Gibson Dunn

Over the last two decades, a dedicated Supreme Court bar has gained prominence, focusing on arguing the increasingly few cases before the justices each term. These lawyers face fierce competition in persuading clients to hire them, participating in a not-so-glamorous competition known in the industry as a “beauty contest.” At these lawyerly pageants, attorneys competing to take the case make their pitch and try to persuade the client that their firm is the best suitor.

In my new book, Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (affiliate link), I go backstage and look at two of the most high-profile beauty contests in Supreme Court history: who would represent (1) the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and (2) twenty-six states in their respective challenges to the constitutionality of Obamacare.

How did these litigants go about choosing their counsel? Which lawyers and law firms got passed over?

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It’s Alito time, Phil! (via Getty Images)

* The NSA has violated the Constitution for years, you say? And it’s been misleading the FISA court about all of its domestic spying activities? As of this moment, the NSA is on double secret probation! [New York Times]

* Imagine how the New York stop-and-frisk case would have turned out if it had been before SCOTUS. The “human toll of unconstitutional stops” may not have been weighed so heavily. [Opinionator / New York Times]

* “[N]o one has a crystal ball,” but right now, it’s highly likely that the Supreme Court will take up another gay marriage case. Perhaps it’ll be the one that’s currently unfolding in Pennsylvania. [Legal Intelligencer]

* According to a recent survey conducted by Randstad, about 60 percent of lawyers are proud to be members of the legal profession, which is impressive(!) considering how unhappy they are. [The Lawyer]

* Birds of a feather really do flock together. Philip Alito, son of Justice Samuel Alito, will join Eugene Scalia, son of Justice Antonin Scalia, at Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Even though the vast majority of his race-based claims were dismissed on summary judgment, this “token black associate” still has a respected Biglaw firm up against the Ropes. [National Law Journal]

* Law school applications are plummeting, but top law schools haven’t started scraping the bottom of the barrel — their applicants’ LSAT scores have remained relatively competitive. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* I am Chelsea Manning, I am a female.” Considering (s)he was just sentenced to 35 years in prison, Bradley Chelsea Manning picked a great time to make this announcement to the world. [Chicago Tribune]

* You dare call the Duchess of Dumplins racist and sexist? When it comes to Paula Deen’s new legal team from Morgan Lewis, five are women, and four are black. Take that, Lisa Jackson. [Am Law Daily]

There hasn’t been much major good news on the associate compensation front over the past few years — since, say, January 2007. But recent weeks have brought pockets of minor good news for limited constituencies. Green shoots, anyone?

In Miami, Greenberg Traurig raised starting salaries by 16 percent, from $125,000 to $145,000. In New York, Sullivan & Cromwell and Skadden Arps started offering $300,000 signing bonuses to Supreme Court clerks.

And now $300K bonuses for SCOTUS clerks have spread, to other law firms in other cities. Consider this the new going rate for top-shelf talent….

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For many law schools, the bidding process for the upcoming on-campus interview season closed yesterday. In bidding, schools quite reasonably advise students to select potential employers that align with their aspirations and geographic preferences. For example, the section of the Duke Law web site devoted to OCI admonishes students to “thoroughly research” potential employers and to “focus only on employers in whom you are genuinely interested and that match your career goals.” Presumably, one career goal shared by all law school graduates is to eventually be free of debt. As previously and repeatedly noted, for most, a Biglaw associate position is the only employment outcome which gives the graduate a plausible prospect of paying off his student loans.

So what shapes student perception of large law firms and drives the decision of the law student in prioritizing their OCI bids? No doubt there are unique versions of received wisdom that get passed from generation to generation of students at every school. And of course there are plenty of media entities measuring firms against one another: revenues (AmLaw), “prestige” (Vault), practice area prowess (Chambers) and so on. This being the time of year where Biglaw careers are just starting to be built, we thought it would be interesting to look at how students themselves rate law firms. Which firms are the law student favorites?

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Next time, brown bag it.

