Boies Schiller

Elizabeth Wurtzel, today.

Why do we love to write about celebrity author and lawyer Elizabeth Wurtzel? Because people love to read about her. Even a passing mention of La Wurtzel garners thousands of pageviews, and her name routinely shows up in the top search terms that bring readers to Above the Law.

We aren’t alone in devoting significant editorial real estate to Liz Wurtzel. New York Magazine just published a mammoth essay by this bestselling memoir writer and former Boies Schiller associate. The piece, exceeding 5,500 words, appeared in print as well as online — accompanied by photos of Wurtzel looking much younger than her 45 years.

Wurtzel looks fabulous in the photos, but the essay itself is something of a downer. If you enjoy hating on Wurtzel, taking schadenfreude from her financial, romantic, and bar exam failures, you need to read it….

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David Boies

Today brings news that David Boies, one of the finest trial lawyers of our time, is working for $50 an hour. Who says you can’t afford affordable, high-quality legal representation in this country?

Fortunately, the associates who work for him are taking home quite a bit more. As we alluded to earlier today, Boies Schiller & Flexner just announced — and paid out — some pretty amazing associate bonuses.

Let’s get some numbers and reactions. We also have comments from David Boies himself, who spoke with us this morning about a wide range of subjects — associate bonuses, of course; his firm’s overall performance in 2012, its best year ever; and what the U.S. Supreme Court might do in Hollingsworth v. Perry (aka the Proposition 8 case), which he has been litigating alongside Ted Olson, his opposing counsel from the Bush v. Gore days….

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As we recently mentioned, Biglaw is not all about the benjamins. There is so much more to the practice of law than the monetary rewards. Focus on doing the best work you can for your clients and your colleagues, and the money will take care of itself (well, at least most of the time).

Of course, it’s much easier to take a relaxed attitude towards money if you have a good amount of it. It’s easy for well-paid partners to tell young associates not to worry about money, when the partners enjoy seven-figure paychecks while the associates struggle under six-figure student loans.

If you’re a young lawyer dealing with educational debt, you know that every extra dollar counts. Every dollar earned means you’re one buck closer to liberation from loans.

Which leads us to today’s question: which law firms pay the largest starting salaries to their associates?

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Say what? One of Above the Law’s favorite subjects, celebrity lawyer and author Elizabeth Wurtzel, got attacked by a penguin?

Yes — in a manner of speaking. Penguin Group, the publishing mega-house, recently sued the bestselling and critically acclaimed authoress, seeking the return of her advance money. Other prominent authors have been sued as well.

How much does the publisher want back from La Wurtzel? What are her possible defenses? And who are some of the other high-profile defendants being pursued by the angry Penguin?

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Biglaw litigators are to be feared in general, but certain Biglaw litigation departments strike fear into the hearts of their opponents like no others. BTI Consulting Group recently polled 240 in-house lawyers to determine which Biglaw firms they dread “see[ing] as lead opposing counsel in a litigation case.” Each year, after culling through all of the survey results, BTI names the “Fearsome Foursome” — the most-feared litigation firms in the country.

This year, while two litigation powerhouses remained on the list, two prominent Biglaw firms were edged out by other worthy victors. Another 15 firms were honored as “Awesome Opponents.”

So which Biglaw firms are the most feared when it comes to litigation? Let’s check out the latest rankings….

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David Bernick

As we just noted in Non-Sequiturs, the litigation powerhouse of Boies Schiller & Flexner has managed to fill the — possibly peep toe? — shoes that were recently vacated by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Trading one famous name for another, the firm just hired celebrated litigator David Bernick (as reported earlier today by Thomson Reuters).

So it seems that there will be two David B’s in the building. Boies Schiller was founded, of course, by the legendary David Boies, one of the greatest litigators of our time — known for his work on such marquee cases as Microsoft, Bush v. Gore, the Perry / Prop 8 case (which could end up in the Supreme Court), and too many others to mention.

Let’s take a closer look at David Bernick’s résumé, and analyze what his arrival means for BSF….

