International Law

Is peeing on somebody’s dead body a war crime? What about peeing on their grave? What about an important monument? As I’ve spoken about before, one of my life’s goals is to pee in every river that was important to the Confederacy. If I relieve myself in the Chickamauga, can a true son of the Cumberland bring me up in front of a war crimes tribunal?

The video of those American Marines urinating on dead Afghan bodies is so disturbing that it somehow demands a legal response. Mitt Romney might never want to “apologize” for America, but maybe that’s just because he’s used to being able to metaphorically urinate on those hoping some of his wealth trickles down.

And yet — 1Ls, say it with me — “most of international law does not exist.” Aside from whatever punishment the United States Marine Corps wants to impose on these guys, there isn’t a whole lot the international community can do to punish them.

Unless we want to call urinating on somebody a “war crime.” But is punishing some jackasses worth diluting the term?

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Say hello to the Global 100 for 2011. This is the American Lawyer’s list of the world’s 100 largest law firms, ranked by total revenue.

There’s a lot of economic anxiety these days, with fears of a double-dip recession running rampant. But looking back — the list is compiled based on 2010 revenue numbers — the legal business seems to be hanging in there. As noted by Am Law, total revenue for the Global 100 increased by 3 percent last year.

Lawyers are a competitive lot. So you’re probably less interested in the overall figures than in how different firms fared in the rankings….

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Want to work for a top law firm with legitimate global presence? Check out the following profiles of law firms that are (1) most admired by Career Center readers and Lateral Link members and (2) known for their strong international practice. Don’t forget to check out the profiles for other firms, both international and domestic, and see what each firm’s associates really think about their employers.

  • With lackluster bonus announcements from most lockstep law firms, associates at this firm should be happy with their performance-based bonuses – even if they aren’t transparent.  Most Career Center readers agree and rate this firm #10 among the most admired law firms.  There are several opportunities for the firm’s 2,400 associates to work on international “newsworthy” matters, out of any of its 31 offices worldwide.
  • Associates at the #2 most admired law firm appreciate the level of freedom when it comes to getting international caliber work via this firm’s free-market system.  While there is no official billable hour requirement, most associates agree that 1,950 is the magic number to qualify for bonuses.  Even if international work is not your thing, this firm is also known for its involvement in notable Supreme Court cases.

Let’s look at a few other firms with robust international practices….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s new column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

I’ve spent my whole life watching my ignorance be exposed.

When I worked at a small firm in California, I thought the whole litigation world was my oyster: We handled all civil cases (other than immigration or family law matters) in all state and federal courts in California.

I moved to a huge firm in Cleveland and lost my bearings: I now held myself out as being able to handle any civil case filed in any court in the United States. (This was a big change. When I worked in California, at least I knew what advance sheets to read. Cleveland set me adrift at sea.) Now, surely, the world was my oyster.

Wrong again. Now I’ve gone in-house, and I’m ultimately responsible for all litigation filed against my company anywhere in the world. The world is my oyster….

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The American Lawyer Global 100 is out. It’s the list that ranks law firms around the world by gross revenue.

And this year, there’s a new name at the top. Baker & McKenzie leapfrogged a number of firms to become the top-grossing law firm in the world (based on 2009 revenue numbers). Baker narrowly edged out Skadden for this honor.

Of course, Skadden people shouldn’t be ashamed of their second-place finish. Baker & McKenzie is huge: it leads the Am Law list of most lawyers by more than a thousand over its nearest rival, Clifford Chance. Skadden ranks #9 on the “most lawyers” list, with an attorney headcount that is almost doubled by Baker & McKenzie. Skadden gets to #2 in the revenue rankings by having a much higher revenue-per-lawyer figure.

Let’s take a look at the top ten in terms of revenue, and drool over these billion-dollar businesses…

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The founders of this Oman-based law firm obviously haven’t seen American Pie:

Law Firm Fail [Fail Blog]

Law professor Peter Erlinder’s summer break continues to suck.

Last week, we told you about the William Mitchell College of Law professor, who traveled to Rwanda to help with the defense of a political leader running against the incumbent president. He was arrested soon after his arrival because of his “genocidal ideology.” He allegedly violated Rwanda’s laws against minimizing the 1994 genocide in which more than 500,000 Rwandans, mainly ethnic Tutsis, were killed.

Erlinder, who previously defended a Hutu during the International Criminal Tribunals in 2003, contends that it’s inaccurate to blame just one side for what happened. That got him locked in the Rwandan slammer, along with the opposition leader he went to Kigali to defend. During interrogations last week, he fell ill, leading to his hospitalization. Erlinder’s wife says he needs his blood pressure medicine. His daughter told us she’s hoping the State Department will intervene.

He pleaded not guilty to the genocide-denial charges during a hearing on Friday, but the Rwandan judge decided today to turn down Erlinder’s bail application.

What are the charges based on? It appears obscure publications don’t just come back to haunt lawyers during Senate confirmation hearings….

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A law professor from Minnesota is not having a very good start to his summer break. As we previously mentioned in the Memorial Day Docket, a William Mitchell College of Law professor, Peter Erlinder, 62, traveled to Rwanda last month to help with the legal defense of Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader running against current-President Paul Kagame in the central African country’s August elections.

Erlinder, who previously defended a Rwandan accused of genocide during the International Criminal Tribunals in 2003, was arrested within a week of his arrival for denying that genocide occurred there. (If you need a history lesson here, watch Hotel Rwanda.) From the Associated Press:

Erlinder is accused of violating Rwanda’s laws against minimizing the genocide in which more than 500,000 Rwandans, the vast majority of them ethnic Tutsis, were massacred by Hutus in 100 days. Erlinder doesn’t deny massive violence happened but contends it’s inaccurate to blame just one side.

Erlinder’s views are generally controversial. See, e.g., this open letter he wrote about Darfur (via the WSJ).

Erlinder could face up to 25 years in prison. His defenders say his arrest has more to do with his efforts on behalf of an opposition candidate than his views on genocide. But the Rwandan government has a different view:

[Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin] Ngoga’s office compared Rwanda’s laws to those in some European countries against denying the Holocaust.

“We understand that human rights activists schooled in the U.S. Bill of Rights may find this objectionable,” government spokeswoman Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement. “But for Rwandans — schooled in the tragedy of the 1994 genocide and who long for peace — Mr. Erlinder’s arrest is an act of justice.”

How did Erlinder get into this mess? We corresponded with his daughter, who shed some light on the situation….

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