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7 posts from July 2017

July 27, 2017

Yes, There Is Sexual Harassment in Big Law

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Ever wonder what you would or should do if you experience sexually harassment on the job? I think most women have given this at least a passing thought. 

Thanks to law professors Joanne Grossman of SMU and Deborah Rhode of Stanford University, we now have a primer on the subject. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Grossman and Rhode basically advises women to do what former FBI director James Comey did: Keep a record of the offenses and "tell trusted friends and family." At the same time, though, they sound some cautionary notes: "Employment discrimination cases," they write, "have the lowest win rate for plaintiffs of any civil cause of action." Plus, the employee can expect some nasty retaliation (50 to 60 percent report retribution).

Every working woman should file that information away (the authors say that they focus on women, because they make up 90 percent of harassment targets), but here's what intrigued me: Are blatant forms of sexism still a problem in places like Big Law? I posed that question and others to Grossman and here's what she says:

Corporations and law firms require sexual harassment training and preach gender equality all the time. And most lawyers I know are conservative, cover-your-ass types. So is sexual harassment still a problem in law firms?
Every data point suggests that it is. Every study we looked at, including those about the legal profession, say that 40 percent of women will or have experience harassment. If you look at studies of law firms, two-thirds say they've seen it or experienced it. 

Really? But lawyers must be much more subtle about it. I can't imagine male partners, even the most powerful ones, at big firms acting the way Roger Ailes or Bill O'Reilly allegedly did toward women. 
We all tend to think that they're no longer literally banging on the hotel room door, but you still see those cases. We've aggregated information from a lot of different sources, and what we see is that things have not changed that much. Bar association studies show many instances of bad harassment conduct. I don't see any reason for optimism. I've worked on this for over 20 years, and I've never seen it under control.

If sexual harassment is so prevalent, why don't we hear more about it?
It's been quiet but that doesn't mean it's not happening. Until sexual harassment allegations at Fox [News] and Uber became news, this has not been a big topic. Arbitration has also made the problem go underground. We don't hear about these cases, which means there could be worst cases out there.

But even if the case goes to court, you say in your article that the odds are against the victim. Why's that?
The law is good but the courts are bad. Courts don't investigate the grievance procedure; they're very accepting of the employer's explanation. The law is not set up to ask whether the system works; the courts just ask whether the employer has a policy and grievance procedure. 

So employers have little incentive to settle. Is that why some cases, like the recent one involving gender discrimination against Chadbourne & Parke (now Norton Rose), seem to go on for a long time? 
Law firms mostly don't lose. They drag out these cases because sometimes they are doing their own litigation and don't feel the heat of legal expenses. And lawyers think they're above the law. They think, "we're such a good firm and we hire women so how dare you sue us!"

It sounds like it might be even harder to sue a law firm for sexual harassment or discrimination. You'd think that lawyers would be super vigilant about not inviting lawsuits.
The lesson from Fox is that bad behavior is tolerated because of competing values. There's as much pressure to keep a great rainmaker as there is a TV star who brings in a lot of money. If [the harasser] is someone fungible, he might be dealt with appropriately. 

You've said that the game changer at Fox was that other women came out to complain about Ailes and O'Reilly. I hate to say this, but I can't see women lawyers joining the choir—at least not the ones who want viable law firm or corporate careers.
Most women don't complain. Only about 8 to 10 percent of women [who've experienced harassment] file a complaint. They see what happens to other people who do; they're cut off socially and professionally. What pushes people to complain is that they think the situation is so bad that they have nothing to lose. Most will quit or ask to be transferred. Or they'll drink a lot. 

Well, you're even a bigger downer than I am. Anything hopeful you see with all the recent focus on sexual harassment?
When you see Fox outed, it empowers other women in media. Maybe the result is that we'll see more complaints. Gretchen Carlson wasn't some feminist who came out. But publicity emboldens people. We're talking about it, and that makes a difference.

vchen@alm.com

        

July 25, 2017

Are Asian Americans Fed Up with the Legal Profession?

6a00d83451d94869e2013487a1e737970c-piThe Glass Ceiling, the Bamboo Ceiling, the Rice Swamp: If you follow the progression of Asian American lawyers, you've probably heard those terms. They describe a troubling trend: While they are swelling the nation's top law schools and the junior ranks of Big Law, Asian Americans are rare birds in the top echelons of the profession.

