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Your Client Is Sleazier Than You Are

Vivia Chen

July 30, 2013

Time for your favorite news roundup:

Shadowman-by-Warren-Goldswain_Fotolia(1)1. Don't flatter yourself: You are not in their league. Even if you pride yourself on being a cutthroat, odious, money grubbing lawyer, let me tell you you don't hold a candle next to your precious high-powered clients. When it comes to sleaze, Wall Streeters win over lawyers hands-down.

From eFinancialCareers:

Nearly one-quarter of financial services employees believe people at their firm have engaged in unethical or illegal behavior, a 14 percentage point increase over the prior year, according to a new study from Labaton Sucharow, a law firm specializing in whistleblower actions. Nearly all those respondents said they personally observed or had firsthand knowledge of such behavior.

But here's the clincher: A big percentage of people in the finance sector thinks it's perfectly fine—even necessary—to cheat:

Nearly 30% of respondents said the rules may have to be broken in order to be successful, a 17 percentage point increase over last year’s survey. And the newer to Wall Street you are, the more likely you are to not trust old-fashioned hard work. Employees with 10 years of experience or fewer were twice as likely to believe Wall Streeters may have to engage in misconduct to get ahead than more experienced workers.

Lawyers might behave badly sometimes—but not that badly. I honestly don't think 30 percent of them think cheating is acceptable. Really, the worse they do is inflate their billables a bit or charge a personal taxi ride to a client. Peanuts.

2. Speaking of clients, William Zabel has landed a hot one: Wendi Deng Murdoch. The third Mrs. Rupert Murdoch just dumped her long-time lawyer Pamela Sloan for the mighty William Zabel. This move, according to The New York Times, bodes a very "acrimonious" (translation: very expensive) divorce. 

Personally, I am riveted by this latest client/lawyer pairing. I wrote about both Deng (can we go back to her maiden name now?) and Zabel just recently. As you might recall, Deng is the face of the new trophy wife: the UnBimbo. She went to business school, had a career, and is ambitious.

Zabel, of course, is an advisor to the high and mighty (he represents George Soros, among other luminaries). Though he looks old school, I have a feeling he's not a stuffed shirt. You might recall Zabel took the time to look over James Gandolfini's will for The New York Daily News  just a few weeks ago (he dubbed it a "disaster"). So I think he likes his little moments in the limelight (which he will certainly get with the Murdoch divorce).

3. How did he get into Columbia Law School? One of China's princelings: Bo Guagua, the son of disgraced Communist official Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai, is going to Columbia Law School in the fall, reports The New York Times. (Both of his parents are in prison—he for corruption; she for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood.) The parents' background stories are fascinating and lurid, but that's beside the point here.

Let's just focus on the son's enrollment at Columbia. What's interesting is that Bo Guagua has a reputation for being a party boy who got into fancy schools (he went to Oxford University for his undergraduate degree, then Harvard for a master's) allegedly through connections.

So inquiring minds want to know: How did this playboy get into Columbia? Was he secretly studying like a madman when he wasn't driving around town in his Porsche with his lady friends? Did he get an awesome score on his LSATs? Was it connections that got him in? Or is it just a lot easier to get into a top law school these days?

In any case, I think Above the Law's David Lat offers some fine words of wisdom on this whole matter:

Regardless of his parents’ alleged transgressions, Bo Guagua appears to be guilty of nothing other than some hard partying. Let he who is without a walk of shame cast the first stone.

Hopefully Bo Guagua won’t be unduly distracted by having his father on trial and his mother in prison. Making it through 1L year is hard enough as it is.


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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.



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FiNS are not bad folks...really...most of them have quarterly ethics training...and seriously...most of the men&women I worked with had families and charities they deeply cared for. #fortunatetoworkwithethicalFINs...

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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