Weirdness

Peter Barta 2 Peter A Barta Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgWe continue to follow the story of Peter Barta, the Legal Aid lawyer who allegedly made secret videotapes of his female colleagues getting dressed. Tales like this — along with associate pay raises, of course — are the raison d’etre of ATL.
After we quoted a tipster stressing that Peter Barta did policy or cross-examination debate in high school, rather than Lincoln-Douglas debate, commenters argued vociferously over whether C-X or L-D debaters get laid more. One commenter helpfully provided a link to the website for alumni of the Stuyvesant High School debate team. Here’s the entry on Barta:

Peter Barta ’92 – Debated with Eric Yuen. Came back and coached for a while. “After NYU, I went to law school at Georgetown. Now, I work as a public defender with the Legal Aid Society in Manhattan. Essentially, I’m still debating.” (3/12/03)

And still acting like a horny high schooler. And living at home with mom.
As it turns out, though, Peter Barta is not the Stuy policy debate team’s most (in)famous alumnus. That honor surely belongs to Dick Morris, the noted political commentator and consultant.
Yes, THAT Dick Morris. The self-described “sex addict”. And devotee of toe-sucking.
A new nickname for C-X debaters: C-XXX debaters?
Stuyvesant Policy Debate Alumni [official website]

Welcome back! Hope you had a nice Fourth of July holiday.
This gentleman certainly did, protesting yesterday outside the White House. We appreciate the shout-out to this very fine website:
White House protestor Abovethelaw Above the Law legal blog.jpg

Howrey LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPGBack on Wednesday, we reported that Howrey LLP plans to chuck lockstep compensation for its associates. Starting in 2008, the firm will employ a “competency model,” in which it would “determine salary based on individual evaluations and various forms of progress indicators.”
Today our scoop was picked up by The Recorder (and then by the WSJ Law Blog). From The Recorder:

In a radical departure from the status quo, Howrey is getting rid of lockstep compensation for its associates….

While Howrey first-years will start at the market rate — the firm recently raised them to $160,000 — all other associates will advance through different levels based on personal evaluations instead of seniority. Each level has a salary range, and [partner Henry] Bunsow said top performers would be paid more than market, while some could make less.

“The goal is not to have associates make less than their counterparts at other firms,” Bunsow said. “If poor performers can get a better deal somewhere else, that may be a marketplace reality — we would hope that this system wouldn’t promote that.”

“The goal is not to have associates make less than their counterparts at other firms” — sounds a bit defensive, but whatever.
This system will be highly customized, but complicated:

The evaluations will be based on performance and experience, which could shorten the partnership track for some and lengthen it for others. Since Howrey is a litigation-focused firm, factors like writing, deposition, trial practice and client presentation skills will be considered, Bunsow said. Although there will be bonuses based on hours, that will be just one of many considerations in the evaluation, he added….

Associates will be assigned to partners who will be responsible for their development and their individual evaluations. A full-time staff person will be hired to oversee the program and to make sure that associates feel they are being treated fairly, Bunsow said.

Okay, we’re getting a headache. This sounds like the brainchild of a Soviet bureaucrat.
And this is just the simplified version. If you’re interested in the dirty details, an internal Howrey email — which includes mention of a “Competency Czar” — appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Raise Watch: More About the Howrey Weirdness”

Howrey LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPGAs associate salaries climb (further) into the stratosphere, will firms start experimenting with different compensation schemes? Is lockstep compensation for associates headed for the dustbin of history?
As we mentioned yesterday, Thelen Reid just moved to a two-tier system. And now we’re hearing that Howrey LLP may have something odd up its sleeve.
Today the firm had a meeting / conference call about compensation matters. Here are two reports:

“They are planning to adopt a sweeping salary change that amounts to ‘it depends.’ It seems that they will determine salary based on individual evaluations and various forms of progress indicators. Who knows what this means. They said that “market rate” is not the upper cap, and that all-stars could make more than market. This plan is basically final, but they will be speaking to people in focus groups to fine tune the policy.”

“Switching to a ‘competancy’ model as of 2008. First years at 160 but from there based on skills – some above and some below market. Details not released yet as focus groups will be used to fine tune the program.”

Interesting, albeit vague. We’re eager to see what results from this process.
Is Howrey adopting an innovative approach, one that will result in a more flexible and/or meritocratic associate compensation structure? Or is it just an attempt by the firm to get away with paying below-market salaries?

blood contract red ink Abovethelaw Above the Law online legal tabloid.jpgMaybe blood oaths work in the Mafia. But outside organized crime circles, they may be harder to enforce. From the AP:

A Nietzsche-quoting judge said a promise penned in blood by a businessman was not an enforceable contract. Superior Court Judge Corey S. Cramin ruled Monday that Stephen Son could not be forced to repay Kim Jin-soo more than $140,000 that Kim provided to Son’s companies, not to Son himself.