The recently released report ("A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law") by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) and Yale Law School confirms this phenomenon. And it names some familiar culprits: lack of mentoring and access to power, plus lingering stereotypes and  biases.

Here's a snapshot from the report:

    -  In 1983, there were fewer than 2,000 Asian American law students; in 2009, the number peaked to over 11,000. But since 2009, there's been a 43 percent drop—the largest decline of any racial/ethnic group.

    -  For almost 20 years, Asian Americans have been the largest minority group at major firms. At the same time, Asian Americans have the worst conversion rate of associate to partners and the highest attrition rates.

    -  Asian Americans represent 10.3 percent of graduates of top-30 law schools in 2015, but make up only 6.5 percent of federal judicial clerks.

    -  Very few Asian Americans cited being influential or going into government service or politics as reasons for going to law school. (Fun note: "Parental expectations or influence" didn't ranked high as a factor either. Take that Tiger Mom!)

    - Asian Americans report the lowest satisfaction of all groups with their decision to become lawyers.

Not a happy picture. But while it might be easy to read the report as a confirmation of how the system fails Asian Americans, I think it paints a more complicated picture that suggests that there are other factors at play.

So I asked Goodwin Liu (above), a justice on California Supreme Court and one of the report's authors, about these issues. What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

Two things surprised me in the report: the big growth in Asian American lawyers in a relatively short time [there are now over 53,000 Asian American lawyers—more than doubled since 2000]; and what looks like an equally rapid decline. I'm talking about that huge 43 percent drop in law school enrollment. Is law out of vogue for Asian Americans?
This is one of the biggest surprises, and one that hasn't been paid attention to. I have a couple of hypotheses: Asian Americans are conservative, so when law took a downturn, they turned away from it. Another is that if you see other people in your group not choosing law, word gets out that maybe law is not hospitable.

Is the inhospitable environment the reason Asian Americans are leaving law firms in droves?
It could be a good news story if they re going for better opportunities, like a top job in-house or the government. At the same time, it could be that they're not getting mentoring, and they see no future beyond being a worker bee. Or it could be both.

Lawyers are miserable but Asian Americans seem the most miserable. The report says they have the lowest satisfaction of all groups in the early stage of their careers. Why?
You find the lowest dissatisfaction rate for those who chose law law firms, and Asian Americans tend to skew towards law firms so they will be more dissatisfied.

It sounds like too many of them are making the wrong choice from the get-go. Which brings up their motives for going to law school. They say they don't want to be influencers or politicians They say they just want a satisfying career and intellectual challenge, which sounds a bit nerdy. So are Asian Americans uninterested in being leaders?
It's a chicken and egg thing. You have societal perceptions, and society has not normalized Asian Americans as leaders, so that perception shapes Asian Americans about what they pursue. How they are perceived and what they gravitate to are symbiotic. All this calls for introspection. We have to ask why Asian Americans are so conservative but also examine what type of people are getting promoted.

Speaking of chicken and egg, I was fascinated by how Asian Americans think they are perceived. When asked about traits associated with Asian American lawyers, they answered "hard-working," then "responsible," "logical," "careful" and "quiet."
Those characteristics described how Asian Americans exist in the popular mind. It's not necessarily negative to be perceived as "hardworking," "responsible," "logical," but the problem is that they might not be associated with leaders.

Your report talks a lot about obstacles in career advancement. But what really caught my eye was how women felt implicit bias much more keenly than the men.
Women were more likely to register barriers to career advancement. What came across in our focus groups was that Asian American women felt they had a harder time being recognized as the lawyer. Quite a few said, they were mistaken for the interpreter, the client or the client's girlfriend. They're thought of as anything but the lawyer.

The report—and you—seem frustrated and baffled that Asian Americans aren't going for the brass rings—like clerkships.
The clerkship data was surprising. Asian Americans do well getting into top law schools—and that's where the clerks come from—but they are only 6.5 percent of federal judicial law clerks. Whites are the only ones who capture a very significant percentage [over 80 percent] of those clerkships.

