Tax

With the Supreme Court’s 2013 term concluding on Monday, many Americans are assessing how they feel about the judicial branch of their government. Even if you are still reeling about some of the decisions made recently by the least dangerous branch, don’t forget the executive. The president and his agencies can also make you wonder how the American experiment is panning out.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton issued an order to hear oral arguments from lawyers representing the Internal Revenue Service and the conservative nonprofit True the Vote. True the Vote is one of the conservative groups claiming IRS improperly targeted its application for nonprofit status based on the group’s political and philosophical affiliation. True the Vote filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and expedited discovery on Monday, calling for an independent forensics examination of any IRS hard drives, servers, or other computer hardware involved in the government agency’s possible targeting of conservative nonprofits’ applications for tax-exempt status. It wants an outside computer expert to try to ascertain how and when any electronic evidence, such as former IRS Commissioner Lois Lerner’s emails, may have been lost. Also, it would be great if the government didn’t spoliate — I mean “recycle” — any more evidence….

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Tax Day was earlier this week. Like many Americans, I said some prayers — and a few curses — and hoped that Turbo Tax made sense of my mid-year move from D.C. to Texas, my investment roll-overs, my handful of I-9s and W-2s. I did my damnedest to be “true, correct, and complete,” as the IRS insisted. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted via Twitter that he has “absolutely no idea whether our tax returns and our tax payments are accurate,” though, of course, he didn’t say that he knew that they weren’t accurate.

Campaign for Liberty, Ron Paul’s 501(c)(4) organization, announced this week that it’s actually pretty sure that its tax recent filings are incomplete, even if true and correct. (Two out of three ain’t bad?) According to C4L, the organization refused to divulge the names of its donors when it filed its IRS 990 forms. The IRS fined Campaign for Liberty just shy of $13,000, plus growing interest for each day the fine goes unpaid.

How did Campaign for Liberty respond? Not as you might expect….

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* The Woody Allen-Mia Farrow custody findings were pretty damning. But for legal geeks, the important point is footnote 1, where the opinion shouts out then-clerk, now federal judge Analisa Torres for her role in drafting the opinion. [Huffington Post]

* Um… you shouldn’t do that with a sea anemone. [Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals]

* Judge Stanwood Duval presided over the criminal trial of a BP engineer arising from the BP oil spill. He forgot to mention that he was a plaintiff in a suit against BP arising from the BP oil spill. Oops.[New Orleans Times-Picayune]

* Maybe Harvard needs some new tax lawyers. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Apparently, the Brits aren’t too thorough with their background checks. A lawyer got exposed for lying about having two Harvard degrees. It only took bar authorities 9 years to figure it out. [Legal Cheek]

* Elie weighs in on the McGruff the crime dog story from last week. [ATL Redline]

* And part of the problem with the background check may start at the law school stage — the U.K. doesn’t consider criminal convictions for fraud in the U.S. as “relevant” for future practitioners of law. One tipster wonders if Stephen Glass should try his luck outside America? [New York Times]

* UNLV Professor Nancy Rapoport offers some mixed thoughts on the Santa Clara professor’s “Local Rules.” [Nancy Rapoport's Blogspot]

* Mathew Martoma’s conviction probably doesn’t mean all that much. Except to him, of course. For him it means some quality time in federal prison. [Dealbreaker]

Ascension to Biglaw partnership demands, obviously and above all, an enormous amount of first-rate legal work, in addition to political savvy, endurance, timing, and luck. A would-be partner’s chosen practice area also undoubtedly plays no small role. If firm leadership believes that there will be a spate of major Chapter 11 filings or trademark litigations on the horizon, obviously that will redound to the benefit of the potential bankruptcy or IP partners (although, as recent news reflects, partnership isn’t necessarily the lucrative, secure lifetime position it once was).

Late last year, ATL took a close look at the newly minted partner classes for the Vault 10 firms. Despite the great profitability and prestige of this select group, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the general direction of the legal market from the composition of these partnership classes. First of all, this is a small sample size. Second, we are witnessing an important shift in the allocation of the business within the market. A recent AdvanceLaw survey of general counsel at major global corporations found that three-quarters of general counsel were inclined to engage “less-pedigreed” firms (e.g., outside the Vault 10 or Magic Circle) for “high stakes” legal work. This survey of GCs (including those from Google, Nike, 3M, Unilever and Deutsche Bank) indicated their willingness to engage firms lower down the Biglaw totem pole.