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Andrew Shirvell

* Andrew Shirvell questioned himself for over an hour today in defense of himself from Chris Armstrong’s defamation lawsuit. I’m telling you, life is so much easier when you don’t care about a person’s sexual orientation. [Detroit Free Press]

* It looks like Boies Schiller somehow filled the spot left by Elizabeth Wurtzel. [Thomson Reuters News and Insight]

* Election Law professor Rick Hasen is disappointed with the Pennsylvania voter ID decision today. [Election Law Blog]

* Grumpy baby boomer blogs angrily about law and life, a.k.a. my future. [Grumpy Baby Boomer]

* How to dress like a female lawyer from a television show. Funny, I didn’t know “breast implants” were a fashion accessory now. [Levo League]

* The Daily Caller dug up an article Michelle Obama wrote about critical race theory while at Harvard. She makes some pretty good points, especially considering the perspective of a young black person trying to deal with Harvard Law School in 1988. But I suspect the context of the article, the theory, the history, the university, and everything else will be missed by most of the readers of the Daily Caller. [Daily Caller]

* Here’s a new social network for law students. [Indiana Lawyer]

* Buy Tyler Coulson’s book (affiliate link), save a dog. You don’t want to kill puppies, do you? [PR Web]

* Lat is on a proposed SXSW panel about haw law firms should (and should not) be using Twitter and other social media. I hope firms don’t listen to him, because it’ll make my job easier. [SXSW PanelPicker]

Elizabeth Wurtzel

Last week, Elizabeth Wurtzel left Boies Schiller & Flexner. The bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Prozac Nation and other books, and a contributor to such publications as the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal, Wurtzel started working at the formidable firm in 2008. She was personally hired by legendary litigator David Boies, after she graduated from Yale Law School.

We heard some interesting rumors about what led to La Wurtzel’s departure from BSF. On Friday afternoon, one tipster breathlessly told us the following: “Wurtzel was fired from Boies Schiller after she demanded a window office (she had been working in an internal office similar to what staff use). The partners looked at her hours — which are so minimal that it’s amazing she is still employed at all — and gave her the boot. She is also still not licensed. She passed the bar — but what about character and fitness?”

(The potential character and fitness issues arise out of Wurtzel’s wild pre-law life. As the New York Times put it, Wurtzel is someone “whose attempted suicide, drug use, self-mutilation and indiscriminate sex have made her famous” — thanks to her turning these experiences into the books Prozac Nation and More, Now, Again. To learn more, read her nomination blurb in our contest for Yale Law’s most disgraceful graduate.)

The notion of Wurtzel getting fired over a dispute about office space struck me as a little… well, like Office Space. Did she demand a red Swingline stapler too?

I reached out to Liz Wurtzel and Boies Schiller to find out what actually went down. Here’s what I learned….

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The new Vault Rankings are out. It’s a fun day for large law firms — a day when their prestige is matched against that of their peers.

The day is even more significant this year, since it appears that so-called “top” Biglaw firms are now paying bonuses largely in “prestige points.”

Vault ranks the prestige of firms based on nearly 17,000 surveys sent to law firm associates all across the country. Just by looking at the top ten firms, I think we can agree that associates who fill out these surveys have no memory and have really enjoyed this period of salary stagnation.

As I mentioned last week when talking about associate hours, it seems Biglaw partners really know what they’re doing. Whether we’re talking about prestige or associate hours, partners have figured out that associates will take less money and like it….

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Last week, I headed downtown to meet with Stephen A. Weiss and Eric Jaso, partners at the Seeger Weiss litigation boutique. Weiss co-founded the firm with Christopher Seeger in 1999. Jaso, who just joined the firm from Stone & Magnanini, is a friend and former colleague of mine from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They kindly agreed to be interviewed about what it’s like to work at an elite, plaintiff-side litigation firm.

Here at Above the Law, we’ve always had strong coverage of the large, defense-oriented firms that collectively constitute Biglaw. In the past few years, however, we have dramatically expanded our offerings related to smaller law firms. We currently have three columnists — Brian Tannebaum, Tom Wallerstein, and Valerie Katz — writing in this space, in addition to the small-firm coverage generated by our other writers.

Consistent with this editorial expansion, I was eager to meet with Weiss and Jaso and hear about Seeger Weiss (which is relatively large for a plaintiffs’ firm, but small compared to a Biglaw firm). I’ve always wondered why more law school graduates don’t go into plaintiffs’ work and why we don’t hear about this side of practice as much. It can represent a chance to do well while also doing good, by vindicating victims’ rights or blowing the whistle on misconduct — especially in the qui tam practice area, a focus of Seeger Weiss.

Here’s what Weiss and Jaso had to say….

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