DOMA

We have been tracking — as have other news outlets, such as the New York Times — which leading law firms offer the perk we’ve nicknamed the gay gross-up. If you’re inclined towards formality, you can call it the “tax offset for domestic partner health benefits.” For an explanation of what this perk is all about, read this prior post.

Since our last round-up, additional prominent law firms have adopted this policy. Let’s check out the latest list….

UPDATE (9/7/11, 12:30 PM): We’ve added to our list since it went up yesterday.

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Neal Katyal

* “Dominique Strauss-Kahn Gets Off, As Did Everyone Else Who Stayed In His Room At The Sofitel.” Or: what you don’t want to know about your high-end hotel room. [Dealbreaker]

* F**k yeah — trademark law! Or: some reflections on the “immoral or scandalous” bar to trademark registration, by fashion lawyer Chuck Colman. [Law of Fashion]

* The New Jersey Supreme Court just issued a major new decision calling for changes in the way that courts handle eyewitness identifications — an issue that will also be going before SCOTUS in the coming Term. [The Innocence Project]

* Congratulations to Professor Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general, who’s apparently headed to Hogan Lovells. [Am Law Daily]

* Professor Orin Kerr is not impressed by how Dean Linda Ammons has handled the controversy over Professor Larry Connell. [Volokh Conspiracy via Instapundit]

* They have lots of lawyers over at the IRS (former workplace of Michele Bachmann). Do you really expect them to be good at math? [Going Concern]

* Does signing a bill into law with an autopen present constitutional problems? Professor Terry Turnipseed explains how it might. [Slate]

* Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain thinks that President Obama’s decision not to defend DOMA constitutes an “impeachable defense.” [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

Here in the great state of New York, marriage equality is the order of the day — as it is in five other states, plus D.C.. But due to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal tax code does not recognize same-sex unions. As a result, as explained by the law firm of McCarter & English, “the Internal Revenue Code treats the value of employer-provided healthcare benefits for a civil union or domestic partner as ‘imputed income’ to the employee. This means that employees who elect domestic partner benefits must pay income tax on the value of those benefits, which is in direct contrast to employees with different-sex spouses.”

To address this inequality, a number of law firms — including McCarter & English, as of this June — have adopted what we here at Above the Law have dubbed the “gay gross-up.” This benefit consists of “a bump in income such that, post-tax, the employees are in the same position as similarly situated employees electing healthcare benefits for their opposite-sex spouses.”

In addition to McCarter, a number of prominent law firms have adopted this policy since our last report. Let’s find out which ones….

UPDATE (8/25/11): We’ve added to the list since it was originally published. See the updated list below.

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* News Corp. has hired Paul Weiss attorney Mark Mendelsohn, a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act expert, to advise them. In related news, Chuck Norris has hired Wendi Deng Murdoch to advise him. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Utah’s goofy liquor laws are examined in this New York Times article. The restrictive laws clearly came out of Joseph Smith’s attempt to monopolize visions emanating from the bottom of hats. [New York Times]

* President Obama’s evolving views on gay marriage have led him to back an attempt to repeal DOMA. I’m no Frank Lutz, but I see a messaging problem on gay issues if he keeps up this whole “leading from behind” shtick. [Los Angeles Times]

* Kramer Levin is “client-focused” and looking for someone who is “entrepreneurial” and the “total package.” Words! [The Careerist]

* The Feds arrested a mess of Anonymous hackers yesterday. They dun goofed. [ABA Journal]

* Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is suing Hanesbrands, parent company of the Champion sports apparel maker, for dropping him after some dumb tweets. Dude said some pretty stupid stuff about 9/11, but the true jewel of his collection was buried deep in this story. In a tweet aimed at women who don’t perform oral sex, Rashard said “It’s either gonna be you, OR some other chick.” Hahahaha. Oh, Rashard. [ESPN]

As many of you know, here at Above the Law we have been tracking which major law firms offer a non-salary benefit that we’ve dubbed the gay gross-up. As we’ve previously explained, quoting a memo issued by Simpson Thacher, the gay gross-up is “[a] ‘gross-up’ for employees who enroll same-sex partners in the Firm’s health benefits plans to offset any federal, state and local income taxes paid on the value of the partners’ benefits which heterosexual spouses are not subject to.”

Today we are pleased to report that two top firms have joined the club. Kudos to Debevoise & Plimpton and Shearman & Sterling for standing on the side of equality. You can read their announcement memos, issued earlier this month, after the jump.

We have added these firms to our list. By the way, for those firms that would rather appear on a list maintained by the New York Times than one maintained by Above the Law, you should note that the NYT is also monitoring which workplaces provide this perk. The NYT list includes employers of many different types, not just law firms, and features some of the nation’s most innovative companies, such as Google and Facebook and Apple.

