Biglaw

UPDATE (1/10/2013): Please note the update at the end of this post concerning the dismissal of the charge in this case.

This is going to go down as one of those “partners behaving badly” stories, but I don’t think it should. Underage drinking is a problem because kids don’t know how to handle alcohol and they drink too much and die. Or they drink too much and then do something stupid and die. Dead teenagers are not a good thing.

Many people think the solution is to somehow “ban” teenage drinking. Note that currently people under 21 aren’t allowed to buy alcohol. Note also that teens almost always still find a way to drink.

Instead of only focusing on ways to prevent teens from drinking, can’t we also at least think about ways to allow teens to drink in a safe environment? I think every high school should have at least one “cool” parent. One parent whose house you can go over to and have a couple of beers without everybody freaking out. Then, if you get too drunk or stupid or whatever, the “cool” parent can drive you home, or keep an eye on you, or tell the attending physician exactly how much you had to drink before you lapsed into a pansy-boy “alcohol poisoning” coma.

So yeah, to the rest of society, this Biglaw partner has been accused of something really bad. To me, he’s just been accused of providing a vital public service….

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Tom Wallerstein

I have long spent my Sunday nights watching HBO. When I graduated from law school, The Sopranos was in its first season. More recently, I’ve been enthralled by Game of Thrones. For those who aren’t fans, Game of Thrones is a medieval fantasy series which won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, and a Golden Globe Award for “Best Television Series – Drama.” I guess this post needs a spoiler alert, because what follows are some legal lessons I think can be gleaned from the hit series.

That being said, let’s take a look at the six lessons that the legal world could learn from Game of Thrones….

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We try to provide some balance in our coverage of law schools. Last night, for example, we posted our latest round of law school success stories, to balance some of the more depressing fare in our pages — such as the $10K a year lawyer job being offered to Boston College Law School students, which the law school defended vigorously.

At the same time, we have to report the reality that’s before us. And that reality isn’t always pretty.

Which brings us to today’s topic, the latest employment data from our friends at the National Association for Law Placement (NALP)….

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I worked for twenty years at the darkest of the black-box compensation law firms: No one knew what anyone else was being paid, and the firm forbade talking about compensation. Here’s the curious part: We obeyed.

I saw the raised eyebrows of partners considering moving laterally to my firm: “Right — no one talks about compensation. You guys must talk about it all the time, just like we do at my firm. It can’t be a secret.”

Wrong. We really, honest-to-God did not talk about compensation. The subject just didn’t come up.

I’ve heard second-hand that this is true for other black-box firms, too. The managing partner of a different large, black-box comp firm recently told one of my colleagues: “Once you take compensation out of the limelight and forbid people from talking about it, then people stop talking about it. The subject drops off the table.”

That sets the stage: At firms where lawyers are permitted to talk about each other’s compensation, they do. And at firms where lawyers are prohibited from talking about compensation, they don’t.

Riddle me this: In corporate law departments, we are not prohibited from discussing each other’s compensation, but we don’t do it anyway. Why is that?

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Which firm will be next?

* You know what’s really got to suck hard? Turning down a Supreme Court nomination to be governor, and then losing your gubernatorial re-election bid. Mario Cuomo is the Bad Luck Brian of our time. [New York Daily News]

* And speaking of bad luck, this prominent antitrust lawyer is like the harbinger of Biglaw doom. In the last four years, Marc Schildkraut has bounced from Heller to Howrey to Dewey. Good luck to his new firm, Cooley LLP. [Washingtonian]

* Another judge — this time from the S.D.N.Y. — has found that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. Paul Clement, the patron saint of conservative causes, is probably facepalming right now. [Reuters]

* “I don’t know how you all practice law in Texas.” It looks like the judge presiding over the Roger Clemens case hasn’t been keeping up with all of our crazy stories from the Lone Star state. [Wall Street Journal]

* “[T]he epitome of unprofessionalism”: State Attorney Angela Corey couldn’t take the heat from Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, so she threatened to sue the school and get him disbarred. [Orlando Sentinel]

* “What did you guys do to deserve me? How did you guys get stuck with this? Ay yi yi.” At least Jerry Sandusky’s got a sense of humor about a potential 500 year sentence. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The election outlook for birthers may not be so bleak after all. Sure, Orly Taitz lost her bid to be a senator, but Gary Kreep might get to be a judge in San Diego County. We’ll find out later today. [North County Times]

Last month, in the inaugural post in our series of Law School Success Stories, we focused on the theme of “the value of thrift.” We outlined a “low risk” approach to law school, profiling happy law school graduates who secured their law degrees without going into excessive debt — under $50K upon graduation, which is the recommendation of Professor Brian Tamanaha, author of a new book (affiliate link) about reforming legal education.