* The makeup of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is very homogeneous. Out of 14 judges who served this year, 12 are Republican and half are former prosecutors. Some diversity please? [Reuters]

* Dewey know how much Judge Martin Glenn shaved off of Togut Segal & Segal’s $8.8M fees and expenses in the latest D&L payout approval? Just $167.76 for subway fare and meal overages. [Am Law Daily]

* Ted Boutrous of Gibson Dunn is a very busy man, but he’s been categorized as a “Twitter freak.” The man is a self-professed news junkie, and he follows @atlblog, so you know he’s cool. #winning [Bloomberg]

* Facebook has named a new general counsel. We wish a very warm welcome to Colin Stretch, a man who’s a Harvard Law graduate, a former Kellogg Huber partner, and a former Supreme Court clerk to Justice Breyer to boot. [Facebook]

* If you’re waiting for your check to come for the BARBRI class action suit that was settled back in 2007, then keep waiting. But hey, at least the law firms are starting to get paid. [National Law Journal]

* Ariel Castro, a man you might’ve eaten ribs with, is looking at additional indictments in the kidnapping case against him. Thus far, he’s pleaded not guilty to all of the 329 charges he currently faces. [CNN]

Apple’s had a rough go of it since the untimely death of Founder, CEO, and Inventor of the Tactical Turtleneck Steve Jobs. Not even Siri (especially not Siri) could answer where the awesome had gone.

The Onion captured the general sense of malaise emanating from Cupertino both here and here.

Tech observers might point to today’s unveiling of a new operating system that looks decidedly unterrible as the turning point for the company.

But the real turning point was probably when Apple got its own Clarence Darrow…

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg takes a lot of heat. From the smoking ban, to the soda limit, to the bike share program, it seems like nothing he supports can avoid polarizing the public. I’m not defending every idea that the diminutive Mayor Tyrion proposes, just noting that every idea gets a lot of flack.

Bloomberg is so opposed in some corners that a Biglaw firm has taken directly contradictory positions against the city just to stick it to Bloomberg. And like many of Bloomberg’s rivals, the firm got smacked down by the courts.

It didn’t help the anti-Bloomberg brigade to submit a filing complete with some embarrassing typos…

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Now with the internet, you don’t even need to spring for a nice plate to panhandle.

In the before times, in the long, long ago, there was no internet. There was no Shark Tank. There were banks and capitalists. You had to go to them with your business ventures, beg them for start-up money, and that’s the way the world worked.

Now, anybody can beg anybody else for money. There’s no dignity anymore. There aren’t eight Jewish bankers who control everything. You don’t have to borrow money for your house from Mr. Potter. You don’t need to promise eternal salvation before passing the hat around. Now, any idiot with a dream and a keyboard can go on the internet and beg people for money.

Kickstarter is at least a place where ideas beg for money. A tipster sent us a link to “Upstart,” where individuals ask you to fund them in exchange for a percentage of their future earnings. So far, four people with J.D.s think they’re so special you should give them money so they can do what they want…

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Those working in the Biglaw world may think they’re living lifestyles of the rich and famous, but their prestige pales dramatically when compared to those working in the glittery world of Hollywood glamour. Let’s face the facts: rainmaking aside, being a behind-the-scenes ERISA or tax practitioner is nowhere near as fabulous as keeping Lindsay Lohan out of jail. Representing celebrity clients will catapult your name into the news and turn your practice into a household topic of conversation.

Those behind the entertainment law bar have worked with some of the most celebrated (and sometimes reviled) clients in the country, and in most cases, the world. Obviously, there should be some sort of a ranking to evaluate the top talent from this Hollywood throng of attorneys.

Luckily, the Hollywood Reporter has been in the rankings game for seven years, and this year’s list is no less entertaining than last year’s. Let’s check out the newly released list of the entertainment industry’s top 100 “power lawyers,” which we’ve dubbed the Hollywood 100….

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As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer recently released its highly influential, closely watched Am Law 100 law firm rankings. They say that “slow and steady wins the race,” and with regard to economic recovery, Biglaw firms seem to have taken that up as their new motto.

Yes, partners are still living as large as they ever were, but their success now comes in the form of single-digit returns with regard to key financial metrics. The divide between the “haves and the have-nots” in the world of major law firms has grown to epic proportions, and some Am Law 100 staples have fallen out of the top hundred firms altogether. Welcome to the new normal.

Are you ready to get excited about “modest” and “spotty” gains across the board? Let’s dig in….

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