Litigatrix

A Supreme Court clerkship is, in the words of Adam Liptak of the New York Times, “the most coveted credential in American law.” When SCOTUS clerks leave their posts at the Court to join private law firms, they get signing bonuses of as much as $250,000 (on top of normal associate salaries and bonuses).

But typically they join their firms as associates (or maybe counsel, if they have a few extra years of practice in addition to clerking). How many clerks come in to Biglaw as partners?

As reported yesterday — by Tony Mauro in The BLT and by Marisa Kashino in Washingtonian magazine, among others — at least one Supreme Court clerk from the Term just ended, October Term 2009, is going to straight into a partnership at a major law firm.

Meet Elizabeth Papez. She clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas in OT 2009. Now she’s joining the D.C. office of Winston & Strawn, where she will practice in commercial and appellate litigation, with a focus on intellectual property and energy law, as well as government relations.

We interview Papez about her interesting career path, after the jump.

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Federal judges are people too — and I have proof. Earlier this week, one federal appellate judge accepted my friend request on Facebook. Another circuit judge emailed me — from a Gmail account (although we didn’t Gchat; that would have been too cool for words).

Judges are real people — with opinions, not just of the judicial kind, and with personalities. They have interesting lives — off the bench, and before they’re appointed to the bench. Judges are not grown in petri dishes, and donning the robes cannot and does not erase their personal or professional histories.

So I’m not quite sure why everyone is getting their proverbial undergarments [FN1] in a wad over a forthcoming memoir by Judge Nancy Gertner (D. Mass.). The pot was first stirred by the Boston Globe, which began its article as follows: “US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner has a memoir coming out in April, and it bears a very unjudicial title: In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate.”

“[A] very unjudicial title.” Really? Is this the Boston Globe, or the Boston Herald?

Let’s delve into the controversy….

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Earlier today, on the Senate floor, debate took place on whether to confirm Solicitor General Elena Kagan as the nation’s 112th Supreme Court justice. The Kagan nomination is not very controversial, due to the nominee’s impeccable credentials and the Democrats’ 59 votes in the Senate.

In the legal blogosphere, a far more divisive debate is raging, over a subject just as important as confirming the fourth woman ever to the Supreme Court: Are peep-toe shoes appropriate professional footwear? Can female attorneys wear them to the office? What about to court?

The debate was ignited over at The Careerist, by Vivia Chen (no style slouch herself — not many legal journalists own floor-length mink coats). Chen recounted this anecdote:

Waiting in line in the ladies room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel recently, I heard this discussion: “In my day, I always wore pumps to court,” said in a woman in her fifties. “Can you believe this associate went to court with open-toe shoes?” Her companion shook her head, then asked: “How did she do?” The first woman replied, “Her work was good, but her shoes weren’t right.”

Chen then surveyed a number of lawyers, from around the country, and they could not reach a consensus on the appropriateness of peep-toe shoes. The debate continued over at the ABA Journal, where a post by Debra Cassens Weiss generated a flurry of comments.

Given that so many law firms are business casual nowadays, it is probably safe to wear peep-toe shoes to the office. The fashion guidelines issued by the New York office of Weil Gotshal, for example, officially bless “open toe or open heel shoes.” (Still unacceptable: “Athletic shoes, clogs, beach shoes, flip flops, beach shoes.”)

But what about wearing peep-toe shoes to court? On this subject, we decided to turn to the experts: namely, a panel of fabulous female federal judges….

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After a 16-year-long fight, Valentino has prevailed in litigation with Florence Fashions over the use of the Valentino trademark. Read an interesting interview with Valentino’s lawyer, Anne Sterba, and comment — over at our sister site, Fashionista.

Valentino Wins 16-Year Trademark Case; Valentino’s Lawyer Explains the Ruling [Fashionista]

The fabulous Elizabeth Wurtzel — the bestselling and critically acclaimed writer, who graduated from Yale Law School and is now a litigatrix at the powerhouse known as Boies Schiller — has a bone to pick with the bar exam. In a recent post on the blog of the Brennan Center — an organization that we won’t try to describe, since some of you objected vigorously to our last attempt — Wurtzel questions the value of the bar exam as a gatekeeping mechanism for lawyers. (Those of you frantically cramming for the test right now might agree with her.)

Wurtzel begins by noting how Kathleen Sullivan — the noted constitutional law scholar, former dean of Stanford Law School, and current name partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan — didn’t pass the California bar.

Wurtzel then argues….

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Lindsay Lohan claims her fingernails were not sending a message to the court.

When actress Lindsay Lohan was sentenced earlier this week to 90 days in jail for probation violations, she showed up in court with fabulous fingernails. If you’d like to learn about how to get the same look for your own nails, check out our sister site, Fashionista.

