Vicious Infighting

What Mr. [Richard] Trenk did was so egregiously sloppy that I’m told his name is entering the legal lexicon: “To Trenk” means “to show a lackadaisical attitude toward the law, with catastrophic results for the client.” A usage example might be: “We were doing great until the lawyer missed the filing deadline and Trenked the whole case.”

Jake Freivald, owner of the domain name westorange.info, in public comments made during last night’s West Orange Township Council meeting. Freivald received a cease-and-desist letter from Trenk, and Freivald’s lawyer, Stephen Kaplitt, responded with a snarky letter that went viral globally.

(What else happened at the meeting? I attended, and it was a hot mess, jam-packed with shouting and even tears. Read on to get the juicy details….)

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General Spoiler Alert: You may not want to read this column if you have not yet finished reading “A Storm of Swords” (affiliate link) or finished watching season three of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Care has been taken to eliminate any spoilers, but by definition spoilers are personal, and I don’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the books or show.

Imagine a conference room. Filled with lawyers, in this case an Am Law 100 law firm’s D.C.-based bankruptcy practice. Fifteen lawyers in total. Four partners, two senior counsel, and nine associates of various experience levels. All came to the firm four years ago, when the then-nascent mega-firm picked up an entire D.C.-centric firm in a merger. The bankruptcy guys decided to go with the new outfit, choosing to remain with old colleagues and hoping for some exposure to the new mega-firm’s promised synergies. Business has been okay, even as the current year has been a little soft. In their minds, it also would have been nice to have more fellow bankruptcy practitioners in other offices, but despite their relative isolation (in geography and practice area), the group has managed to pick up a big matter or two via referral from other groups. Things are plodding along.

The head of the practice is about to turn the reins of the meeting over to one of the associates — who will be summarizing some recent case law out of Delaware. It is a spring Tuesday, and everyone is eating, drinking, or doing the smartphone stare. All of a sudden, the door swings open. In marches the office managing partner, flanked by the office manager/HR liason, and one of the D.C.-based members of the executive committee — who closes the door and locks it….

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As both trial lawyers and journalists well know, there are (easily more than) two sides to every story. The same underlying events can give rise to completely different narratives, depending on whom you talk to.

Is a mother who takes her own life and almost takes that of her child deserving of condemnation or sympathy? Are two law students accused of killing a bird a pair of “sick individuals,” or two basically good guys who just had a bad night?

Yesterday we wrote about Weil Gotshal’s reaction to losing two litigation partners to Quinn Emanuel in D.C. Since our story was published, we’ve heard from multiple sources who vigorously dispute our prior tipsters’ version of events….

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Two litigation partners in the Washington office of Weil Gotshal, Michael Lyle and Eric Lyttle, have left Weil to join the D.C. office of Quinn Emanuel. Lyle, a successful trial lawyer who also worked in the White House during the Clinton Administration, was particularly prominent at Weil Gotshal: he served as managing partner of the D.C. office and was a member of the firm’s management committee.

Quinn Emanuel has been on a lateral hiring tear, so it’s not exactly shocking when they lure stars away from other firms. And QE’s Washington office has been particularly active on the hiring front. Just last month, for example, they hired a longtime federal prosecutor, Sam Sheldon, deputy chief of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, out of the Justice Department.

So here’s what is especially interesting about the Lyle and Lyttle departures: how Weil reacted to the news. Let’s just say Weil didn’t take it sitting down….

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We’re in that soft part of the second semester where things are generally calm on the law school front. Most 1Ls have figured out that they don’t need to be really paying attention yet, and the ones who haven’t are quietly plugging away in the library, oblivious to the outside world. The 2Ls are making plans for the summer (whether at a firm or visiting mom). And 3Ls without jobs are in the quiet, catatonic state where they haven’t fully processed what’s about to happen to them and they’re kind of wafting through campus waiting for somebody to wake them up and tell them it was all a dream.

Usually, the law student freak-out machine doesn’t get cranking again until April, which is why today’s campus “controversy” feels a bit like a tempest in a teapot. Essentially, a group of law students are accusing their student government of misusing their budget. We’ve seen this kind of thing before, but this time there’s a twist.

Yes, I’m shocked, SHOCKED that the people who run for law school student government did something to try to make themselves look more important than everybody else….

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‘Watch me pull a constitutional crisis out of my hat!’

Upon hearing “moose hunt,” most people assume they’ve stumbled upon a rerun of Sarah Palin’s Alaska and reach for their remote and/or loaded handgun to end the pain.

But in this case, the moose hunt factors into a six-count indictment against three former government officials and marks the latest twist in an ongoing leadership crisis on U.S. soil that would make some post-Soviet Republics blush.

Moose hunts, country music, kangaroo courts, and the tale of a large-scale Native American constitutional crisis after the jump….

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I must confess to having a tin ear when it comes to issues of race. My view on racial issues is like my view on sports: What’s the big deal? Why does everyone care so much?

Perhaps it’s because I’m Asian; we tend to be bystanders as African-Americans and whites yell at each other. Perhaps it’s because I’m Filipino-American; we are total mutts a very hybrid people. Not to go all Fauxcahontas on you, but according to my (not genealogically verified) family lore, I have Malay, Chinese, Spanish, British, and Czech ancestry.

And thanks to the rise of intermarriage in the United States, my kind of ethnic hybridity is the wave of the future. In fifty or 100 or 150 years, more people will have my blasé attitude about race because “race” as a concept will be so much less salient. To tweak the famous words of Chief Justice John Roberts, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to intermarry so much so that nobody knows what race anybody else is.”

In the meantime, though, there’s plenty of racial tension to go around. Today we bring you allegations of racism at a law school, countered by allegations of playing the race card (i.e., crying racism in bad faith or without sufficient proof).

Let’s take a look at the latest heated controversy, taking place at a top law school….

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We’ve previously covered the departure of Paul Schiff Berman as dean of George Washington University Law School. There was a lot of intrigue regarding Dean Berman’s departure.

Now it appears that the decision on Dean Berman’s replacement is also steeped in controversy. Today, GW Law named Professor Gregory Maggs as its interim dean. In so doing, the school passed over their Senior Associate Dean, Christopher Bracey. Instead of promoting Bracey into the interim dean position, he’ll stay on at GW, under Maggs.

This seems like a good time to point out that Maggs is white and Bracey is black.

And so let’s play our game, because a member of the GW Law Faculty, who is also black, had a real problem with the decision to pass over Bracey. She called it “not the law school’s finest hour” in a message to the entire faculty. And then she subtly told another faculty member to go jump in a lake.

Fun times….

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As we reported yesterday, Dean Paul Schiff Berman is leaving the deanship at the George Washington University Law School to assume a university-wide position as GW’s “Vice Provost for Online Education and Academic Innovation.” He’s switching jobs effective January 16, 2013.

Since the news of Dean Berman’s resignation became public, we’ve heard all sorts of rumors about why he’s departing as dean of GW Law. What are the rumors — and is there any truth to them?

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The people out at Saint Louis University School of Law sure know how to get in the news. First, the law school dean resigns behind an epic departure memo. Then they hire a new law dean who is really a personal injury attorney. Then the personal injury attorney/law dean says he’s not a “butt boy” to the University President, Father Lawrence Biondi.

I think from now on the logo should read: “SLU Law: When the law stops being polite, and starts getting real.”

While New Jersey law students have been swimming to school, out in the heartland the kids are protesting the university president. And the law faculty issued a historic vote of “no confidence” in the university leadership…

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