Fabulosity

With Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Wednesdays in 2013, it felt like the holiday season lasted forever. Not that we’re complaining — we enjoyed two weeks of relative quiet, and we suspect many of you did as well — but now it’s back to work, as we kick off the first full week of the new year.

One story that kept people engaged over the holiday lull was our fifth annual holiday card contest. Voter participation ran high, with more than 7,688 votes cast for the eight worthy finalists.

Which law firm’s card prevailed? Here’s a hint: it’s the most interesting Biglaw holiday card in the world….

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‘F**kin’ intellectual property, bro!’

This year certainly had its share of ups and downs in terms of lawyerly antics, but in our minds, 2013 shall forever be known as the year of the snarky cease and desist response letter. Back in June, we broke the news of the now famous response to a cease and desist letter received from the Town of West Orange, New Jersey, which went viral worldwide thanks to the power of sarcasm. A few months later, we wrote about an equally entertaining response to a cease and desist letter received from the American Bankers Association, rife with Spice Girls lyrics and Valley girl lingo.

It’s been a while since we wrote about one of these treasures, so we figured we’d close the year out with a bang. We discovered yet another amazing response to a cease and desist letter, and this one may be the greatest of them all — if only because we think its author might have been drunk while writing it….

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Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations for our fifth annual holiday card contest. In terms of quantity, we received a great many submissions. And (almost) all of you complied with the contest rules, so thanks for that as well.

Quantity was strong, but in terms of quality… well, at the risk of sounding Grinch-like, this wasn’t the strongest batch we’ve seen over the years. We received a lot of cards that were tasteful and well-executed but boring. While it’s not surprising that many firms take a “do no harm” approach to holiday cards, it doesn’t make for the most exciting contest.

That said, there were still a few stalks of wheat mixed in with the chaff. Here are the eight fabulous finalists, for you to review and vote upon….

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Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the New York holiday party of Susman Godfrey, one of the nation’s most impressive — and most feared — litigation boutiques. The mood was celebratory (and not just because of the delicious food, provided by celebrated chef Daniel Boulud, and free-flowing drink).

The associates I spoke with — who all enjoy their own private offices, no small perk in the New York law firm world — exhibited a great esprit de corps. Unlike so many other associates I meet, they seemed genuinely glad to be at their firm and enthusiastic about their work.

The fact that bonuses were just around the corner surely helped. We’ve covered Susman Godfrey’s generous bonuses in the past, and they never disappoint.

I recently chatted with founding partner Stephen Susman about what he described as his firm’s “unique approach” to bonuses. Here’s what we discussed — including how big his firm’s bonuses are this year….

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Don’t say we never bring you happy news here at Above the Law. Yesterday, for example, we extended congratulations to the 2014 Skadden Fellows, 28 graduating law students and judicial clerks who just landed prestigious public interest fellowships.

Today we are pleased to present to you the 2014 Bristow Fellows. As we’re previously explained, the holders of these one-year fellowships in the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office get to work on cases pending before the Supreme Court, some of the most fascinating and important matters in all the land.

Bristow Fellowships, awarded to recent law school graduates with outstanding academic records and top clerkships, are generally regarded as second only to Supreme Court clerkships in prestige (and often lead to SCOTUS clerkships as well). You can read more about the Bristow Fellowship, including the job responsibilities and application process, on the Justice Department website.

Who are the newest Bristow Fellows? Where did they graduate from law school, and for whom did they clerk? Inquiring minds want to know….

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The law firm of Skadden Arps might be a follower when it comes to bonuses, but it’s a leader when it comes to public interest. For example, Skadden was one of the first firms to support Philippine typhoon relief efforts. Over the years, Skadden has given generously to address a variety of humanitarian crises around the world. Its public-spirited nature is one of the reasons Skadden enjoys a perfect score for industry reputation in our Career Center.

Skadden’s most famous contribution to the world of public interest law is surely the Skadden Fellowship program, which has been described as “a legal Peace Corps.” It was established in 1988, in honor of Skadden’s 40th anniversary as a law firm, and it supports graduating law students committed to public interest work as they embark upon specific projects at sponsoring organizations.

How many fellowships were awarded this year? Which law schools do the fellows come from?

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David Boies

Associate bonuses at market-leading Cravath and all of Cravath’s followers are staying the same this year. As I’ve stated in these pages, and on CNBC and Bloomberg, this is a good thing. In times of uncertainty and instability for Biglaw, treading water is a victory.

But just because this year’s bonuses are good news doesn’t mean there isn’t better news out there. Today the better news comes from the litigation powerhouse of Boies Schiller & Flexner, where the average bonus was $85,000 and the top bonus was $300,000 — even higher than last year’s $250,000.

Even if you bill like a maniac — and BSF’s compensation system does reward the industrious — how on earth do you get to a $300,000 bonus? We spoke with legendary litigator David Boies, founding partner and chairman of the firm, to find out….

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Since 2008, Crain’s New York Business has produced a list of the Best Places to Work in New York City. Each year, a few law firms sneak onto the list, much like the situation with Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list.

This year, seven law firms made Crain’s list, while only four made Fortune’s list, as of January 2012. Just two firms overlap between Crain’s and Fortune’s lists.

Which ones are considered tops in the city that never sleeps? Let’s find out…

Please note the UPDATE to this post below.

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Your ATL editors: David Lat, Staci Zaretsky, Joe Patrice, and Elie Mystal.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: a time for law firm bonuses, new partner announcements, holiday cards (including our annual contest), holiday gifts, and holiday parties.

Thanks a lot to everyone who came out last Thursday night to attend the Above the Law holiday party. This year’s festivities were extremely well-attended (the bar was packed), and the entire crowd enjoyed all of the specialty drinks that were served. Thanks to our sponsors, Superior Discovery and Prestige Legal Search, for making such a great evening possible.

If you weren’t able to make it out, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the pictures from a night that was full of fun and fabulosity…

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Who says lawyers and law firms are humor-impaired? A Canadian litigation firm, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP, has been winning publicity and props for its clever holiday card based on the troubles of Rob Ford, the Toronto mayor who has admitted to smoking crack.

This reminded us: it’s time for Above the Law’s fifth annual holiday card contest! This favorite feature is fun for the whole family, and it’s perfectly legal too.

We are a legal website, so of course there are rules. Read carefully; failure to follow them to the letter will result in disqualification. Here they are:

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