The tie-dye effect on LiLo’s nails was très cute — the profanity, not so much. After a photographic close-up showed “F**K U” stenciled on her nails, observers wondered if the message was directed at the judge — and whether it might constitute contempt of court. Lohan clarified, via Twitter, that the “F.U.” was not directed at Judge Marsha Revel. (For the record, though, Lohan does think Judge Revel is a “f**king bitch.”)

Still, it probably wasn’t advisable for Lohan to show up in court with profanity printed on her fingernails. Didn’t her attorney — or her former attorney, veteran litigatrix Shawn Chapman Holley, who recently quit the case — advise the actress about courtroom appearance and demeanor?

UPDATE: For the time being, Holley is still Lohan’s lawyer. Page Six reports that Judge Revel won’t allow Holley to leave the case until a substitution of counsel has been filed with the court.

In fairness to Lohan, she probably didn’t expect that the words on her fingernails would be seen. After all, they were only shown to the world thanks to extreme close-up shots by high-definition cameras — cameras that also captured her handwritten courthouse notes. (John Steele of Legal Ethics Forum wonders if this raises privilege issues.)

And perhaps Lindsay Lohan views herself as above the law — and the lawyers. As analysis of the starlet’s Twitter feed reveals, Lohan considers herself to be quite the legal eagle….

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Last Friday, we named Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Ama Dwimoh our Lawyer of the Day. As a prosecutor, Dwimoh goes after child abusers. And yet, according to the New York Daily News — irony alert! — she herself abuses the kiddies, i.e., legal interns in her office.

One reader with firsthand knowledge protested this portrayal of the Brooklyn DA’s office and its treatment of interns:

I’m [a law student] intern at the KCDAO [Kings County District Attorney's Office], and from everything I’ve heard from all of my intern colleagues, the senior ADA’s have been nothing less than amazing — they find us work to do, always treat us with respect, always make us feel appreciated, and the office is gloriously drama-free.

This tipster has a theory about what’s going on here….

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Ama Dwimoh looks composed here, but is it an act?

Deferred associates spending a year in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office claim that Brooklyn ADA Ama Dwimoh is an abusive boss.

At first blush, one assumes that kids who have been coddled at the best schools and top firms simply weren’t prepared for the rough and tumble world of actual lawyering.

But the Brooklyn D.A., Charles Hynes, is seriously looking into the allegations and has suspended Dwimoh. Can she really be that bad?

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Our typical Lawyer of the Day is an attorney you’ve never heard of, from a firm you’ve never heard of. It’s highly unusual for LOTD honors to go to a pair of legal titans, two of the nation’s leading litigators: Ted Wells (pictured) and Marty Flumenbaum, the co-chair and former chair, respectively, of the celebrated litigation department at Paul Weiss.

It appears, however, that the honors are deserved. The New York Law Journal reports:

A New Jersey judge has sanctioned two firms, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Lowenstein Sandler, for pursuing a “frivolous” and “ridiculous” legal claim on behalf of billionaire Ronald Perelman against his 85-year-old ex-father-in-law [Robert Cohen]….

Superior Court Judge Ellen L. Koblitz ruled that Perelman’s attorneys should have known that the claim was unsupportable. “No competent attorney could have missed the frivolous nature of this promise claim once the unhelpful testamentary documents were received,” Koblitz said in ordering the sanctions last Wednesday. “There was no legal or factual basis for the plaintiffs to proceed with their amended complaint given the evidence they had and the state of the law in New Jersey.”

Ouch — quite the stinging benchslap. The Garden State hasn’t seen such a slugging since the first season of Jersey Shore.

And other marquee names got dragged into this mess — a pair of high-powered lady lawyers, in fact….

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White and Case logo.JPGWe’ve written before about partner departures from White & Case. Earlier this month, we discussed the firm’s Palo Alto office, which has recently lost some talent.

The latest partner to leave: patent litigator Jennifer L. Yokoyama, who has accepted an in-house position at Nike. Her departure from W&C is effective April 2.

“We are sorry to lose such a talented young partner in Jennifer,” said Bijal Vakil, executive partner of White & Case’s Palo Alto office. “Nike has a good eye for talent. We wish her and Nike well and look forward to remaining in contact.”

“It is a difficult decision for me to leave White & Case,” said Yokoyama. “It is a great Firm, and the Palo Alto office has an abundance of excellent attorneys and is a wonderful place to work. I could not, however, pass up the opportunity with Nike. It is a dream job for me and one that I could not turn down. I wish my friends and colleagues at White & Case continued success and will miss them dearly.”

How will Yokoyama’s leaving affect White & Case?

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Jennifer Yokoyama Goes In-House to Nike.

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