A lot of barriers that Asian Americans face are informal: lack of mentors and contacts. In our survey—we got 600 respondents, about 1 percent of Asian American lawyers—95 percent said they did not have a parent who is a lawyer. This is a community without that inter-generational transfer of knowledge. Law is a very American profession, and Asian Americans don't have that deep well of knowledge. That's true for my own story. Growing up, I knew nothing about law. I went to college as a pre-med.

But your children will be in a different position.
Yes, that's right. On the whole I'm hopeful. As there are more Asian American judges and more Asian Americans in the top firms, the horizons for the younger lawyers will be extended.

 vchen@alm.com

July 20, 2017

Trump Hearts Jones Day (Still)

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 10.49.34 AMI try to keep it light and frothy during the heat of the summer. So here's my selection of news and gossip that you shouldn't miss:

Jones Day wants to Make America Great Again—and Again. If Donald Trump becomes a two-term president, we can all thank (or not) Jones Day. Already, it's working on Trump's reelection—and getting paid handsomely for it. 

The New York Times reports that the campaign "spent nearly $700,000 on legal fees between the beginning of April and the end of June." And that the lion's share—$545,000—went to Jones Day. (The work includes advising on election, lawsuits and matters related to the Russia investigations.)

Now, I know $545,000 sounds like a lot of moolah. But let's keep this all in perspective. For Jones Day, which prides itself as a magnet for U.S. Supreme Court clerks (it hired 10 of them in 2015), that amount is small change, barely enough to cover the starting compensation for one high court clerk (each costs at least $300.000 in bonus plus the going-rate salary). 

I don't know if the campaign's legal bills will cover all those expensive clerks, but I think Trump and company will keep Jones Day busy. Besides, if the firm's bills become too astronomical, the administration can just hire directly from the firm. Already, it's practically a revolving door between Jones Day and the Trump team. Not only is ex-partner Don McGahn the White House Counsel (he also served as the campaign's lawyer) but about a dozen Jones Day lawyers work in top positions for the administration.

May we suggest a Jones Day branch office in the White House? 

Asian-American law student gets dinged by Airnb host. It's hard to believe that this could happen in California of all places, but it did. Here's the skinny, according to the ABA blog: Tami Barker, an Airnb host, cancelled a reservation by Dyne Suh, a student at the UCLA School of Law, citing Suh's race as a factor.

Barker texted Suh just as the law student and her friends were approaching the mountain rental during a snowstorm: "I wouldn’t rent to u if you were the last person on earth. One word says it all. Asian." (Can we at least give Barker credit for using "Asian" instead of "Oriental"?)

And when Suh responded that she would file a complaint with Airbnb, Barker replied: "It’s why we have trump… And I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners.” (In case you're wondering, Suh is an American citizen who's been in this country since she was three years-old. But that's beside the point.)

The upshot? Barker was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, take a course on Asian-Americans and volunteer with a civil rights organization, among other other actions. Edward Lee, Barker's lawyer, issued a statement that Barker regretted "her impetuous actions and comments." 

Funny that Barker hired an Asian American lawyer to resolve the matter. 

Seriously, would you rather read about pizza ovens? Law professors usually present fact patterns on exams that are boring, confusing and totally divorced from real life. They're usually about broken pizza ovens, lost parts or some kind of mechanical malfunction. So what's wrong with an interesting hypothetical that's relatable to our lives?

Alas, a longtime law professor at Howard University is facing possible termination for presenting a hypo that was considered too hot and personal. The topic: Brazillian wax. 

National Law Journal's Karen Sloan reports : "The exam question at issue involved a client who fell asleep during a waxing session at a salon and later sued the salon worker of improperly touching them."

Apparently, litigation about these procedures is not that uncommon (who knew?). Despite that, some students felt that the hypo was too sexual. NLJ reports that "the hypothetical provides an extensive explanation of what a 'Full Brazilian' wax entails, including the phrases 'hairless from belly button to buttocks,' and 'access every follicle of public hair.'" Some students thought the hypo was forcing them to reveal whether they had undergone a Brazilian wax procedure themselves. 

I don't mean to sound insensitive, but I didn't find the hypo to be offensive or invasive. For goodness sake, it's a hypo—and one that's shows some awareness about current culture. I mean, would you prefer some fact pattern about widgets?

