; someone important asked us to meet with them as a favor; whatever. I used to think that getting in the door to meet with potential clients was a big achievement; I now realize that it meant less than I thought.

Anyway, these guys started the pitch the usual way: The firm has lots of great lawyers who’ve done lots of great things in their lives. The firm is divided into several departments, and those divisions should for some reason matter to me. A couple of magazines had bestowed some awards on the firm or its lawyers. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

And then the associate speaks….

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Foreign LLM students are often like Rodney Dangerfield: they don’t get no respect. American-born JD candidates make fun of LLMs: their awkwardness, their accents, their ignorance of U.S. customs, and their repeated references to life and law in their home countries (“Back on Mypos, we don’t have contributory negligence….”).

Well, next time you want to make fun of an LLM student, check yourself. That LLM student might be the future president of his country — like Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president who earned an LLM at Columbia Law School.

Or, better yet, that LLM student might be the most beautiful woman out of 600,000,000. The nation of India has a population of around 1.2 billion — and a former LLM student at NYU Law School was just crowned Miss India, making her that country’s #1 specimen of womanhood. Eat your heart out, Reema Bajaj.

The new Miss India’s name is Vasuki Sunkavalli. Let’s check her out, shall we?

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Over time (and it doesn’t take long), law firm pitches all begin to sound the same.

“We save you money because we staff cases leanly. We send in the Navy SEALs, not the Fifth Fleet.”

Do you really think the guy in here last week was saying, “We waste your money hand over foot. We send in the Fifth Fleet where the Navy SEALs would do”?

Or: “You get big firm lawyers at small firm prices,” and then, the next day, “You get small firm attention combined with the advantages of our many offices.”

So my ears perked up recently when I heard two large firms make pitches based on fundamentally different world views. The first difference was on the need for international offices….

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You have to hand it to the University of Michigan Law School. They always keep it interesting in Ann Arbor.

Today’s tale of wacky wolverines arises out of the law school’s “Mr. Wolverine” beauty pageant. Yeah, it sounds like exactly what it is. It’s a nice little event where Michigan men “dress down” for the amusement of their peers, with proceeds going to charity.

You’d like to think that a law school could pull one of these things off without turmoil, but this is Michigan. After the event, the student newspaper, Res Gestae, ran a review of the pageant authored by Chaka Laguerre. Laguerre is a Michigan Law student and a former Miss Jamaica World.

Laguerre’s review was a little bit snarky. And for reasons passing understanding, people got so pissed about it that the paper took the review down, and the Michigan listserv went nuts.

You’ve gotta love Michigan….

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This is why we shouldn’t let people under the age of 18 speak in public. Ever.

The new Miss America, Teresa Scanlan, is just 17 years old. Why we live in a society that regularly parades minors out in public to be ogled (whether for their beauty or dunking prowess or whatever) is a subject for another blog post.

As you know, beauty pageant winners are often asked about their life ambitions — as if staying “off the pole” wouldn’t be a major accomplishment in itself. Scanlan’s ambitions are particularly funny, more like the stuff you’d expect to hear from a 7-year-old girl instead of a young woman of 17.

Under normal circumstances, the public wouldn’t be a party to these particular ramblings. But since her parents decided to allow Scanlan to be thrust into the public spotlight, everybody gets to chuckle…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s new column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

Think for a minute about business development for law firms.

Your firm wants to expand its litigation presence in a particular practice area.

What do you do?

Many firms figure they’ll march out their superstars and knock a potential new client’s socks off.

The firm will look to its heavy-hitters, none of whom have ever tried a case in the field in which the target client does business, or given a talk or written an article in the relevant field, or given the subject a moment’s thought.

But the heavy-hitters will go into the conference room and explain that they are the world’s finest trial lawyers, they have great trial experience, and litigation is, after all, just a toolkit. A person who can try one case can try ‘em all. Hire us.

Will it work?

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