With the addition of Debevoise and Shearman, which leading law firms provide this benefit? Let’s take a look….

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Paul Bergrin

* New York magazine is on a roll: first the buzz-generating Paper Tigers piece, then the big Anna Nicole Smith story, and now this great profile of Paul Bergrin, “The Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey.” [New York Magazine]

* When Elie read Megan McArdle’s response to his debt story, he screamed, “I said I PAID my federal loans!” I told him the screen couldn’t hear him but he kept right on screaming. [The Atlantic]

* A few highlights from the Sarah Palin email dump. [Wonkette]

* A lap dance might get a rise out of a recipient, but it doesn’t rise to the level of art, according to a New York state appellate court. [Albany Times-Union]

* The new home of Paul Clement — Bancroft PLLC, founded by Viet Dinh — has become D.C.’s “it” firm with respect to conservative causes. Where does it get its name? [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

* Speaking of the former Solicitor General, here’s his substantive defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (via Chris Geidner). Check it out — there’s a link to his brief — and see what you think. [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* Speaking of gay marriage, here’s an interesting legal issue, involving foster care and adoption, same-sex couples, and religious freedom. [Peoria Journal Star]

* An update on Aaron Biber, prominent law firm partner turned convicted pedophile. [Minnesota Lawyer]

The case for same-sex marriage should rest less upon dollars and cents and more upon fundamental principles of fairness (as recently argued by Professor Jaye Cee Whitehead in a New York Times op-ed piece). But it’s certainly the case that money matters should not be overlooked when it comes to marriage equality.

We’ve previously discussed a non-salary benefit that we’ve nicknamed the gay gross-up. Here’s one concise definition: “A ‘gross-up’ for employees who enroll same-sex partners in the Firm’s health benefits plans to offset any federal, state and local income taxes paid on the value of the partners’ benefits which heterosexual spouses are not subject to.” (Currently gay couples in which partners receive employer-provided health benefits are taxed on the value of those benefits, due to the fact that, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), federal law — including federal tax law — doesn’t recognize same-sex unions.)

The gross-up is not a perk that affects a huge number of employees, to be sure. But having it sends an important message about a firm’s commitment to equality and inclusion.

Where did we obtain that handy definition of the gross-up? From the benefits page of a top law firm that recently started offering this benefit. It’s one of two elite law firms that recently boarded the gay gross-up bandwagon….

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Paul Clement and John Boehner: now out of King & Spalding's hair.

Some people, including crisis communications experts, think that King & Spalding should just shut up already about the DOMA debacle. The firm agreed to represent the House of Representatives in defending the controversial Defense of Marriage Act, and then almost immediately turned around and withdrew from the representation. This prompted the departure from the firm of star appellate litigator Paul Clement, former Solicitor General of the United States, who took the DOMA matter over to his new firm, Bancroft PLLC.

The decision to drop DOMA defense also led to the defections of King & Spalding clients, like the NRA and the state of Virginia. It generated criticism of the firm from diverse quarters — everyone from Ken Cuccinelli to the New York Times editorial board. [FN1]

Despite the advice of the communications experts (with which I personally agree), King & Spalding continues to discuss the DOMA debacle. The firm is starting to sound like a therapy patient that won’t relinquish the couch, and just wants to yap and yap and yap. Are you listening?

Let’s look at the latest revelations — and also some compensation news out of K&S….

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King & Spalding’s willingness to drop a client, the U.S. House of Representatives, in connection with the lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was such an obsequious act of weakness that I feel compelled to end your legal association with Virginia so that there is no chance that one of my legal clients will be put in the embarrassing and difficult situation like the client you walked away from, the House of Representatives.

– Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, in a letter firing the law firm of King & Spalding.

A second quote of the day, from the New York Times, after the jump.

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I think it’s important for lawyers on the other side of the political divide from Paul, who’s a very fine lawyer, to reaffirm what Paul wrote [in his resignation letter from King & Spalding]. Paul is entirely correct that our adversary system depends on vigorous advocates being willing to take on even very unpopular positions. Having undertaken to defend DOMA, he’s acting in the highest professional and ethical traditions in continuing to represent a client to whom he had committed in this very charged matter.

Seth Waxman, former U.S. Solicitor General (under President Clinton) and current WilmerHale partner, commenting to Washingtonian magazine on the decision of fellow former S.G. Paul Clement to resign from King & Spalding and join Bancroft PLLC. At Bancroft, the D.C. boutique law firm founded by former Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, Clement will continue to represent the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives in its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

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