Emails

One Liberty Plaza: a tower of dark secrets?

It’s official: Cleary Gottlieb is no longer boring. The elite and esteemed firm is now exciting as well.

In the past few months, Cleary has generated enough drama to fuel a law firm soap opera — think “All My Associates” or “The Biglaw and the Beautiful” (on second thought, save the latter title for Davis Polk). Cleary has witnessed a mysterious partner departure, support staff vanishing into the ether, and a summer associate dismissed due to his disturbing past.

Yesterday, the drama at One Liberty Plaza continued. A terminated employee rose from the cyber-grave to haunt the living — before he was electronically exorcised by the powers-that-be….

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Personal email accounts introduce possible threats to firm computers. A careless employee could open a trojan horse attachment and unleash a virus on the system. Even if the attack only infects the local drive, confidential information may be at risk.

This puts firms in a bind. Either invest time and energy teaching basic Internet skills to their employees — lessons like, “don’t open attachments from unknown email addresses” — that most of us learned when we still had Prodigy emails, or condescendingly cut off access to a modern necessity because the employees are too hopeless to understand the rules.

Yesterday, a major law firm chose the latter route…

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‘This email is unbelievable….’

One argument you sometimes hear in favor of making the jump from Biglaw to boutique is that small firms are, for lack of a better word, nicer. Everyone knows everyone else, so people treat each other with respect and even kindness. The hours are less brutal than at large law firms, and the overall environment is less impersonal and more friendly. The lawyers and staff at small firms are less focused on billable hours and the bottom line than their Biglaw counterparts.

At least that’s the conventional wisdom. But is it universally true? According to one current employee of Faruqi & Faruqi, the litigation boutique on the receiving end of an epic sexual harassment lawsuit, F&F is not exactly a “Fun & Fabulous” place to work.

And this person provided email messages from the two name partners to support their claims….

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I’ve got better things to do than be in this class right now.

The douchebag has a point. It’s going to be hard for some people to see, what with the kid huffing and puffing and doing all the things that make people hate gunners who spend half of class with their hand in the air. But trust me, at the heart of this story, this kid is making a reasonable point about law school and the value of in-class lectures.

Luckily for us, he’s making that point by acting like a petulant, entitled law student, one who drew the ire of his professor and the ridicule of his classmates.

So, this should be fun for the whole family… .

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Oh internet, ye keeper of all knowledge ever committed to your bosom. I do so love when you bring somebody’s crazy ramblings from one sphere crashing down on his basically normal-sounding relations in another.

Today we have a great story about a Law Student Bar Association election that received some holy ghost power… in the form of a student sending around one of the candidate’s religious views.

Freedom of speech, baby. You’re free to say it, everybody else is free to talk about it….

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Opening a legal bill from DLA Piper?

Here at Above the Law, we ❤ DLA Piper. The firm makes for great copy; there’s always something funny, ridiculous, or salacious going down over there.

In fairness to DLA Piper, the craziness might not be that high on a per capita basis. DLA Piper is one of the largest law firms in the world. In the most recent Global 100 rankings, DLA took second place in both total revenue and attorney headcount.

Many of the DLA Piper stories are on the lighter side. But this latest one — involving serious allegations of overbilling, apparently supported by internal DLA emails saying things like “churn that bill, baby!” — is no laughing matter….

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Haters gonna hate.

During her last week here at Above the Law, Kashmir Hill and I went out to lunch. In her usual, insightful, Kash way, she said to me, “When you first started here, I thought your hatred for law school and lawyers was just your schtick. Now I see that it’s not. You really don’t like them.”

No doubt. It sounds like hyperbole, but I really probably hated 50 percent of the people I went to school with or worked with. And then I probably had no opinion (but assumed the worst) of another 30 percent. So, during my time at law school and in a Biglaw firm, I felt hostility towards eight out of every ten people I met.

Why? Because lawyers suck. Because normal-thinking law students who desperately want to turn themselves into people who think like lawyers are some of the worst people on the planet. For God’s sake, read a warning label. Read the DMCA. Lawyers did that.

I made my friends. As for the rest, Shannon Sharpe once said, “I’ve never called anybody ugly. Do I think people are ugly? Yeah, I think he’s ugly, but I’ve never said that… Is he my friend? No. Did I ever view him as a friend? No. Do I view him as an acquaintance? No. Do I like him? No. If I see him in a snowstorm, his truck is broke down, mine is going perfectly, would I pick him up? No.”

Regular readers know this already. And there are a bunch of people nodding and saying, “Right back at you too, tubby.” But I bring this up now because your inclination is going to be that the young man we’re about to talk about is joking. You’re going to think he’s saying things for effect. But when a man posts a screed to his law school listserv to explain how he hates most of the people he goes to school with, and that he wants to be a writer and not a lawyer, I believe.

You should too….

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Everybody’s a comedian.

Can you imagine what would happen if somebody who used to be an extra on Saturday Night Live tried to make a go of it as a Biglaw associate? I think it would be a spectacular failure. Law firms don’t usually reward things like “creativity” and “humor.” Biglaw values drones, and in many situations, you have to check your personality at the door.

But what if you got in on the “ground floor” of a firm that was growing into a Biglaw power? If you got lucky, you might stick, things might work out for you. And in that happy circumstance, you might end up being a partner in Biglaw who can let your personality flourish in all sorts of ways.

Today, we have a story about that kind of would-be comedian turned law firm partner. And somebody gave him an email account….

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Brian Tannebaum, my fellow small-firm columnist, recently described as silly the notion that “success in the law doesn’t come from good legal work.” I agree with Tannebaum that success requires far more than “being able to obtain a volume of calls from a fake presence, a creation of a ‘brand,’ and trying very, very hard to get our hand to the top of the baseball bat of the internet.” But I also think that success doesn’t come just from doing good legal work. In my experience, the most talented lawyers often are not the most successful, at least by traditional definitions. Nor are the most successful lawyers the best lawyers.

For Biglaw associates, success is usually defined as making partner. Anonymous Partner recently wrote that when you make partner in Biglaw, you “occupy a new professional status, and the nature of making partner is such that no matter how badly you screw up the rest of your life, you have accomplished something very rare. It is a life milestone, on par with getting married or winning the lottery in terms of its immediate alteration of your identity.”

And who makes partner in law firms? The best writers? The best oral advocates? The most thorough? The hardest working? The most efficient? Not necessarily any of the above.

Partnership decisions vary from firm to firm, and I am not so cynical to suggest that merit plays no role. Obviously, “merit” always plays a role. It’s just that what is meritorious is in the eye of the decision-maker, and that differs from what many associates might think is most important….

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Quit crying, you baby.

If there were such a thing as the perfect benchslap, this would probably be it. It comes from the great state of Texas, where federal judges are prone to calling attorneys stupid attention whores, where invitations to “kindergarten parties” are issued to lawyers who can’t be civil with their adversaries, and where judges order each other to “shut up” in open court.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, we present this gem….

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