Keker & Van Nest

Earlier this month, we launched the ATL Law Firm Reputation Survey, asking those of you working in Biglaw to rate your peers and competitors. (Take five minutes and take our survey here.)

For our purposes, we split “reputation” into two distinct aspects: 1) the reputed strength and quality of a firm’s practice, and 2) the perceived desirability of the firm as a potential employer. For some, these factors will be functionally equivalent. For others, these are less overlapping considerations.

To date, we’ve received not quite a thousand survey responses and today we share some preliminary findings. What are you telling us thus far about which firms have the strongest practices? Which firms are some of the most coveted Biglaw employers in major markets?

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Judge Richard Posner isn’t amused.

Please convey my congratulations to Bryan Garner on inventing a new form of arbitration. Two parties have a dispute; one appoints an arbitrator to resolve the dispute; the other disputant is not consulted. How beautifully that simplifies arbitration! No need for the parties to agree on an arbitrator, or for the American Arbitration Association to list possible arbitrators and the disputants cross out the ones they don’t like.

– Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, in response to the latest barb dealt in his long-running dispute with Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court. In June 2012, Bryan Garner co-authored Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (affiliate link) with Scalia, and Posner criticized it for “misrepresent[ing] case rationales.” Garner recently hired Keker & Van Nest partner Steven Hirsch to evaluate those criticisms, saying he wanted an “objective third party.” Posner wasn’t particularly impressed.

In an era when “disruption” is celebrated, the world of large law firms is one of the last redoubts of conventional wisdom. For a uniquely rule- and precedent-bound profession, this makes sense. Biglaw’s conventional wisdom has the added virtue of being reliable. For example, we can count on Cravath taking the lead — at least chronologically — on bonuses, and for DLA Piper to have the most random Third developing-world offices.

Another reflection of conventional wisdom is the way in which Biglaw lends itself to — and revels in — superlatives and rankings. There tends to be a generally acknowledged and perennially dominant player (or a few) in most practice areas: Wachtell Lipton for M&A, Weil Gotshal for Chapter 11 work, Patton Boggs for lobbying, and so forth. There’s no doubt that many worthy firms get overlooked.

Last year we took a look at which firms’ practice groups were considered “underrated” by peers in the field. Among the notable 2012 nominees: Cahill for corporate law, Arnold & Porter in litigation, and Proskauer for its bankruptcy and tax practices.

We wondered whether the same practice groups were still considered by practitioners to be unfairly underrated. Or are there other firms deserving more recognition?

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Paging the next Aquagirl! Where are you? (Click for the image for the post.)

* Obama might have found out about the IRS scandal “when it came out in the news,” but the Office of White House Counsel knew what was going on weeks ago. Hooray, a new reason for people to lose their sh*t. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through ridiculously expensive litigation: making up almost two percent of our GDP, our legal system is the most costly on earth, which isn’t exactly something we should be bragging about. [Corporate Counsel]

* “It’s no surprise these lawyers would want to get off this sinking ship.” It looks like things are going just swimmingly for Steven Donziger now that John Keker’s out as his defense attorney in the Chevron fraud case. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* “Fantasy sports is usually the first and last thing I’ll do each day.” Here’s some proof that there’s such a thing as work/life balance in Biglaw… which is only applicable if you’re a partner. [Am Law Daily]

* Law school enrollment is down, and so is tuition revenue, so the legal academy is now selling new degrees. It’s only a matter of time before they market employment timeshares. [National Law Journal]

* On the bright side, if you’re still looking for a job, our own David Lat has some advice on how to get one (and how NOT to get one). We miss summer associates’ misbehavior. [U.S. News & World Report]

* Congrats are in order for this weekend’s graduates, including the first graduates of LMU’s embattled law school — they won’t let a lack of ABA accreditation rain on their parade. [Knoxville News Sentinel]

* It’s springtime, and the nation’s highest court is getting ready to drop some of its biggest decisions yet. If Tolkien had written this, Justice Kennedy would be the one to bear the One Vote. [UPI]