Today we’re going to cover the flip side: the “high risk, high reward” approach to legal education. In some ways this is a dangerous theme. The promise of Biglaw bucks is the siren song that leads many to crash on the rocks of joblessness and crippling debt (as Will Meyerhofer discussed earlier today).

Some law schools clearly exaggerate the ability of a legal education to increase a person’s career prospects and earning potential. But for some subset of law students, however small, law school does turn out to be a golden ticket. Their numbers might be inflated, but they do exist. Law school has allowed these individuals to increase their incomes dramatically. And — shocker! — many of these J.D. holders actually enjoy their lucrative new jobs.

Read about a young woman who went from being a secretary to having a secretary — along with a six-figure paycheck. Meet a young man with a rather unmarketable undergraduate degree who now, thanks to law school, makes bank in New York City.

Here’s another way of describing today’s success stories: “Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you….”

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CHECK YOU public relations skills, bro.

Former Dewey and current Winston partner Adam Kaiser, in my opinion, needs lessons in public relations. I don’t even need to review with you who I am talking about. If you’re reading this on ATL, you already know Adam Kaiser. You also know what he is alleged to have done, and how he responded to a single comment posted on this site.

You and I know all of this information because of Adam Kaiser’s ill-timed attempts to quash the use of his name by an anonymous commenter. His poorly conceived, heat-of-the-moment demands that his name be removed from the site ultimately resulted in the reverse effect; everyone knows his name, and what he is alleged to have done. And his name, while removed from the single comment, has now been repeated over and over and over. Adam Kaiser.

The saying goes that any publicity is good publicity. I argue that unwanted publicity that could damage a career or a firm’s reputation is far from “good.” Even if Adam Kaiser thought he was doing the right thing by sticking up for himself against an anonymous comment, he effectively screwed the pooch.

What should he have done instead?

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The bankruptcy case of the dying Dewey & LeBoeuf rolls on. As we mentioned yesterday, other Biglaw firms are getting business out of its burial. For example, Brown Rudnick is representing the official committee of unsecured creditors, and Kasowitz Benson is representing the official committee of retired D&L partners. (This group is separate from the 60 or so ex-partners who have hired Mark Zauderer to fight potential clawback lawsuits and other claims that the Dewey estate might bring against former partners and their new firms.)

If asked to name people who might be worried about owing money to the Dewey estate, some observers might cite “the Steves”: former chairman Steven H. Davis, and former executive director Stephen DiCarmine. Some have accused the Steves of mismanaging D&L’s affairs (or worse), contributing to the collapse of a firm that was once in the top 30 U.S. law firms by total revenue.

But if you’re thinking that Steve DiCarmine wants to pay the Dewey estate some money and get on with his tanning life, think again. As it turns out, Steve DiCarmine is claiming that Dewey owes him money….

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(Plus pictures of his former office.)

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).

I participated recently in a panel discussion at a conference, speaking with other lawyer/blogger types in front of an audience consisting largely of people from law firms and law schools. After we finished, I did the decent thing and sat and listened to the panel that followed mine. I happened to choose an empty seat next to a woman who introduced herself to me later as a dean at a law school, in charge of career placement, or whatever the euphemism is for trying to find students non-existent jobs. The law school was a small one — yes, one of those dreaded “third tier” places.

She confronted me afterwards. “I guess I’m the bad guy, huh?”

I was startled by her candor, but I knew what she meant. This was one of those people from a third tier law school — the greedy cynical fraudsters signing kids up for worthless degrees, then leaving them high and dry, unemployed and deeply in debt.

Despite her participation in crimes against humanity, I had to admit she didn’t seem so bad, in person.

Then I snapped back to my senses — and went on the attack, assuming my sacred role as The People’s burning spear of vengeance….

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It’s June already. Can you believe it? Time sure flies when your wife is pregnant and you have just a few more months to completely reorganize your life into something resembling “serviceable.”

As we approach the midway point of the year, we figure it is a good time to check in on how our readers’ billable hours are looking. Given how low the Cravath bonuses were, and the fact that most firms decided to not pay spring bonuses, one would expect that associates in Biglaw have responded by working as little as possible. Nothing says “you did not share the wealth” like a few months of bare-minimum billing!

I’m joking, of course: associates couldn’t band together to organize a work slowdown any more than a herd of stray cats could go wildebeest hunting. In fact, one of the reasons firms can low-ball bonuses with impunity is because associates are more afraid about losing their jobs to the masses than they are about competing for the highest compensation.

We expect associates are still busting their tails in 2012. But let’s share some horror stories, and take a poll to confirm those suspicions…

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