« November 2017 | Main | January 2018 »

7 posts from December 2017

December 27, 2017

The Silence of Judge Kozinski's Former Clerks in Big Law

They are piling up like hotcakes at the diner. As of this writing, at least 15 women have come forward, alleging that Alex Kozinski engaged in inappropriate behavior while he served as a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
So many credible women came out with their own stories after The Washington Post first reported the accusations on Dec. 8, that the unthinkable has happened: Kozinski is calling it quits. (He resigned on December 18 after the Ninth Circuit launched a formal inquiry.)
So is Kozinski's resignation a sign that the #MeToo movement is finally hitting the legal profession? Well . . .
What's notable is that the women who've gone public about Kozinski's lascivious acts are predominantly from academia (others who've spoken on the record include a journalist, a law student and a former federal judge). What's conspicuously absent are women from major law firms.
So here's my question: Are women in law firms still reluctant to speak out about harassment?
"Many of us who spoke out did so because we were senior enough not to be risking a lot," says Nancy Rapoport, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, School of Law. "I'm a full professor. I have tenure. I recognize that my rank is a special privilege." Rapoport adds, "I might not have weighed in with my own experience had his remarks not appeared to have minimized what his former clerks were alleging." But not having to worry about career repercussions made it easy to go public about Kozinski's antic. (When she was clerking for another Ninth Circuit judge, Kozinski asked her, "What do single girls in San Francisco do for sex?"). 
Rapaport also offers a practical reason for why Kozinski's female clerks now in private practice might not be chiming in about his abuse: Some are probably litigators and "speaking out might cause an awkwardness at the Ninth Circuit in future cases."
Practical reasons aside, the culture of Big Law still lags behind when it comes to matters like harassment. "Academia is more supportive of women on these issues," says a former (male) Ninth Circuit clerk who knew Kozinski. "If that stuff came out about a law professor, he'd quickly be suspended or lose tenure," adding that law firms are less likely to take quick action with an important partner.
While it's acceptable for students and fellow academics to out an abusive professor, law firms might not appreciate one of their lawyers joining the #MeToo choir, even if the alleged abuse had nothing to do with the law firm. "Law firms don't want to be in the news for the wrong reason," says this former clerk. "Given the ratio of men to women in positions of power at law firms, women are cautious about being labeled a troublemaker."
Indeed, former Kozinski's clerks now working in Big Law—and there are lots of them (particularly men) in big litigation practices like Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Boies Schiller, Jones Day, Susman Godfrey and Kirkland & Ellis—don't seem eager to share their experiences. I contacted a handful of Kozinksi's former female clerks at some of those firms and heard not a peep from any of them. (Fun fact: One former clerk deleted Kozinski's name from her bio on the firm's website and only mentioned that she clerked on the Ninth Circuit, though she proudly displayed her clerkship with Sandra Day O'Connor.) To be fair, though, I contacted a bunch of Kozinski's male clerks too and they didn't respond either. 
I know, my sampling is hardly scientific. And while it's possible that the women who clerked for Kozinski then pursued careers in law firms neither experienced nor witnessed his troublesome behavior, it seems unlikely. 
If women are reluctant to speak out about a now established pariah like Kozinski, what are the chances that women in law firms will come public about an abusive partner? I'd say very low—unless the female lawyer has already decided to burn her bridges with Big Law.
Not everyone shares my view that women in law firms will pay a price for speaking out. Stanford Law School professor Deborah Rhode, an expert on gender issues, says change in culture now affects the legal profession: "I can't imagine that there would be adverse career consequences given the number of women who've made complaints about Kozinski."
Gee, I hope Rhode is right.
Meanwhile, would any of you out there in Big Law care to share your #MeToo moment?

December 20, 2017

Reasons Why Women in BigLaw Should Be Thankful + Other News

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 11.44.27 AM
1. Ladies, have you hugged your managing partner today?
To those of you who think I have nothing nice to say about Big Law, listen up: The sexism in law firms is far more palatable than what goes on in the TV and movie industries or the judiciary (see Alex Kozinski). As creepy as some male lawyers might be (there’s at least one major lech in every office), they are Cub Scouts compared to the antics of media stars like Matt Lauer (right), Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly and Kevin Spacey (I’m sure the list has grown longer by the time you read this).

The worse that usually happens in Big Law is that some partner gives you an unsolicited, prolonged kiss at a closing dinner or grabs your waist a bit too tight at a photo-op. More often than not, he’s probably just leering at you (I know, it’s still creepy).

As far as I know, no partner at a major firm is in the habit of exposing himself or pleasuring himself in front of women. I don’t know if male lawyers have better moral compasses or are more fearful of legal consequences, but I think we ladies should be thankful that they keep their pants on in the office and their hands to themselves. Those little things count.

