Sidley Austin

Opening a legal bill from DLA Piper?

Here at Above the Law, we ❤ DLA Piper. The firm makes for great copy; there’s always something funny, ridiculous, or salacious going down over there.

In fairness to DLA Piper, the craziness might not be that high on a per capita basis. DLA Piper is one of the largest law firms in the world. In the most recent Global 100 rankings, DLA took second place in both total revenue and attorney headcount.

Many of the DLA Piper stories are on the lighter side. But this latest one — involving serious allegations of overbilling, apparently supported by internal DLA emails saying things like “churn that bill, baby!” — is no laughing matter….

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Continuing our annual tradition honoring March Madness, Above the Law is running a law-related bracket, advancing law firms or law schools based on the outcome of reader polls. If you’ve been around for a while, you know the drill. But remember, I’m the new guy, so I’ve made a couple changes to the format this year.

Last year, you hoisted the Lantern of Diogenes to find the Most Honest Law School, and determined that the University of Michigan Law School was the most on the level. And they backed your faith by admitting that one of their graduates had become a shepherd.

This year, it’s time to talk about law firms. Specifically, your collective editors pose this question: Which law firm has the brightest future? The economy is still fragile and people are writing books with scary titles like The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis (affiliate link). The firms in our competition may look healthy today, but we all could have said the same thing at one time about Howrey, Brobeck, Heller, or Dewey.

What firm’s future is so bright their senior partners gotta wear shades?

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It has been a long time since our last listing of the major law firms that offer the “tax offset for domestic partner health benefits” or the “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits.” (If you’re not familiar with this benefit, also known as the “gay gross-up,” see this explanation.)

As we’ve explained before, this benefit is necessary because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Let’s hope that this benefit is no longer necessary in the near future. This Term, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of DOMA (assuming they don’t dodge the issue on jurisdictional grounds). If SCOTUS goes the way of the lower courts, DOMA will go down, and the gay gross-up won’t be needed.

In the meantime, though, the benefit is needed. Let’s take a look at which firms should be added to our list….

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Dean Evan Caminker

* Eric Holder has agreed to serve once more as attorney general during President Barack Obama’s second term, but he still plans to leave at some point — after all, he’s no “Janet Reno of the Justice Department.” [Blog of Legal Times]

* AIG will not join the lawsuit against America. To put that in terms that should be just as outrageous, former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg is still suing America. [Washington Post]

* For those who care about Biglaw firms and the landlords who love them, fear not, because there’s a whole lot of moving and shaking in terms of commercial real estate deals for Arnold & Porter, Goodwin Procter, and Sidley Austin. [Am Law Daily]

* Jacoby & Meyers scored at the Second Circuit: its attack on New York’s ban on non-lawyer firm ownership was reinstated. Soon Walmart will own a firm with “Low Prices. Every day. On everything.” [Bloomberg]

* Who’ll step in to fill Evan Caminker’s $400,000+ shoes as the next dean of Michigan Law? None other than Mark West, who’d like to improve financial aid and loan repayment programs. [National Law Journal]

* Gun nuts, commence your rioting… now. If passed, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sweeping gun-control proposal would make New York the state with the strictest gun laws in the country. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Speaking of needless gun violence, by Friday, we’ll know whether there’s enough evidence to move forward with a trial for James Holmes, the accused shooter in the Aurora movie theater massacre. [New York Times]

Lawyers are obsessed with rankings and prestige, especially those that have to do with emerging markets in the eastern hemisphere. It’s a new year, so the folks at Asian Lawyer decided to start it off with a new rankings system for Biglaw firms, both American-based and those indigenous to the Asia-Pacific region.

Although Asian Lawyer evaluated firms using several different metrics (total attorney headcount of firms based in the Asia-Pacific region, biggest American firms with lawyers in the region, biggest European firms with lawyers in the region, and most attorneys by headcount of any firm in the region), we only really care about two of them.

The most some Americans know about the region is that they’re fans of the delectable cuisine, but can U.S. law firms hang with the Asiatic big boys? No matter how many firms tell you it’s the motion of the ocean that counts, size does matter for the purposes of these rankings….

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We’re tempted to do what we proposed last year regarding Sidley Austin bonuses, by simply writing: “Sidley bonuses are out. The scale is not transparent, so some people may be happy with their bonuses and others may be unhappy. Here is an open thread for you to discuss. Thank you.”

That would at least spare us from some of the criticism we’ve received for our coverage of the Sidley bonuses in recent years. In 2010, we initially wrote a very positive post, which we got criticized for by people who saw it as too positive. In 2011, we went in the other direction, reporting that Sidley’s bonuses drew yawns from associates — an assessment that drew flak for us from happy campers at Sidley (and there are many happy campers at the firm; it enjoys an A- rating from ATL readers who work there).

So we realize that covering the sensitive subject of Sidley bonuses is a bit like trying to reach a budget deal: you can’t make everyone happy, just varying degrees of unhappy. But we’ll give it our best shot….

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November brought us many things to be thankful for, ranging from time spent with family to hurricane relief efforts to the lawyerly antics worthy of representation in our Lawyer of the Month competition.

In what’s probably a first, the majority of this month’s contestants are judges, with a mere sprinkling of lawyers here and there. But when it comes to laying down the law — at least insomuch as this contest is concerned — these controversial jurists are top notch.

Let’s check out our nominees for November’s Lawyer of the Month….

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Tensions between cyclists and pedestrians are always high in big cities, especially a city like New York. When walking on extremely crowded sidewalks, it’s never a pleasant experience to be nearly blindsided as some dude on a bike whizzes by at high speed without a care in the world. We pedestrians are arguably more balanced than those riding bicycles — if one of us got knocked down, we might complain about a scraped knee for a week or two before getting over it. It wouldn’t really be that big of a deal.

But if a cyclist gets knocked down, the consequences could be much worse, and one Sidley Austin lawyer is learning just what a big deal something like this can turn into once the courts are involved. Back in June, Marshall Feiring, tax counsel at Sidley Austin, was arrested and charged with third degree assault and second degree harassment after he allegedly stepped into the bike lane in Central Park and made contact with a female cyclist, causing her to crash.

As if the criminal charges weren’t enough, Feiring is now being sued over the incident….

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‘Standing with your arms folded is underrated.’

Hot air balloons, Ice Cube, new socks, Ray Guy, Uzbek food, Kevin Bacon, plus-size models, Pittsburgh… what do the items on this random list have in common? In some nook or cranny of the internet, someone is making the claim that they are “underrated.”

Apparently also underrated? The corporate group at Cahill Gordon, according to the ATL audience. Cahill received the most mentions as having an “underrated” corporate group in our ATL Insider Survey. Biglaw has a fairly stable roster of alpha dogs in each practice category (Weil in bankruptcy, Wachtell in M&A, etc.), but we wondered which firms’ practice groups deserve more recognition. So, among other things, our survey asks attorneys to nominate firms with underrated (and overrated) practices within the respondent’s own practice specialty. Litigators nominate litigation departments, tax lawyers do the same for tax groups, and so on.

Read on and have a look at the top three underrated firms in each practice area:

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The last winner of our esteemed Comment of the Week contest was rewarded for bringing some Oscar-winning gravitas to an already serious issue. Namely, the oft-crushing weight of student loans.

There’s always time for serious business, but sometimes we appreciate astute observations of minute, easily-overlooked details. (As Mitch Hedberg would have said, “What the f**k is a sesame?”) And our newest Commenter of the Week winner uncovered a similarly amusing logic problem in a former Sidley Austin associate’s book about his adopted K9….

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