Judges who love porn. What's going on in Pennsylvania? Another judge has been snared into what The Legal Intelligencer calls Porngate. The latest is Monore Country magisterial district judge Michael Muth, who's been charged by the judicial conduct board for viewing pornography "on multiple occasions in full view of the court staff at his chambers." 

I know being a judge can be tedious and unstimulating. But why didn't this judge do what most sensible judges would do: Watch porn in the privacy of his/her paneled office? Was the porn Judge Muth viewing so compelling that he couldn't wait? Or is porn just part of the Pennsylvania judicial culture?

 

 vchen@alm.com

Follow me on Twitter @lawcareerist

July 17, 2017

Your Firm Is Sued for Gender Discrimination. Who Cares?

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Maybe it's because I'm female, a minority member and an ex-lawyer that I'm riveted by lawsuits for gender or racial discrimination against law firms and companies. But even discounting for identity politics, those lawsuits offer some juicy glimpses into how those in power think and behave. Who wouldn't want to know what really goes on in those exclusive (white) boys clubs?

For those of us who follow these suits like serial dramas, this past year has been spectacular. The most high-profile case, of course, was the one brought by Kerrie Campbell (above) against Chadbourne & Parke. Claiming that she was paid unfairly as a partner, Campbell called Chadbourne's management an "all-male dictatorship." Since filing her class action in August 2016, two other female partners have joined the suit, thickening the stew. And this spring, the firm officially ousted Campbell.

Then, just a month ago or so, Proskauer Rose was sued for $50 million by "Jane Doe," a partner in its Washington, D.C. office for gender bias. (Ironically, Proskauer is representing Chadbourne in the Campbell case.)

Laden with human drama and often packed with sensational tidbits (oh, the inappropriate things partners say!), those lawsuits naturally get a ton of media attention. But here's the question: How much of a reputation hit do firms take as a result? Enough to lose business?

Not exactly. Though gender equality and diversity seem to top everyone's priority list these days, being slapped with a discrimination claim has surprisingly few repercussions. For instance, Chadbourne's legal problems didn't scare away Norton Rose from the merger table (the two firms merged recently and are now known as Norton Rose).

Indeed, industry insiders say clients and recruits seldom get bent out of shape over these cases.

"Corporations face these type of suits as well," explains Tom Sager, DuPont Company's former general counsel who's won accolades for promoting diversity. Now a partner at Ballard Spahr, he suggests that these lawsuits are more or less routine. "Unless there's a "compelling reason [to look into them], clients should not be in a position of sitting in judgement of their firms."

As for attracting lateral recruits or merger partners, these lawsuits also have limited impact. "I'd bet there's a bunch of suits out there against big firms," says Jeff Lowe, a managing partner of recruiting firm Major Lindsey & Africa, alluding to disputes that are settled quietly. "What's unusual with the Chadbourne matter is how public it's become." Most lawyers, he adds, won't reject firms that are sued because "they see lawsuits as being part of the bundle of risks." He adds, "firms are big enterprises so the exposure is small."

Even if the firm doesn't lose business, these lawsuits create tensions below the surface, say those who are suing the firms. "You won't see an effect on the bottom line, and you won't see a noticeable shift immediately," says Kamee Verdrager, a former Mintz Levin associate who sued the firm for gender discrimination. (She finally settled with the firm last December after a 10 year ordeal.)

Yet, Verdrager believes these lawsuits trigger firms to reexamine their business methods and change. "There's huge gossip factor, and that affects firms internally," she says. "Clients will ask what's going on, and those discussions are uncomfortable and embarrassing. It's a huge distraction."

Over time, "some firms will take a more objective look at how women are paid or reviewed," says Verdrager. "At first, firms [that are sued] are defensive. It's deny, deny, deny. But the conversation does change eventually, and the suit provides a platform for having some difficult conversations."

David Sanford, the lawyer representing the women in the Chadbourne and Proskauer suits, agrees: "I would imagine part of the collateral damage is difficulty in recruiting, morale issues affecting current employees, business disruption and a negative impact on some clients." If nothing else, he adds, "we find a positive impact often on total compensation for females after we sue."

