Whistleblowers

Jesselyn Radack

I joke that I use drug dealer tactics. It’s a terrible way to work as an attorney, but you have to.

Jesselyn Radack, the national security and human rights director for the Government Accountability Project, commenting on the lengths to which she must go to protect her most famous client’s secrecy.

Radack represents Edward Snowden, and in her dealings with him she has abandoned WiFi — it’s too insecure — and used burner phones and two laptops (one of which is encrypted). She accepts only cash payments and will discuss his case only in person.

Home is where the heart business is?

Recently, a short piece in the Marshfield News Herald describing the downsides of entrepreneurship included this sad story about another solo practice that didn’t make it to the finish line, this time for geographic reasons:

“A few years ago, a lawyer I know had to leave her hometown where she had lived most of her life and move cross country for family reasons. And because she loved her solo practice and the flexibility it afforded her as a mother, and since she is smart and confident, she decided to re-start her solo practice in the new city, thinking it would not be too difficult. But it proved to be much more challenging than she ever thought.”

“Back here, in her hometown where she knew everyone, clients were not hard to come by. In the new city however, she had a lot fewer contacts and even fewer potential clients. And given that back here she had not really had to work too hard to get business, she never really learned about marketing, so that too was new. Eventually, between the Not-So-Great Recession and the challenges of starting from scratch, she finally had to go to work for someone else.”

The article got me thinking: How much of an edge does a lawyer’s hometown — or college or law school town, for that matter — provide in starting a successful solo practice?

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Edward Snowden returned to the news this week when NBC aired an hour-long interview with him, the first on American TV. Anchor Brian Williams met with Snowden in a Moscow hotel. The 30-year-old former computer systems administrator described his motives for releasing an unprecedented payload of classified information about NSA surveillance.

Snowden is vexing. As a person, he seems a mix of likeable and unlikeable traits. He appears earnest, convinced of the rectitude of his choices even if, as he told NBC, “Sometimes, to do the right thing you have to break the law.” Yet he bristles at Obama Administration characterizations of him as a low-level employee, a high-school dropout. (For example, the president told reporters last year, “No, I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”) Even if Snowden is right to resist the connotations of those labels, listening to him defend himself in the interview can be painful. He insists he was “trained as a spy” who lived under an assumed identity and was a powerful operator. He sounds like a young man with a bruised ego. The last thing one wants to have to worry about in a situation of this great national and international importance, though, is one young man’s ego.

Snowden’s case is more important and more vexing. NSA’s surveillance programs are deeply troubling….

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Robert S. Mueller III

* Congratulations to WilmerHale on landing former FBI director Robert Mueller, and congratulations to Mueller on his move (a homecoming of sorts; he was once a partner at Hale & Dorr, the “Hale” in “WilmerHale”). [DealBook / New York Times]

* A former television judge gets held in real-life contempt. [Memphis Commercial Appeal]

* In the wake of the Dewey & LeBoeuf criminal charges, Jean O’Grady poses an interesting question: should law firms have whistleblower programs? [Dewey B Strategic]

* “Have a Better Legal Career by Being Less of a Lawyer.” [Medium]

* This story of losing a client might contain lessons for lawyers. [BigLawRebel]

* As we previously mentioned, the SCOTUS-themed play Arguendo is coming to D.C., and there’s a discount code for ATL readers: WMATL, good for 15% off on previews, Friday nights, Saturday matinees, and Sunday evenings. Enjoy! [Woolly Mammoth]

* In case you missed our Attorney@Blog conference, our friends at wireLawyer were on hand to document the proceedings. Video after the jump….

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Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s new poet-in-residence, Qui Tam.

Qui Tam. Short for a Latin phrase that means, more or less, self-righteously suing alongside the King, and keeping a little on the side for yourself. More commonly known today as a whistleblower action, where a private individual with knowledge of fraud gets sheltered by the feds and a nice cut of the penalties imposed for said fraud. So basically the same idea in Latin and common parlance.

For purposes of this column — which will be a collection of observational “poems,” chronicling experiences the writer may or may not have had during a pretty vanilla T1 law school and corporate legal career — what I am going for is the “whistleblower” allusion (quite self-flattering, not to mention self-righteous). Oh, and the pretentious use of Latin is designed to create a sense of sophistication where one probably doesn’t exist (sorry Bryan Garner, but it is true).

I now present to you my first poem:

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* Friendly reminder: All your holiday card competition submissions are due at the end of the day Monday! [Above the Law]

* Congratulations to Georgetown’s Nina Pillard on her confirmation to the D.C. Circuit. That whole “no filibuster” thing is really working out for the Democrats. For now. [Georgetown Law]

* The daily trials and travails of a law grad working retail. Some day the aisles run red with the blood of the supporters of Barbara from the men’s cologne counter. [Law Grad Working Retail]

* What if lawyers created some of the greatest ads in history? Missing: “Avis: We Try Harder” vs. “Avis.” [Vice]

* An interview with a whistleblower. What happened to the man who exposed the NYPD’s practice of creating quotas for summonses and arrests? [Colorlines]

* Mark Herrmann talks about his prosopagnosia. [New York Times]

* Robbery suspect explains that the crime was committed by his alternate personality that takes over against the suspect’s will. Looks like Killer BOB is on the loose and committing crimes in Wisconsin! [Stevens Point Journal]

* We’ve discussed the chimp case, but the real question is how will this all affect Superman. [Law and the Multiverse]

Public opinion is polarized regarding the mega-leakers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. One common view holds them to be heroic patriots. To others, they’re simply traitors. Prominent whistleblower attorney John Howley asks us to consider the possibility that they can be both at once.

Last week, ATL—along with our friends at Lawline—hosted a fascinating (seriously) and timely CLE course, Whistleblowers, Traitors and the Rule of Law. Howley walked the attendees through the various laws governing whistleblowers, treason, and espionage. He also gave an overview of the most important whistleblower and treason cases, as well as explored the thorny legal and ethical implications for lawyers involved in such cases.

The course was as much a history lesson as a legal one. The role of whistleblower plays an integral part of our national history. In fact, the first American whistleblower law predates the country’s founding. In 1777, sailors accused the commander of the Continental Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, of torturing captured British sailors, and petitioned the Continental Congress to remove him. Hopkins sued for criminal libel, and Congress — by unanimous vote — agreed to defend the sailors in the suit. Congress also passed a law requiring all military members to inform Congress of “misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers in the service of these states.”

Many of the most important heroes in American history were, technically, traitors, including the Founding Fathers. And knowingly so. As Benjamin Franklin quipped, “We must hang together or we will hang separately.”

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