Net Worth

Hint: the smallest justice may have the biggest net worth.

If you said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that wouldn’t be a bad guess. She has earned millions of dollars in royalties from her bestselling book, My Beloved World (affiliate link). Her days of dental debts are behind her.

But she’s still far from the richest member of the Court. That honor would appear to belong to another woman, whose stature might be small but whose net worth is gigantic….

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There was a threat of a filibuster, but it was averted. Last night, the Senate confirmed Donald Verrilli Jr. to serve as U.S. solicitor general, by a vote of 72-16.

As one might expect of an SG, Verrilli has an incredible résumé. He graduated from Yale College and Columbia Law, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review, then clerked for two legendary judges, Judge J. Skelly Wright (D.C. Cir.) and Justice William Brennan.

And that was just the start of a long and phenomenally successful legal career. Let’s go drool over Don Verrilli’s credentials — and check out his net worth, which is quite robust….

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Katherine Forrest: You'd smile too if you were this rich.

I recently wrote about Katherine B. Forrest, the celebrated litigatrix nominated to a federal judgeship on the breathtakingly prestigious Southern District of New York. Forrest currently serves as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, but before joining the DOJ she was a longtime partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore — a premier, if not the premier, American law firm. Forrest was one of CSM’s most popular (and most powerful) young partners.

Katherine Forrest has a reputation as an incredible attorney, and she has the awards to prove it (see question 8). Not surprisingly, the ABA deemed her “unanimously well-qualified” as an S.D.N.Y. nominee.

So here’s what I wondered: Why did the amazingly accomplished Forrest, a partner at super-lucrative Cravath for over a dozen years, declare a mere $4.3 million on her net worth statement? Granted, $4.3 million is nothing to scoff at; KBF is rich (even by Elie’s standards). But it seemed to me that a lawyer of her distinction, who was a partner at a top firm for such a long time, should be even richer.

Thanks to information from helpful readers who saw my earlier post, I now know the truth. As it turns out, Katherine Forrest is considerably wealthier than that $4.3 million number suggests.

Way richer, in fact. Let’s find out….

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Katherine Forrest: Why isn't her net worth higher?

As I’ve previously mentioned, one of my favorite parts of the judicial nomination process is the attendant financial voyeurism. Judicial nominees are required to make detailed disclosures about their finances, allowing us to learn about their income and net worth. For example, thanks to her nomination to the Supreme Court last year, we got to learn about Elena Kagan’s net worth.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee released financial disclosure reports for several of President Obama’s recent judicial nominees — including antitrust litigatrix Katherine B. Forrest. Forrest has been nominated to the mind-blowingly prestigious Southern District of New York, perhaps the nation’s finest federal trial court. As a highly regarded lawyer who has won numerous awards and accolades (listed in her SJC questionnaire), Forrest will fit right in if confirmed to the S.D.N.Y. — a superstar among superstars.

The fabulous Forrest currently serves as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s antitrust division. She joined the DOJ last October — a commendable public-service commitment that required her to relinquish her partnership in one of America’s mightiest and most prestigious law firms, Cravath, Swaine & Moore. When she left to pursue government service, Forrest had been a Cravath partner for over 12 years (since 1998), and had been with the firm for about 20 years in all (since 1990).

At the time of her departure for the Justice Department, Katherine Forrest had been taking home hefty paychecks for decades. First she was an associate at Cravath, which pays its people quite well, in case you hadn’t heard. Then she was a partner at the firm (reportedly one of the most well-liked and most powerful younger partners) — from 1998 to 2010, a period in which average profits per partner at CSM routinely topped $2 million and occasionally exceeded $3 million. And remember that Cravath is a lockstep partnership with a reported 3:1 spread, meaning that the highest-paid partners make no more than three times as much as the lowest-paid partners. So it’s not possible that she was earning, say, $400,000, while other partners were earning millions (which can be the case at firms with higher spreads).

In light of the foregoing, what is Katherine Forrest’s net worth, according to her Senate Judiciary Committee financial disclosures? Not as much as you might expect….

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And now is the time on Above the Law where Elie gets to say “I told you so.”

About five months ago, I mentioned on this site that making $250,000 a year does not make you rich. People got angry with me for saying that. In the comments and around the internet. Apparently stating an obvious fact in a society that is dealing with a widening gulf between the haves and have-nots is controversial.

But at least I confined my financial musings to people in the six-figure range. A new report from Fidelity Investments says that people who are sitting on seven figures of wealth don’t feel rich until they have about $7.5 million.

[Throat-clearing noise.]

I TOLD YOU SO….

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Earlier this week, we published a Lawyerly Lairs post about a graduating 3L named Jimmy. According to the blog Urban Turf, “Jimmy” is a 27-year-old law student with a job in D.C. Biglaw lined up, starting at $160,000. If that’s not enough to make you hate Jimmy, he also has a credit score of 781, $140,000 in the bank for a down payment on his first home, and no student loan debt.

Jimmy triggered envy, player-hating, and other strong reactions in the comments:

“F**k Jimmy. I graduated with 3.3 and couldn’t fund a job with a Biglaw firm in DC. Hence I make $75K, have $90K in student loans, $5K on credit cards and $0 for a down payment. Again, F**k Jimmy.”

“I’m sure there are several women here who are also thinking ‘Fuck Jimmy.’”

Meanwhile, blogger Jane Genova expressed doubt that Jimmy exists. A newly minted law school graduate, with zero debt and (at least) $140K in the bank — is this like believing in Santa Claus?

Jimmy is certainly very fortunate. But is he so fortunate that he’s incredible? No. His financial state could be explained by any number of factors, alone or in combination, such as (1) generous parents or other relatives, (2) a past inheritance, (3) a successful first career before law school (e.g., in finance), or (4) a full-ride scholarship to law school.

In the comments to the Jimmy post, ATL readers started to anonymously share details about their personal finances and net worths. If you found this interesting, be sure to check out this article in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, entitled “Net-Worth Obsession.” It’s about people who obsessively track their net worths over time and compare themselves to others on this front, sometimes with the help of websites (such as NetWorthIQ, featured prominently in the article).

Are you a net-worth obsessive? Tell us your net worth (anonymously), learn the net worths of some of your fellow readers, and see how your net worth stacks up against that of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan — after the jump….

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It’s that time of the year again, kids: when the members of the Supreme Court release their financial disclosure forms. We now get to engage in a little bit of financial voyeurism, learning which justices have gold-plated gavels, and which ones must settle for plastic. Delicious!

Unfortunately, the information isn’t as comprehensive as it could be. Asset values are reported in ranges, not exact dollar amounts. Primary residences aren’t included. But we’ll take what we can get.
As was the case last year, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Souter top the list. Here are the asset ranges, justice by justice:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: $6,400,000-$28,000,000

David Souter: $5,600,000-$26,300,000

Stephen G. Breyer: $4,125,080-$15,440,000

John G. Roberts, Jr.: $2,235,063-$5,860,000

John Paul Stevens: $1,590,018-$3,480,000

Antonin Scalia: $700,019-$1,595,000

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: $665,025-$1,740,000

Clarence Thomas: $150,006-$410,000

Anthony Kennedy: $65,005-$195,000

Additional commentary and links, after the jump.

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