Because of the apparent diminishment of the brand value of the most historically prestigious firms, as well as the broader trends toward disaggregation and unbundling of legal services, one must account for a larger set of law firms in order to see the fullest picture of the market for high-end legal services. With that in mind, today we look at the practice areas of the entire Biglaw partnership class of 2013….

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Woody Allen

* Woody Allen’s lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz, responds to Dylan Farrow’s account of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of her famous father. [Gawker; Gothamist]

* Sound advice from Professor Glenn Reynolds on how not to increase applications to your law school. [Instapundit]

* What is a “nitro dump,” and will it provide information about who (or what) killed Philip Seymour Hoffman? [ATL Redline]

* “Is Elena Kagan a ‘paranoid libertarian?’ Judging by [Cass] Sunstein’s definition, the answer is yes.” [Reason via Althouse]

* A petition of possible interest to debt-laden law school graduates: “Increase the student loan interest deduction from $2,500 to the interest actually paid.” [WhiteHouse.gov]

* Vivia Chen wonders: Is Amy Chua, co-author of The Triple Package (affiliate link), being attacked as racist in a way that it itself racist? [Time]

* Yikes — journalists around the country have been receiving “a flurry of subpoenas in recent months,” according to Jeff Kosseff of Covington & Burling. [InsideTechMedia]

* Congratulations to Orrick’s 15 new partners — an impressively diverse group, from a wide range of practice areas and from offices around the world. [Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe]

Another day, another round of Biglaw bonuses. Today is Hump Day, so why not pair our bonus news with some exciting lateral partner moves?

Earlier this week, Ropes & Gray announced its 2013 year-end bonus scale. It’s no Boies Schiller $300K bonus, that’s for sure, but it’s a tad more interesting than your run-of-the-mill Cravath match.

Keep reading for all of the details on the Ropes & Gray bonus, news on the firm’s latest partner class, and the announcement of a very recent lateral pick-up from a firm that’s bleeding partners….

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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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Counselor, you’re out of order.

Lawyer jokes notwithstanding, most lawyers are ethical, honorable, and competent. That’s why we tend to focus on attorney misbehavior in these pages; it’s more newsworthy. If a lawyer complies with the law or serves a client well, that’s not exactly “news”; it’s what lawyers are supposed to do, and what most lawyers do most of the time.

Alas, sometimes lawyers fall short of our profession’s high standards. Today we look at allegations of a high-ranking government lawyer abusing the perks of his office, a tax lawyer engaging in tax fraud, and a real estate lawyer who has people real mad — after taking $4 million from them.

Which of these attorneys deserves to be our Lawyer of the Day? We’ll describe their alleged misdeeds, outline the reasons for and against Lawyer of the Day honors, then let you vote for the winner….

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It’s just been confusing. We’ll just be glad to do our taxes just like any other family.

Andrew Cohen, a lawyer in New York who married his husband last year, discussing one effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, which struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

(Additional DOMA discussion, after the jump.)

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“In four minutes, it would be another hour; a half hour after that was the ten-minute break. Lane Dean imagined himself running around on the break, waving his arms and shouting gibberish and holding ten cigarettes at once in his mouth, like a panpipe. Year after year, a face the same color as your desk. Lord Jesus. Coffee wasn’t allowed because of spills on the files, but on the break he’d have a big cup of coffee in each hand while he pictured himself running around the outside grounds, shouting. He knew what he’d really do on the break was sit facing the wall clock in the lounge and, despite prayers and effort, count the seconds tick off until he had to come back and do this again. And again and again and again.”

David Foster Wallace, The Pale King (affiliate link)

Yesterday, the New York Times ran a longish piece on just what in the hell was happening at the IRS office in Cincinnati. A Kafkaesque tale of bureaucratic intrigue, the treatment does little to tell us why in the hell we care just what in the hell was happening at the IRS office in Cincinnati. I’ll leave that determination to the qualified pundits and their punditry.

But what the Times article does do is shine a light on what it means to be a lawyer. What it means to others and what it means to us. Completely by accident, the mess at the IRS tells us how important lawyers are. And how impotent we are. This makes little sense even as I type it. But bear with me. Please. It is not often that meaning comes so nicely gift-wrapped.

What does it mean to be a lawyer?

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