Fabulosity

William Tell

On a Wednesday evening in January, William Tell, a 33-year-old 3L at USC Gould School of Law, was sitting in the backyard of the L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills, a few blocks away from his apartment, sipping a scotch and munching on a bowl of pasta. At the moment, Tell is the only law student in America who goes home to the woman on the cover of Cosmopolitan — he’s engaged to Lauren Conrad, the reality TV star-turned-lifestyle entrepreneur who is regarded by many, including Martha Stewart, as being something like the next Martha Stewart.

More than a decade before his stint as a figure of tabloid fascination, Tell’s first act was as a guitarist in early ’00s pop-rock band Something Corporate, a band that was playing stadiums, arenas, and late night television shows by the time he was 22.

Clean-cut and wearing a simple grey sweater and skateboarding shoes, Tell laughs a lot but speaks with a hint of careful distance. He makes clear that he guards his privacy and would not have consented to an interview with a publication whose focus was his romantic life. But I wanted to ask Tell mostly about his unique experience as a law student, so I connected with him on LinkedIn, emailed him to explain myself, and now here we are….

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Each year in January, Fortune releases its list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. As in years past, a few law firms have managed to sneak their way onto a list that includes employers like Google, the Mayo Clinic, and Goldman Sachs. With companies like that on the list, we still wonder if the people at Fortune have any idea what they’re talking about, because there’s just no way a law firm could be on a similar level.

We try to cover this list every year (click here for our posts in 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007). In 2013, only five law firms made the list: Alston & Bird (#23), Perkins Coie (#33), Baker Donelson (#45), Arnold & Porter (#62), and Bingham McCutchen (#82).

This year, six law firms made the list. Which six firms had pay that was high enough, perks that were good enough, and environments that were nurturing enough to make the cut? Let’s take a look…

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Partnership: Biglaw’s ultimate brass ring.

Becoming a Biglaw partner does not necessarily mean you’ll live happily ever after. It doesn’t even guarantee financial security. Indeed, some partners end up filing for personal bankruptcy.

But that’s an anomalous case. Partnership at a major law firm might not guarantee you happiness — sometimes you have to leave the partnership to follow your bliss — but it generally brings with it tremendous pay and prestige.

That’s especially true of partnership at the nation’s 10 most prestigious large law firms. Most of them have only a single partnership tier — equity or bust, baby — and sky-high profits.

Who are the new partners at these 10 firms, and what do their selections reveal about Biglaw today?

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To our surprise, Supreme Court clerks got shut out of Forbes’s recent 30 Under 30 For Law and Policy list. Sad trombone. They’ll have to console themselves with their $300,000 bonuses.

Even if they don’t get no respect from Forbes, Supreme Court clerkships are still highly coveted credentials. And a number of justices have made several hires since our last hiring update, back in November 2013.

Who are the newest future SCOTUS clerks? See any names you know?

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Jeh Johnson

Last year was a pretty great one for partners of Paul Weiss. And we’re not talking just about profits per partner, although we expect they’ll be robust once again.

In June, Roberta Kaplan scored a big win in the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor. Representing Edie Windsor, a widow who got hit with hefty taxes when her wife passed away, Kaplan got section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act struck down. Just yesterday, we declared Robbie Kaplan our 2013 Lawyer of the Year.

But she wasn’t the only PW partner who had an exciting 2013. In December, Jeh Johnson left the firm to become our nation’s fourth Secretary of Homeland Security.

On the morning of December 19, Johnson sent around a wonderful departure memo, which we’d like to share with you now….

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Ronan Farrow: a former Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree turned contest judge.

Since 2012, the list-loving folks at Forbes have been publishing “30 Under 30″ compilations for various fields of endeavor. The 2014 lists just came out, and they include, of course, a 30 Under 30 for law and public policy. We noted the news in yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs.

Such lists generate great traffic, but they also exhibit a somewhat arbitrary character that can be criticized, even mocked. The New Yorker, for example, took inspiration from Forbes to create 3 Under 3: Entrepreneurs, Intellectuals, Toddlers.

A list of notable legal eagles under 30 presents additional problems. Unlike, say, sports or the arts, where people over 30 might already be “over the hill,” law doesn’t lend itself to super-young prodigies. As Miguel Morales of Forbes points out in introducing the list, “It’s never easy for FORBES staffers to sniff out the 30 best and brightest Millennials making an impact on their fields. In law and public policy, where most people are barely out of law school by 30, let alone blazing trails in their fields, the task sometimes felt farcical.”

Whether it’s farcical or not, we know you want to see the list. Let’s have a peek, shall we?

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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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