* But for SCOTUS to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of the people, its justices must do battle against a “modern-day tsunami of special interests.” How well are they doing? [National Law Journal]

* To answer that question, let’s look at their record. Political labels aside, thus far, the Roberts court has shaped up to be “the most pro-business court since the mid-1930s.” [New York Times]

* Meanwhile, Justice Thomas has been busy taking shots at President Obama, noting that he always knew the first black president had to be pre-screened by “the elites” and “the media.” [Mother Jones]

* Sometimes even federal prosecutors are willing to take pity upon rich old white men: Mel Weiss, formerly of Milberg LLP, won’t be returning to jail after his foray into DUI territory. [Am Law Daily]

* “Chevron can afford to litigate this case ‘until hell freezes over.’ But [Steven] Donziger can’t.” As it turns out, clients who can’t pay their bills are problematic for John Keker of Keker & Van Nest. [Reuters]

* Penn State Law is continuing with its plans to fleece students at two separately accredited sites, because clearly what the world needs right now is MOAR LAW SCHOOLS. [Centre Daily Times]

Talk to the hand, Nino, talk to the hand.

* “But Daddddddd!!!” Sorry, HealthBridge, but sometimes mom’s word is the law. After RBG slapped down a request to review the constitutionality of Obama’s recess appointments, the rest of the Supreme Court told Scalia to STFU. [Blog of Legal Times]

* “The very idea that she would be headlining a Pepsi event is shocking.” Are Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s days as a judicial darling coming to an end? After attending this event for Yale Law women in April, they may be numbered. [New York Times]

* And you thought they were “Burning Down the House” before! Standard & Poor’s has hired talented trial attorney John Keker of Keker & Van Nest to represent the ratings agency in the DOJ’s $5 billion suit. [Reuters]

* Talk about a soft landing: David Kappos, the former director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, was picked up by Cravath. He’s only the fourth lateral partner the firm’s hired in 50 years. [Am Law Daily]

* Hilarie Bass of Greenberg Traurig is one of the most powerful women in Biglaw. In consideration of that $200M suit, the firm is now shifting to a “boys and one girl club” model. [Daily Business Review (sub. req.)]

* “Axiom simply does it better, faster and cheaper.” The innovative legal services company manned by Biglaw refugees celebrated its thirteenth anniversary with a bang — $28 million in funding. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Oh noooo! We’re a public school and we don’t have enough students to fill the seats! Let’s raise tuition by six percent, then charge everyone the new in-state price, and pretend like it’s a favor. Yay! [National Law Journal]

Under what circumstances would you see Gibson Dunn and Keker & Van Nest going up against each other? They’re two of the top litigation firms in the country, known for racking up victories in trial and appellate courts across the land. But they don’t come cheap.

Well, what if the issue was the enforceability of an $18 billion judgment, obtained in a foreign jurisdiction, that the plaintiffs are trying to enforce here in the United States? A highly questionable judgment, which the defendants are challenging on the grounds that it was the product of fraud and falsified evidence?

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John Keker

I like it when everybody says, ‘This is the worst person in the world — let’s kill him!’ I love to stand between an imperfect human being and the full weight of the hypocritical, holier-than-thou masses.

– Trial attorney John Keker, in a fascinating profile of the man who has represented the likes of Dickie Scruggs, Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, Warren Hellman, and George Lucas.

Judge William Alsup

With proceedings in the “World Series” of high-tech law cases underway (aka Oracle v. Google), lawyers have discovered that the judge overseeing the matter is, well… kind of a hard ass.

His idea of work/life balance? Seemingly nonexistent. He arrives at work no later than 5:30 a.m. This judicial drill sergeant reportedly gets his workouts in by running up and down the stairs of the 20-floor federal building where he works. And most of all, he’s a stickler for the rules — he likes a quiet courtroom.

Got a cough? Need to sneeze? You’d be better off calling in sick than entering this man’s courtroom….

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