Litigatrix

If you’re a big corporate defendant hoping to be represented by Sheila Birnbaum and you head over to Skadden Arps, sorry — you’re out of luck. Your princess is in another castle.

The so-called “Queen of Toxic Torts” is about to leave her longtime realm. Birnbaum, the legendary litigatrix who currently serves as co-head of Skadden’s mass torts and insurance litigation group, is decamping to a rival.

So where is Birnbaum taking her talents — and her bulging book of business, estimated at more than $30 million? And is anyone else going with her?

(Multiple UPDATES, including Skadden’s internal memo, after the jump.)

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* The justices of the Supreme Court gave a thumbs down to hearing a challenge to New York’s “de facto ban” on carrying guns in public, prompting members of the National Rifle Association to poop their pants. [New York Times]

* Now that Mary Jo White is the chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Debevoise has picked her successor to act as co-chair of the litigation department. Congratulations go out to Mary Beth Hogan. [DealBook / New York Times]

* In its latest court filings, Ropes & Gray explains why failing to give its “token black associate” a recommendation letter wasn’t an act of retaliation. That’ll surely be an interesting read. [Am Law Daily]

* A former client sues a major law firm, raising fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and other claims. [Bailey & Glasser (press release and complaint)]

* Boston Biglaw firms — like Dechert, Edwards Wildman, and Foley & Lardner — were “really shaken” by yesterday’s blasts, but report that all employees are safe and accounted for. [National Law Journal]

* Six out of 10 of the 4,967 class of 2012 graduates from New York’s law schools were able to find full-time, long-term positions as lawyers nine months after graduation. Yay? [New York Law Journal]

* Secrets, secrets are no fun; secrets, secrets hurt… someone’s wallet. Sorry, Jamie McCourt, but all of the secret MLB documents concerning the Dodgers’ $2 billion sale will remain secret. [Bloomberg]

‘This email is unbelievable….’

One argument you sometimes hear in favor of making the jump from Biglaw to boutique is that small firms are, for lack of a better word, nicer. Everyone knows everyone else, so people treat each other with respect and even kindness. The hours are less brutal than at large law firms, and the overall environment is less impersonal and more friendly. The lawyers and staff at small firms are less focused on billable hours and the bottom line than their Biglaw counterparts.

At least that’s the conventional wisdom. But is it universally true? According to one current employee of Faruqi & Faruqi, the litigation boutique on the receiving end of an epic sexual harassment lawsuit, F&F is not exactly a “Fun & Fabulous” place to work.

And this person provided email messages from the two name partners to support their claims….

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Who is the Judy Garland of Biglaw?

What makes someone a gay icon? I’m tempted to fall back on Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quotation: “I know it when I see it.”

But such instinctive judgments still rest upon criteria. Regarding gay icons, Wikipedia advises: “Qualities of a gay icon often include glamour, flamboyance, strength through adversity, and androgyny in presentation. Such icons can be of any sexual orientation or gender; if LGBT, they can be out or not. Although most gay icons have given their support to LGBT social movements, some have expressed opposition, advocating against a perceived homosexual agenda.’”

So you don’t have to be gay or pro-gay-rights to be a gay icon — which brings me to a partner I hereby dub the Judy Garland of Biglaw. She has a most interesting skeleton in her closet, which might explain her staunch opposition to gay marriage….

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Here at Above the Law, we write about career alternatives for attorneys from time to time, but it’s been a while since we last brought our readers an exciting story about extracurricular activities for attorneys. That being the case, here’s a little fun fact for you: many of the female members of this fine profession have, at one point or another in their lives, been on cheerleading squads.

Whether you’re a law student or a Supreme Court justice (yes, RBG once shook her pom-poms on the field), moonlighting as a cheerleader has its perks. What better way to learn how to BE AGGRESSIVE! B-E AGGRESSIVE! B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E! in the courtroom?

Today’s legal cheerleader has an impressive rack résumé: she used to work in Biglaw, she’s now working as an ADA, and most importantly, she moonlights as a cheerleader for the Atlanta Falcons. Wouldn’t you like to have a lovely litigatrix like her on your side?

Let’s take a look at her cheerleading bio and, because this post would be WWOP, some photos of this gorgeous glamazon….

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Patricia A. Martone

“You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away — a man is not a piece of fruit.”

– Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (affiliate link)

Take this famous line and replace “man” with “law firm partner,” and you’ve captured the gist of the lawsuit against Ropes & Gray brought by Patricia Martone, who alleges age and sex discrimination by her former firm. (Martone, a former IP litigation partner at Ropes, is now a Morrison & Foerster partner.)

When I broke the news of this lawsuit back in 2011, I expected a speedy settlement. Would Ropes really want to go toe to toe with a pair of high-powered litigatrices, namely, Martone and her formidable employment lawyer, Anne Vladeck?

But here we are, two years later, and the battle rages on. Ropes has hired a third leading litigatrix to defend itself. Let’s learn the latest news….

(Note the multiple UPDATES at the end of this post.)

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Mary Jo White

Mary Jo White? More like Mary Jo Green. President Obama’s pick to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission is deliciously rich, as revealed in her financial disclosures.

Although she’s barely five feet tall, making her a little litigatrix, Mary Jo White wears big shoes. In the words of my colleague Elie Mystal, a former Debevoise & Plimpton associate, she’s “one of those alpha dog partners…. the kind of partner that makes other partners stammer, shuffle papers, and try to look really busy and intelligent when she’s in the room.”

The sizable net worth of Mary Jo White shouldn’t surprise anyone. Not only is she a longtime Debevoise partner, but her husband, John W. White, has been a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore for more than 25 years (interrupted from 2006 through 2008 by a stint at the SEC, actually, where he served as Director of the Division of Corporation Finance).

Let’s get a sense of Mary Jo White’s fortune….

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It looks like a silly marginal tax increase on the personal incomes of the top 2 percent is the last thing the barons of Wall Street need to worry about. President Obama is sending a new sheriff into the regulatory fray.

Dealbook reports that Obama will nominate former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sending in White to the SEC is a little bit like calling the Wolf to drive home your blood-soaked vehicle. It’s a bold move for an agency that is often overwhelmed by the impressive lawyers marshaled on behalf of the financial industry in defense of their most complex transactions.

Unlike Elizabeth Warren (bless her heart), Mary Jo White is no academic, she’s a hard-nosed litigator. And she might be exactly what the SEC needs…

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Elizabeth Wurtzel, today.

Why do we love to write about celebrity author and lawyer Elizabeth Wurtzel? Because people love to read about her. Even a passing mention of La Wurtzel garners thousands of pageviews, and her name routinely shows up in the top search terms that bring readers to Above the Law.

We aren’t alone in devoting significant editorial real estate to Liz Wurtzel. New York Magazine just published a mammoth essay by this bestselling memoir writer and former Boies Schiller associate. The piece, exceeding 5,500 words, appeared in print as well as online — accompanied by photos of Wurtzel looking much younger than her 45 years.

Wurtzel looks fabulous in the photos, but the essay itself is something of a downer. If you enjoy hating on Wurtzel, taking schadenfreude from her financial, romantic, and bar exam failures, you need to read it….

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Mitt Romney’s unfortunate comment at the most recent presidential debate, in which he boasted about receiving “binders full of women” while trying to build a diverse cabinet as Governor or Massachusetts, has become a wildly popular internet meme. If you’re looking for some good laughs, check out this Tumblr or this slideshow.

Happily, there’s a Biglaw connection to all of this. At which leading law firm can you assemble your own “binder full of women”?

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