Son punctured his finger and drafted the promise in a restaurant after his companies accepted cash from Kim but failed to turn a profit.

Son was not required to guarantee those transactions, the judge said.

“Blood is the worst of all testimonies to the truth,” Cramin said, paraphrasing German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

To all ATL readers currently studying for the bar: Whaddya think? How would you argue in favor of holding the blood contract enforceable, despite the apparent absence of consideration?
Judge: Blood promise can’t be enforced [Associated Press via Yahoo! News]

Following up on yesterday’s post about law firm advertising campaigns, here’s another interesting ad:
Mosh Pit Litigation Goldberg Weisman Cairo Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg
Commentary after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Promising New Practice Area: Mosh Pit Litigation?”

An interesting and odd observation about law firm ad campaigns, from Copyranter:

What The F**k is up with all the law firms using goofy animal symbolism? Dykema thinks it’s a giraffe amongst zebras. Zuckerman Spaeder says I’m a canary threatened by a lion.

Bingham McCutchen animal advertising advertisements Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg

And Bingham McCutchen (above) was, first, a lion-chasing zebra (where does the Dykema giraffe fit into this equation?) and now, a baby-coddling grizzly bear. Hey, if any of you crows want to see an idea using puffins, drop me a line.

(All ads scanned from the Wall Street Journal, the bear ad from yesterday’s edition.)

A commenter at Copyranter offers some great suggested captions for the Bingham ad. To read them all, click here. Our personal favorite:

“Bear lawyers who accept babies as payment.”

What, no sharks or leeches? [copyranter]

Fifth Circuit interior designer Abovethelaw Above the Law tabloid blog.JPGAre you a Texas law firm associate who is sick of tired of working long hours for low pay? Are you looking for a more creative position, one that would offer you more “hands-on” experience?
Then you might be interested in working for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit — still for low pay, but probably for better hours. And we’re not talking about some run-of-the-mill law clerk gig.
The circuit is looking for an in-house interior designer. How fabulous! And no, we’re not joking. Check out the job posting by clicking here (PDF).
Okay, so you don’t have the requested “bachelor’s degree in interior design.” But surely a J.D. from an accredited U.S. law school, plus the requested ability “to move light furniture,” would be just as good.
Yeah, you’d have to move to New Orleans, but that’s not too far — still within the Fifth Circuit. In terms of specific job responsibilities, the most difficult one is probably “procuring furniture and furnishings utilizing federal procurement guidelines.”
That should be construed as “decorating courthouse spaces in halfway decent fashion, using furniture manufactured by federal prison inmates.” And remember — Martha checked out of the Big House a long time ago.
If that’s not worthy of an episode of Top Design, we don’t know what is.
Interior Designer / Space Planner (PDF) [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit]

Borat Above the Law Legal Blog Law Gossip Borat.JPGSeveral months ago, the world was awash in Borat litigation. But then things died down on that front.
Now they’re heating up again. From a tipster:

Check out this lawsuit. Although the damages claim might be a little silly, it seems like this guy might have a valid claim — he didn’t sign a waiver like those frat boys.

I’m a corporate lawyer, so I have no idea. I’d love to see what some litigator types think about it.

An excerpt from the complaint appears at Gothamist; the entire document is posted over at The Smoking Gun.
Your thoughts are welcome, in the comments.
NYC Borat Victim: Movie “Very Nice…Not!” [Gothamist]
“Borat” Sued Yet Again [The Smoking Gun]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Borat lawsuits (scroll down)

Boost Plus erections Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPGForget about all that Vioxx litigation — this is far more troubling. From the AP:

A man has sued the maker of the health drink Boost Plus, claiming the vitamin-enriched beverage gave him an erection that would not subside and caused him to be hospitalized.

The lawsuit filed by Christopher Woods of New York said he bought the nutrition beverage made by the pharmaceutical company Novartis AG at a drugstore on June 5, 2004, and drank it.

Woods’ court papers say he woke up the next morning “with an erection that would not subside” and sought treatment that day for the condition, called severe priapism.

Okay, maybe Novartis needs to fine-tune the formula a bit. But clearly they are on to something.
Watch out, V1agra; Cia1is s0fttabs, your days are numbered. Boost Plus is hot on your tail!
Man Sues Health Drink Maker Over Erection [Associated Press via Fox News]
Boost Plus [official website]
(Gavel bang: commenter.)

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