Divorces

On Monday, we noted the surprising news of a young partner leaving Wachtell Lipton to start his own boutique firm. Given the rarity of partner departures from the super-lucrative Wachtell, my colleague Staci Zaretsky described the news as “basically like seeing a unicorn.”

Why did Jeremy Goldstein, a 40-year-old partner in the firm’s executive-compensation practice, leave WLRK? The American Lawyer piece about Goldstein’s move painted a happy picture of a lawyer striking out on his own to be more entrepreneurial and to run his own business.

But we wonder if there’s more to this story than meets the eye….

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Attorney Marilyn York

No doubt divorce can be a messy game. Hurt feelings, name-calling, emotional tug-of-war on impressionable children, and a pitched battle for financial security are all par for the course. Divorce attorneys are thus often the most combative of the already combative breed of lawyers. It’s how you end up with lawyers telling the other side that they plan to anally rape them.

But usually divorce attorneys steep their public persona in platitudes about “fighting for you,” saving the nasty “anal rape” stuff for behind closed doors.

But this attorney has a different approach, putting out a TV commercial that riffs on every awful stereotype of women ever, to appeal to the jilted husbands of the world….

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Fighting over the Lawyerly Lair.

Law firms are relatively secretive institutions. Since they’re not public companies — at least not here in the United States, in the year 2014 — they aren’t required to reveal that much about their internal workings. Here at Above the Law, we do what we can to shed light on how law firms work, but there’s only so much we can do.

Every now and then, public filings disclose information about law firm operations — including information about one of the most sensitive subjects, partner pay. Sometimes we learn about partner compensation when a partner files for bankruptcy. Sometimes we hear about it when a partner goes through an ugly divorce.

That’s once again the case today. A complicated divorce, complicated enough to spawn ancillary litigation in the form of contempt proceedings, sheds light on how one white-shoe law firm pays its partners….

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As 2013 draws to a close, let’s look back at the 10 biggest stories in the legal profession over the past year. This is an annual tradition here at Above the Law, which we’ve done in 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. We’ll fire up the old Google Analytics machine to get data on our most popular posts, based on pageviews, and share the results with you.

Before turning to specific stories, let’s look at the top general discussion topics here at ATL. For 2013, our most trafficked category page was Biglaw, which bumped Law Schools out of the top spot — a spot that Law Schools held from 2010 through 2012. Now that the word is out about the perils of getting a law degree, leading to plummeting applications, perhaps it’s time to move on from the “don’t go to law school” narrative.

After Biglaw and Law Schools, our third most-popular category page was, as usual, Bonuses. This wasn’t a terribly exciting year for bonuses — there were no spring bonuses, and Cravath and its many followers paid out the same bonuses as last year — but people still want to know the score.

Our fourth most-popular category page was small law firms. Small firms, including boutiques, are an area of increasing focus and readership for us — and also where many of the job opportunities are these days.

Moving on from the topic pages, what were the 10 most popular individual posts at Above the Law in 2013?

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One of Ashley Madison’s lawyers?

Would the courts also hold a hotel room accountable? A cellphone operator if his wife called her lover on it? The car she drove? I think it would be an incredibly slippery slope to attempt to espouse blame to all the technology and inanimate objects that were utilized in an affair.

– Former lawyer Noel Biderman, founder of the website Ashley Madison, commenting on a lawsuit filed by Robert Schindler, a jilted husband who blames the infidelity service for his marital breakup.

People who love their dogs almost always love them forever… But with divorce rates at record highs, the same cannot always be said for those who marry.

– Justice Matthew Cooper, who will preside over New York’s first dog custody case. Two Washington Heights women are divorcing and both want custody of their dog “Joey.” When reached for comment, Joey licked his butt and stared intently at a discarded Chipotle wrapper.

Math is hard.

I’m somewhat reluctant to criticize other people’s bad financial decisions, having made so many atrociously dumb decisions in my own life. My financial stupidity isn’t even in the past tense — I have a brand-new PS4, but I’m waiting until the new year when my Flexible Spending Account resets to go to the doctor.

On the other hand, sometimes it takes an idiot to spot an idiot (I just made that up). At the very least, I’m somewhat uniquely qualified to identify which financial mistakes are “common” among the financially illiterate, versus the mistakes that take a special kind of dumb.

There are a few articles making the rounds today: there’s a Salon article trying to explain why law schools are comfortable scamming their students, and there’s a Forbes article making the stupid “now is a good time to go to law school” argument (which should make smart people roll their eyes). We’ve been down those roads before.

But we also have an article from a guy who says law school was the start of his financial downfall. He doesn’t blame law school, which is good, because I’m pretty sure he’s got nobody else to blame besides himself. And maybe his ex-wife….

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If you’ve messed up and managed to get married without an airtight prenup, you’re going to have a messy divorce. Unless you have a fairy tale romance that can never be torn asunder, but statistically you don’t, so you should be planning for divorce. And congratulations to our gay brothers and sisters — with Illinois joining the 21st century this week as the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage, you too will soon have to begin planning for divorces.

But when you get divorced, who should you hire to represent you? One publication has compiled its list of the 10 divorce lawyers you don’t want across the table from you….

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Dean Lawrence Mitchell

Dean Lawrence E. Mitchell of Case Western Reserve University School of Law is not your ordinary law school dean. How many other deans have been the subject of an ATL caption contest?

Case Western is a prominent and well-ranked law school, #68 in the latest U.S. News rankings. It didn’t make the ATL Law School rankings, which stop at the top 50, but Case Western alumni give their alma mater a solid B-plus, as you can see from the school’s ATL Career Center profile.

But Mitchell’s fame comes less from Case Western and more from his national profile as a defender of legal education. Last year, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, Law School Is Worth the Money, that went viral.

Critics of Mitchell’s piece, including my colleague Elie Mystal, accused the dean of screwing over his students. Case Western charges tuition of almost $50,000, but less than 50 percent of its graduates secure full-time, long-term employment as lawyers, according to Law School Transparency.

Today Dean Mitchell is back in the news. A lawsuit filed this morning alleges that he screws his students more literally….

(See the UPDATE added below for the university’s response to the complaint.)

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If the “provider” is no longer able to provide the unlimited credit card spending at Prada, Chanel, Gucci and Hermès, the deal has changed. A new deal must be negotiated.

Laura Wasser, a divorce attorney to the stars whose clients have included Kim Kardashian, Maria Shriver, and Britney Spears, discussing just one of the ways that marriage is a contract. Her new book, It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way (affiliate link), is meant to serve as a guide for getting divorced in a civilized manner.

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