2. Almost every BigLaw firm is on this list, except for You-Know-Who! Count them: 160 law firms made it to Human Rights Commission's index for promoting LGBTQ workplace equality. Of those, 127 firms got perfect 100-point scores—which is pretty damn impressive.

This year, the intriguing question isn't which firms are on the list but which ones aren't. One firm jumped out for its absence and that's—yes, you guessed it! Jones Day!

That can't be shocking, considering that some Jones Day's alums are active in championing anti-LGBTQ measures for the Trump administration. Some have staked out high-profile anti-gay positions, like siding with the Colorado baker who's refusing to make wedding cakes for gay marriages, or arguing that employers have the right to fire people for sexual orientation.

To be fair, Jones Day is not the only AmLaw 100 not on HRC's gay-friendly list. There are a few more that are conspicuously absent:

Cahill Gordon & Reindel

Cozen O'Connor

Jackson Lewis

Jones Day

Lewis Brisbois


Williams & Connolly

I have no reason to believe that these firms are hostile to LGBTQ lawyers. For whatever reason, they probably didn't bother to fill out the HRC survey. Maybe they knew their LGBTQ policies aren't up to snuff. Or maybe they just don't care. Or maybe their PR/marketing person forgot.

3Talking about the obvious. Our sibling publication The Legal Intelligencer posed this question: "Why Millennial Lawyers Aren't Flocking to Top Pa. Cities." 

I won't get into the fine analysis except to ask this: Is this really a mystery that merits exploration? Sorry to be a New York snob, but have you been to Philadelphia? It's B-O-R-I-N-G!

If you're in your 20's and the world is your oyster, you're not going to head to Pennsylvania. Actually, if you're in 40's or 50's or 60's, you won't want to go there either. 



December 15, 2017

Let's Talk about Judge Kozinski's Victim: Heidi Bond


You know what's ironic about the #MeToo phenomenon? Though it was launched by the victims of sexual harassment, it's the perpetrators who get most of the attention. We're much more absorbed by the strange, outlandish behavior of Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer and their ilk than the long term plight of their victims.

While many of us can practically recite what the victims say they endured (Weinstein inviting women to watch him shower during interviews; C.K. masturbating in front of female colleagues, Lauer berating a woman for refusing to service him sexually), do we look beyond those moments and consider how they altered the trajectory of the women's lives?

I don't think so, and we should, because the effect on women's spirit and careers can be profound and life altering.

This hit me when I read Heidi Bond's #MeToo blog post about her clerkship with Judge Alex Kozinski. (A judge on the Ninth Circuit, Kozinski was recently accused by six former clerks and externs, including Bond, of sexual harassment.) 

Writing in a deceptively cool tone, Bond (photo above) recounts in painful detail the day she started her coveted clerkship with Kozinski to her current life as a romance novelist. For 10 years, she kept what she endured during her clerkship a secret.

What I found remarkable is that she managed to keep her cool—at least on the surface—while Kozinski subjected her to a series of indignities. Bond writes about the first time the judge summoned her to view pornographic images:

“Does this kind of thing turn you on?” he asked.

“No.” I remember feeling that I needed to not move, either physically or emotionally, that if I just treated this like this was normal it would stay normal and not get worse.

“Why not?”

“They don’t look like they’re having fun.”

That struggle to maintain a composed demeanor in the face of heavy-handed sexual remarks undoubtedly strikes a chord for many working women. I can't tell you how many times I've had to chuckle along to some dirty joke at some meeting or social occasion during my years as a lawyer and journalist. 

But what makes Bond's case worse is that these incidents (she counts at least three) happened when she was alone with Kozinski in his chambers. Her reaction is pure terror: 

When this happened, I felt like a prey animal—as if I had to make myself small. If I did, if I never admitted to having any emotions at all, I would get through it.

Despite my best efforts, I continued to have emotions. Why was I alone? What was the purpose of not having the other clerks around? Most prevalent of all was this worry: Was it going to escalate? What could I do if it did?

The resulting toll, according to Bond, was physical and mental: 

I began waking from sleep, heart racing, hearing imaginary double beeps summoning me to his office. I started not being able to sleep at all. By the time I left the clerkship, there were nights I would lie in bed and watch the darkened ceiling until I had to get up and go back to work.

I stopped being able to complete even basic tasks—I left the clerkship as one of the most incompetent clerks ever to grace Kozinski’s chambers, and I’m fairly certain that when I started I was not one of his most incompetent clerks. I gained something like forty pounds over the last six months of the clerkship.