The way I see it, changing the hearts and minds of those in power is nice. But getting paid fairly is way sweeter.

vchen@alm.com

July 14, 2017

Sleeveless Dresses Are Unprofessional, but Cleavage is Okay

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Want a break from all the messy news about Donald Trump, Jr. and Russiagate? Let's cut to some other topics that are roiling America: Is it acceptable for women to go sleeveless and bare their toes in a professional setting? And what about cleavage in the workplace?

Before I get to cleavage, can we at least agree that a female lawyer baring her arms is no longer scandalous?

Indeed, at some firms, the sleeveless dress seems to be a summer uniform. Several weeks ago, I attended Debevoise & Plimpton's annual women's cocktail party at Rockefeller Center and it seemed like every other women there had on a jaunty sheath dresses. (And may I just say that they looked fetching and toned—just as they did at last year's party?)

But as stylish as those Debevoise gals are, they wouldn't pass the decency test in certain parts of Capitol Hill.

According to CBS News, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan recently laid down the law on what's acceptable attire: Men must wear suit jacket and ties. For women, it's more of a list of no-nos: No sleeveless tops, sleeveless dresses, open-toe shoes and sneakers. 

Ryan reminded House members to "periodically rededicate themselves to the core principles of proper parliamentary practice," adding that "members should wear appropriate business attire during all sittings of the House however brief their appearance on the floor may be."

Such lofty words. And already, female reporters are getting in trouble for showing up sleeveless. CBS reports that one sleeveless female reporter tried to abide by the dress code by ripping paper from her notebook and stuffing "them into her dress's shoulder openings to create sleeves." It was a valiant try, but she got kicked out anyway. 

The result is that some Congresswomen are up in arms (forgive the pun!) about the House dress code.The Hill reports that Republican Representative Martha McSally of Arizona publicly defied the code by announcing on the House floor: “I want to point out I’m standing here in my professional attire, which happens to be a sleeveless dress and open-toed shoes."

You, go McSally!

I don't know whether Speaker Ryan is squeamish about women showing some skin or hopelessly fashion-backwards (Hello, doesn't he know that even women at the stuffiest Wall Street firms now go sleeveless?), but I think he should flip through some fashion catalogs and get hip with the current corporate style.

Of course, I assumed that  women lawyers would take my side about Ryan's silly rule, but I was wrong. A female litigator at a big New York firm told me this: "If men have to wear suits and ties, women should wear the equivalent." Though she says she would go sleeveless in the office, she adds, "I would never slip off my jacket in court, nor should a man." As for shoes, she's also quite conservative, adding that she once worked for a firm that prohibited open-toed shoes in the summer, and that she abides by that rule now for court appearances.

I understand her caution about not offending the judge or jury, but I still don't get why going sleeveless or showing a few toes in court or Congress is considered inappropriate. If the dress is tailored and the shoes are understated, how is that diminishing a woman's credibility? I mean, are we that hung up about women's arms and toes? 
 
I guess the answer is yes. It seems people get easily rattled by any hint of women's sexuality. 
 
Which brings us to cleavage. Here's the paradox: Women who reveal more cleavage are perceived as better bosses and being more powerful—particularly to their female colleagues. The University of Wisconsin study (published in the Journal of Social Psychology), reports Daily Mail, surprised the researchers, who had expected that women managers who wore less revealing clothing would get more respect. In fact, female "bosses who buttoned up were perceived as less powerful and mature—undermining their influence on staff." 
 
The takeaway from these recent developments? Women who want to be taken seriously at work should wear a suit or jacket, conservative pumps but flash some cleavage—particularly if they are speaking before a female judge or a predominantly female audience.
 
Got that, girls?
 
vchen@alm.com
 

July 10, 2017

Is Lust a Problem in Big Law Too?

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I must be way, way out of line. Or stupid. That's because I have no qualms about having drinks or eating alone with a male source or colleague. In fact, I often propose such meetings.

I thought I was doing my job. As it turns out, I've been behaving wantonly.

According to a new poll, many American do not approve of men and women being alone with each other in the workplace, particularly when it comes to food and drink. (Morning Consult surveyed over 5,000  registered voters.)  Reports The New York Times:

Around a quarter think private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate. Nearly two-thirds say people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work. A majority of women, and nearly half of men, say it’s unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.

