Gibson Dunn

Go ahead and queue up the Luther Vandross, because we’ve reached the thrilling conclusion of our annual ATL March Madness.

Our newly expanded tournament pitted 32 teams in the hunt to be declared the law firm with the brightest future. After a string of close calls and upsets, it came down to second-seeded Paul, Weiss against fourth-seeded Gibson Dunn, the spunky underdog who’d knocked off the overall top seed Wachtell.

So who won?

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The basketball tournament may be over, but ATL March Madness still has one more round of voting. It all comes down to this. After four rounds of voting, we finally have our finals set. And it’s not the matchup I would have predicted.

Negotiating the harsh realities of a challenging economy is a tall order, and our readers think the two firms in the finals are the best equipped to come out on top.

No word yet on whether the partners of either firm in the finals have decided to get inked up if they win.

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, a recurring feature that gives notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as information about their firms and themselves.

What do Bob Dylan, Jerry Seinfeld, and Facebook have in common? Orin Snyder is their attorney. Orin is a litigation partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office, and serves as Vice-Chair of the Crisis Management Practice Group and Co-Chair of the Media, Entertainment, and Technology Practice Group. He is also a member of the White Collar Defense and Investigations, Appellate, and Intellectual Property Practice Groups.

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If you’re a former Supreme Court clerk, the legal world is your oyster. In the words of one observer, “Supreme Court clerkships have become the Willy Wonka golden tickets of the legal profession. So many top-shelf opportunities within the law, such as tenure-track professorships and jobs in the SG’s office, [are] reserved for members of the Elect.”

If you work at a hedge fund, maybe after a stint at Goldman Sachs or a similarly elite investment bank, you’re the Wall Street version of a SCOTUS clerk — at the top of the field, but with way more money. There aren’t many Lawyerly Lairs out there that cost $60 million (the cost of hedge fund magnate Steve Cohen’s new Hamptons house).

What could lure four high-powered lawyers and hedge-fund types, including two former clerks to the all-powerful Justice Anthony Kennedy, to leave their current perches? How about the chance to earn the kind of money that would make a Supreme Court clerkship bonus look like a diner waitress’s tip?

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Poor Wichita State, huh? The team was robbed of a finals appearance by a terrible held-ball call. The terrible call would have been more palatable if it weren’t for the fact that the NCAA should have known better than to put Karl Hess on that officiating crew. Hess made a team go the wrong way and shoot baskets for the opposing team earlier THIS SEASON. So color me unsurprised when Hess botched a call to end the game. So much drama.

Meanwhile, in the ATL March Madness bracket, we finally got some drama with some big upsets and close calls….

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Well, the tournament has been a “shocker,” right? I know folks from Wichita State and they are psyched to flash inappropriate gestures on national TV for another round.

Sadly, Oregon got bounced out of the Sweet Sixteen, which made me a little sad, though not as sad as my whole bracket getting bounced when Indiana lost by double digits. I’d finally put my faith in the Big Ten and they repaid me with that?!?

In any event, the ATL bracket finally got some action too, with a couple of upsets. Including my beloved Cleary…

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Last week my NCAA bracket soared to the lead in our office bracket pool. And then crashed to reality when my New Mexico Final Four pick got cut down by Harvard. It was a bitter pill to swallow when I have to talk to Harvard grads daily.

At least the Ducks are still in the tournament.

Meanwhile, the ATL March Madness bracket rolls into the Sweet Sixteen. At least so far, you all love the chalk….

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Today, the National Law Journal released its list of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. The NLJ releases a similar list once every few years, and each time, the nation’s top lawyers — some from Biglaw, some from legal academia, some from the in-house world, and some from the trial and appellate bars — celebrate their success in creating real change in the industry. That said, the people named to this list are relatively well-known to the general Above the Law readership, but they won’t exactly be household names to laypeople.

Which legal eagles soared into the NLJ’s list this time around? Well, the NLJ selected their influential lawyers based on their political clout, legal results, media penetration, business credibility, and thought leadership. We’ve whittled the impressive list of 100 down to our own top 10.

So who made our cut?

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Continuing our annual tradition honoring March Madness, Above the Law is running a law-related bracket, advancing law firms or law schools based on the outcome of reader polls. If you’ve been around for a while, you know the drill. But remember, I’m the new guy, so I’ve made a couple changes to the format this year.

Last year, you hoisted the Lantern of Diogenes to find the Most Honest Law School, and determined that the University of Michigan Law School was the most on the level. And they backed your faith by admitting that one of their graduates had become a shepherd.

This year, it’s time to talk about law firms. Specifically, your collective editors pose this question: Which law firm has the brightest future? The economy is still fragile and people are writing books with scary titles like The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis (affiliate link). The firms in our competition may look healthy today, but we all could have said the same thing at one time about Howrey, Brobeck, Heller, or Dewey.

What firm’s future is so bright their senior partners gotta wear shades?

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‘What, no power rings for the Law School Avengers?’

* In case you didn’t catch this yesterday when it was announced, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, is currently being held for trial in New York City. This will be the most unbiased jury in the world. /sarcasm [New York Times]

* According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, democracies shouldn’t depend “on what nine unelected people from a narrow legal background have to say.” Well then! I suppose we should look forward to the uprising. [The Big Story / Associated Press]

* Cooley and Winston & Strawn are working on the $600 million sale of everyone’s favorite store for slutty Halloween costumes, Hot Topic. Apparently that store still exists. I had no idea. Good to know! [Am Law Daily]

* Proskauer Rose is now the most powerful Biglaw firm in the sports world. It just goes to show that even if you’re too awkward to play ball, it doesn’t mean you can’t hit it out of the park in court. [Sports Illustrated]

* “I would love to blink and wake up in 10 years and see where all this ends.” Unemployed law grads are probably saying the same thing, but hopefully these law school law firms will be beneficial. [New York Times]

* A group of legal heavy hitters — “The Coalition of Concerned Colleagues” — submitted a cutting letter to the Task ABA Force on Legal Education. Next time, try “The Law School Avengers.” [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* If it’s proven that enough Native Americans find the Redskins team name offensive, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board may cancel the mark. Would it be offensive to call the TTAB Indian givers? [National Law Journal]

* An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but benchslaps are another thing entirely. Sorry, Gibson Dunn, but your document production “mistake” was “unacceptable” in Judge Paul Grewal’s courtroom. [Bloomberg]

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