I can understand the physical toll, but what I find astounding is how diminished Bond felt about her abilities. No doubt she was a superstar to get a clerkship with Kozinski in the first place, not to mention that she went on to clerk for Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy. (Bond has a degree in theoretical physical chemistry from University of California at Berkeley and graduated summa cum laude from the University of  Michigan Law School). 

So how is it that someone so brilliant and accomplished can be reduced to a pile of helplessness and self-doubt? Bond asked herself those questions and remains mystified: "I’m not sure I will ever be satisfied with my own answers, but by the time this happened, I was not in the best place to say no to anything."

What comes through in Bond's telling is that Kozinski used charm and power to manipulate. He seemed both playful and monstrous at the same time. On her first day at work, he jokingly called her "my slave." But on another occasion, he used the master/slave analogy in a much more frightening way. According to Bond, the judge told her: "I control what you read, what you write, when you eat. You don’t sleep if I say so. You don’t shit unless I say so. Do you understand?”

 He also insisted on absolute secrecy from his clerks—something that he stressed to Bond:

On the last day of my clerkship, he told me that the beauty of judicial confidentiality was that it went two ways. As long as I never, ever told anyone what had happened in chambers with him, he would never tell anyone what had happened with me.

At that point, aware of just how painfully bad I had been at stumbling through the clerkship those last months, I was grateful to think that I could forget the year entirely. It felt like he was telling me that all that incompetence belonged to someone else, not me.

And there's that word again: Incompetence. It's hard for me to believe that Bond was anything but a super-achiever, but she seemed genuinely convinced that she was a failure by the time she left her clerkship with Kozinski.

Which brings us to Bond's career choices. Her rejection of what might have been—an illustrious future as a law professor, government lawyer, judge, law firm partner—seems to have its roots with her awful experience with Kozinski. And though she writes that she had a positive time clerking for Justices O'Connor and Kennedy, it's ultimately Kozinski who casts the biggest shadow.

Indeed, she says as much: "If you did not know about Kozinski, it would be impossible to understand my career choices." She writes that she applied for various jobs as a law professor, but withdrew. She says she couldn't bear to teach at her own law school because, "when I did the campus visit, it reminded me too much of who I had been before the clerkship, and I couldn’t handle the memory." Though she had other job offers, she felt like a fraud, a conspirator in her own degradation by Kozinski: "I could not escape the notion that my career success was built entirely on my silence."

Instead, she pursued something that's almost antithetical to the logical, cerebral world of law: becoming a romance novelist. (Bond writes under the pen name Courtney Milan.) And her choice seems to have everything to do with how Kozinski abused her:

I wrote books where women won, again and again.

I grappled with my own secret in fictional, changed form. Book after book, I wrote the happy ending I couldn’t quite reach myself. That the stories I wrote resonated with readers, I think, speaks to the fact that #metoo has been building for centuries.

I asked Bond for an interview, and she declined. After reading her post, I can understand why. She's aired the secret that's crippled her for a decade, so she's ready to move on. Who can blame her?

She sums up her feelings about Kozinski toward the end of her post: "

I do not want to have to think about Judge Kozinski in any public capacity beyond what I have said here. Despite what I have related here, I also believe that the Judge is one of the most brilliant, capable legal minds sitting on the federal bench. I am sure that this revelation will spark a debate about Kozinski’s future; I do not want to have anything to do with it. Please exclude me from these discussions.

It's powerful stuff. The brilliant judge could have shaped her career, helped chart her future in law. He could have been a powerful role mode,  a valued mentor and a lifelong friend. Instead, he turned out to be something else, and Bond took a very different path. 



December 13, 2017

Can We Get Rid of Alex Kozinski?



Oh, my. It looks like esteemed jurist Alex Kozinski (above) has been very, very naughty.

But before I dive into what can be done about misbehaving federal judges (Kozinski serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit) let me first give him a big shout-out for enlivening my job. As someone who covers Big Law, I’ve been bemoaning the dearth of juicy #MeToo moments in the profession. But the judge is doing a spectacular job of filling that void!

In case you've been out of the loop, The Washington Post reported that six women (former clerks and externs) complained that Judge Kozinski showed them pornography in his chambers or otherwise made inappropriate, sex-laden comments to them at work. Two of them went public, including Heidi Bond, one of Kozinski's former clerks, and Emily Murphy, who clerked for Ninth Circuit judge Richard Paez.

Bond told The Post that Kozinski showed her pornographic images, then asked her whether she found them titillating. (She replied no, then dryly asked Kozinski, "Is there anything else you need?”)