The real stunner is that women are even more disapproving about being alone with a member of the opposite sex than men in various situations:

Having drinks: 60 percent of women v. 48 percent of men deem it inappropriate.

Dinner: 53 percent of women v. 45 percent of men say it should be avoided.

        Driving in a car: 38 percent of women v. 29 percent of men disapprove.

No drinks, no meals, no traveling? You might as well have a segregated work force. Since when did the workplace become such a danger zone?

I get how evangelicals like Vice President Mike Pence might shudder at the thought of being alone with a woman (remember, Pence has a policy of never dining alone with a woman or attending events with alcohol unless his wife is by his side), but why are women self-censoring themselves?

The short answer, it seems, is that many women believe (or know) that the workplace is full of wolves, temptation and vicious rumors. The implication is that women don't want to find themselves in a position where they might get propositioned or have their reputations tarnished.
 
Women seem ridiculously prudish, deeming one-on-one interactions between the sexes as "inappropriate"—more in line with "Republicans, people who lived in rural areas, people who lived in the South or Midwest, people with less than a college education and people who were very religious, particularly evangelical Christians," writes the Times.
 
So where does this leave us? I'd say somewhere in high school, circa 1958, when nice girls avoided risky situations. That might work as a way to avoid trouble (and preserve one's virginity), but it's lousy career strategy.
 
Luckily, the lawyer class seems much more evolved on these points. Women lawyers that I know wouldn't dream of forgoing a juicy assignment just because she might be traveling alone with a male partner.
 
"I agree that women 'need to protect ourselves' as someone said in the article," says a female lawyer in a big firm. "However, that does not mean protecting ourselves from interactions with men!" Because men hold power in most job situations, she adds, "our careers depend not on avoiding but rather on embracing such Mano-a-(Wo)Mano interactions."
 
And do women in those situations with men still experience sexual harassment? Yes.
 
"Those who have been harassed are the ones who express concern and caution," says Ellen Ostrow, a career coach for lawyers. That said, Ostrow adds that women's "bigger concern" is being excluded by "the senior guy who is more comfortable with men" and mentors them instead of the women on the team. Women, she explains, are "grateful" for opportunities to have these one-on-one meetings, meals and trips.
 
So there you have it: Even in the face of harassment, rumors and other inconveniences, female lawyers are forging ahead.
 
It would be nice if they didn't have to deal with the nonsense, but at least they have right attitude.
 
 vchen@alm.com
 
photo: Mad Men, AMC.

July 5, 2017

News and Gossip: George Clooney, Tax Cheats and Cool Brits

It's midsummer, so it's no time for serious news. Here's my roundup of some oddly amusing/curious news and gossip for you to digest by the pool or beach:

George_Clooney-4_The_Men_Who_Stare_at_Goats_TIFF09_(cropped)1. Eat (or Drink) Your Heart Out, You Snotty New York Law Firms! Who would have thought that one of the most pedestrian law firms in our nation would land the most glamorous deal (and the most glam client) in the land?

Well, it's true. Lawrence Waks, counsel at Wilson Elser—a firm best known for its insurance and personal injury work (and definitely not paying Big Law associate wages)—is representing dreamboat George Clooney and his Tequilla company Casamigos in its $1 billion sale to Diageo plc, a U.K. spirits company.

Waks told Texas Lawyer that the transaction was right up his alley as "he heads Wilson Elser’s corporate and M&A practice in Texas, does entertainment law and represents food and beverage companies." (Query: Who knew Wilson Elser had an M&A and entertainment practice? And in Texas, of all places?)

Big dollar amount, sexy client, sexy deal: How did this one get away from Big Law? I mean, didn't Amal Clooney, herself a former Sullivan & Cromwell associate , steer George toward a big name firm? (Or perhaps knowing how much Big Law charges, she advised using Wilson Elser instead?)

In any case, S&C would have been conflicted out, since it's on the other side, representing Diageo, a longtime client. Alas, the fancy folks from S&C will be negotiating with the lawyer from humble Wilson Elser. It must be sweet for Waks—though probably not nearly as sweet as swigging Tequilla with George, which he apparently did as part of his due diligence duties.