Kozinski didn't share his porn collection with Murphy, but he did suggest that she exercise in the nude at the court's gym. "It wasn’t just clear that he was imagining me naked, he was trying to invite other people—my professional colleagues—to do so as well," Murphy told The Post.

As for the complaints of the other four women—well, you get the drift.

Although Kozinski's antics aren't quite up to the standards of Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer, I think he's more than holding his own, particularly for a muckety-muck judge. (Remember, Kozinski served as chief judge on the Ninth Circuit from 2007 to 2014 and is a feeder of clerks to the Supreme Court.) I'm no expert, but I'd say that showing female clerks pornographic images or making lewd comments to them about their bodies wouldn’t be considered best practices in most work environments.

Now, let’s go back to the main issue: How do you solve a problem like Kozinski? It'd be easy if he just crawl away in shame and resign.

So far, he's shown no inclination of doing that. In response to the charges by the six women, Kozinski told the Los Angeles Times: “If this is all they are able to dredge up after 35 years, I am not too worried.” (I’ve asked Kozinski for comment, but have not yet received a response.)

Kozinski is right: He can sit pretty. "Article III gives judges lifetime tenure, so it is unlikely he would lose his job," explains legal ethics expert Ronald Rotunda, a professor at Chapman University School of Law. “His colleagues could seek to persuade him to take senior status and retire from the bench.” Impeachment is a possibility, says Rotunda, but “very unlikely” given the cronyism of judges.

As for the women suing Kozinski, that’s also a nonstarter. Not only are their claims out of the statutorily required time period (usually 180 to 360 days from the date of the alleged incident) of Title VII, but federal law clerks are probably not covered by the statute, says harassment expert Sandra Sperino, who’s dean of faculty at University of Cincinnati College of Law. “Even assuming a claim would be brought by someone within the applicable coverage and time limits, the cases involving sexual explicit material in the workplace depend heavily on the context of exactly what happened and how many times it happened,” warns Sperino. In other words, inviting (forcing?) underlings to watch porn in the office once or twice might not pass muster for a Title VII claim.

So what’s the solution to getting rid of a bad apple judge? “Congress should change the law so that all of Article III [which governs the judiciary] and all of Article I [which governs Congress] are under the sex harassment laws that govern the Executive Branch and the rest of us,” proposes Rotunda. “If Congress extends the sex harassment laws to the judiciary, then court clerks and other employees can sue the judge personally for sex harassment. If judges have to pay money damages out of their own pockets that would get their attention.”

And what are the chances that Congress will change harassment laws to cover the judiciary and itself? That’s easy: Bupkis.

Are we then totally stuck with Kozinski and his sort? No, says Stanford Law School professor Deborah Rhode. While Rhode believes that there should be “a full and impartial investigation” into Kozinski’s alleged behavior, she says there’s now far less tolerance for abuse of power. “In this current climate—especially given his history with pornography—people will find it unacceptable.” (In 2008, Kozinski got an admonishment from the judiciary council of The Third Circuit for keeping porn and dirty jokes on a personal website that was accessible to the public.)

Though Rhode concedes that “it’s really hard to impeach a federal judge,” she suggests that there are other ways to skin the Kozinski cat: “The court could decide not assign cases to him, and, I hope, word [of his abuse] will get out to students who are applying for clerkships.”

Another effective weapon, says Rhode, is old-fashioned shaming. “There’s a general trend of taking abuse more seriously, and women are speaking out.” She adds, “there are shaming possibilities, and using blog posts and the press to get the message out [about abuse of power].”

So instead of “slut-shaming,” maybe we should all try some lech-shaming. Hey, it's worth a try.


December 9, 2017

Are We Forgetting about Black Women Lawyers?

Black-female-professionalAs tough as it is for black lawyers to rise to the top in law firms, it's even bleaker for black female attorneys. How much bleaker? Ponder this: Though black women have outnumbered black men in law schools for about two decades, they constitute only a fraction (.56 percent) of the overall number of black partners (less than 2 percent) at the nation's major firms.

Simply put, black women are the minority within the minority.

What's distressing is that even the most well-credentialed black female lawyers seem to fare poorly. According to a new Harvard Law School study of black alumni, black women have outnumbered black men every year but two since 1992 (in 2001, black women made up almost 78 percent of all black students). Yet, male black alums were more likely to be partners than their female counterparts (of those in private practice, 47.4 percent men versus 28.6 women were partners), and far more likely to have leadership roles (92 percent of all black alums who've served as managing partners or department heads have been men).

In the case of HLS, the problem isn't the pipeline. So why are Harvard Law alumnae so scarce on the partnership front? And if these high-credentialed women aren't making it, what does this bode for African American female lawyers overall? 