2. Ballsiest Lawyer Award goes to: Tax judge who cheated on taxes! Who says tax types are dull and boring? Not Diane Kroupa, former judge of Minnesota Tax Court. She just got herself sentenced to 34 months (her hubby Robert Fackler is also going to the slammer, though for a shorter term), plus an obligation to pay $457,104 in joint restitution, reports TaxProfBlog.

Both entered guilty pleas. They were charged with evading their tax obligations between 2004 and 2012—while Kroupa served as a tax judge. (George W. Bush appointed her to the U.S. Tax Court in 2003, and she retired in 2014.)

So what did she and her husband claimed as deductions? Among other fun things: Pilates classes, spa treatments, jewelry, Chinese language tutoring and lots of vacations to exotic places.

It certainly takes guts, boundless hypocrisy and a straight face to sit in judgement of others for tax fraud when you're a cheater yourself. One can only hope that she was an uncommonly empathetic judge.

3. Law firms dominate best employer rankings. Really. The Brits are either a lot more progressive than we Yanks—or they're just way, way more advance in the public relations game.

In a recent survey, law firms comprised 32 percent of the best 50 employers list in the U.K. And get this: the main criteria for this honor are promoting mobility for lower socio-economic groups and diversity. That would be a tall (impossible) order for law firms anywhere, but we are talking about Great Britain, which, I think it's safe to say, is not exactly a free-flowing, classless society.

UK’s 50 most socially mobile employers include no less than 16 law firms. 

Legal Business reports that Berwin Leighton Paisner was the top-ranked law firm, earning eighth place. The other firms on this honor roll include Baker McKenzie, Pinsent Masons, Burges Salmon, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Simmons & Simmons, Eversheds Sutherland, Brodies, Holman Fenwick Willan, DLA Piper  and Stephenson Harwood.

As Legal Business notes, it's pretty noteworthy that law firms made up almost one-third of the top employers for social mobility, "given that the legal industry employs a little over 1 percent of the UK workforce," adding dryly, "self-selection apparently played a major role in the heavy legal representation with submissions being used in the research process."

 vchen@alm.com

Other firms that have made the list include Baker McKenzie, Pinsent Masons, Burges Salmon, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Simmons & Simmons, Eversheds Sutherland, Brodies, Holman Fenwick Willan, DLA Piper, and Stephenson Harwood. The top-ranked employer overall was Grant Thornton with KPMG in second place.

The ranking, which was produced in partnership with the City of London Corporation, comprised 32% legal firms, a remarkable figure given that the legal industry employs a little over 1% of the UK workforce. Self-selection apparently played a major role in the heavy legal representation with submissions being used in the research process.

The index judged UK companies on seven criteria: working with young people; non-graduate routes into work; attracting talent beyond graduates of top universities; removing barriers that can affect those from lower socio-economic groups in the employment process; analysing the diversity of the workforce; strategies to help those from lower socio-economic backgrounds progress; and internal and external advocacy.

The index published this week by the Social Mobility Foundation, a UK charity championing low-income children, and the Government-backed Social Mobility Commission, featured Berwin Leighton Paisner as the top-ranked law firm, placed at number eight.

the UK’s 50 most socially mobile employers include no less than 16 law firms. 

The index published this week by the Social Mobility Foundation, a UK charity championing low-income children, and the Government-backed Social Mobility Commission, featured Berwin Leighton Paisner as the top-ranked law firm, placed at number eight.

Other firms that have made the list include Baker McKenzie, Pinsent Masons, Burges Salmon, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Simmons & Simmons, Eversheds Sutherland, Brodies, Holman Fenwick Willan, DLA Piper, and Stephenson Harwood. The top-ranked employer overall was Grant Thornton with KPMG in second place.

The ranking, which was produced in partnership with the City of London Corporation, comprised 32% legal firms, a remarkable figure given that the legal industry employs a little over 1% of the UK workforce. Self-selection apparently played a major role in the heavy legal representation with submissions being used in the research process.

The index judged UK companies on seven criteria: working with young people; non-graduate routes into work; attracting talent beyond graduates of top universities; removing barriers that can affect those from lower socio-economic groups in the employment process; analysing the diversity of the workforce; strategies to help those from lower socio-economic backgrounds progress; and internal and external advocacy.

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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