The situation isn't hopeful, and the reasons are complicated. "Black women have all the problems of black men plus what white women face," says HLS professor David Wilkins, the author of the study about black alums. "What's not being heard is the intersection of race and gender."

Carolyn Edgar, a 1993 graduate of HLS, echoes that point. "We are still black and we are still women, and those two forces operate on us differently." Black men, she adds, "will get sponsorship, mentorship," provided they've passed muster with firm management. "If they're comfortable enough to keep him, he's likely to succeed."

Black female lawyers say they face a unique blend of racial stereotypes, sexism and disrespect. "You don't fit in," says a black female partner of a major firm. "If you're aggressive, you're angry; if you're too quiet, you must be stupid." She describes situations in which her abilities have been questioned—even by subordinates. "I've had a  junior associate who questioned whether I was smart enough to manage him," adding that the attitude shows up in "a certain tone."

That condescension also creeps up in the women's interactions outside of the firm. A black finance partner at an Am Law 100 firm remembers the patronizing manner of opposing counsel who lectured her during negotiations, "this is just basic law." On another deal, she recounts her exchange with a white male partner from the South: "He said to me, 'Little lady, I need for you to stop talking dirty to me'—and I was just asking about the capital structure."

Ironically, black female lawyers say that it's older white partners who are sometimes most respectful and supportive. "The older ones treat me fairly," says Alanna Rutherford, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner, who adds that she's had wonderful white, male mentors. "You shouldn't assume that someone will be an ally because of their race or gender," says Edgar, a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis, who is now an in-house counsel. "I've been in situations where black male partners did nothing to support me."

And how supportive are their white sisters? That gets a mixed reaction. Women's affinity groups "don't address race because they're dominated by white women," says one of the black female partners, adding, "it's not a conscious thing." Wilkins explains, "When we talk about women's issues, we're referring to issues of affluent white women."

So how do black female lawyers address the biases and challenges that they face?

Mostly, they don't. "You don't want a reputation of playing the race card or the sexism card," says one of the female partners. "You can't have an honest conversation about these issues," says Rutherford, because people will think, 'Oh my god, she's bringing up race and sex!' " 

And that silence is what makes the problem even more painful. "It's demoralizing. It's why so many of us drop out," sums up one female black lawyer.


December 6, 2017

David Boies Is in Trouble with Women. Again.



First, it seemed he could walk on water. Now, it seems he's getting pulled into the gutters.

Litigator extraordinaire David Boies is in the news again—and not in a good way. (It seems I just reported on Boies' role in hiring private investigators for Harvey Weinstein to dig up dirt about the movie mogul's accusers.)

Boies latest imbroglio is his involvement in the representation of the ex-boyfriend of writer Emma Cline (above), the author of Girls, an acclaimed fictional account of a young woman's relationship with Charles Manson.

On its face, it's an intellectual property dispute in which Cline's ex-lover Chaz Reetz-Laiolo claims that she stole his writing for her book and invaded his privacy via a spyware program installed on her laptop. (Reetz-Laiolo had use of her computer during their relationship, and later bought it from Cline after their romance ended.) 

In the New Yorker, Sheelah Kolhatkar reports that Boies Schiller sent Cline and her lawyers (they include Davis Wright & Tremaine, Steptoe & Johnson and revenge porn expert Carrie Goldberg) a draft complaint that sought to stop the sale of The Girls and a movie deal based on the book. (Reetz-Laiolo is also suing the book's publisher and the movie company.) At the time, Boies Schiller was pushing to settle the matter. 

Nothing unusual about all this except that the complaint came in the form of a not-so-veiled threat—of the most tawdry sort. Reports The New Yorker:

On May 26th, Boies Schiller responded by sending a hundred-and-ten-page draft of a complaint that it said it was prepared to file in court if the two sides did not reach a settlement. David Boies’s name appeared at the top of it. Reading through the allegations, Cline was stunned to find a section titled “Cline’s History of Manipulating Older Men,” which purported to illustrate how Boies Schiller would easily discredit her arguments about her former boyfriend’s treatment of her before a jury. “[E]vidence shows that Cline was not the innocent and inexperienced naïf she portrayed herself to be, and had instead for many years maintained numerous ‘relations’ with older men and others, from whom she extracted gifts and money,” the section began. What followed were thirteen pages containing screenshots of explicit chat conversations with lovers, including one in which Cline had sent a naked photo of herself (the photo was blacked out in the letter) to a boyfriend, explicit banter with people she’d met online, and snippets of her most intimate diary entries. All of this material had been recorded by the spyware and remained on Cline’s old laptop, which Reetz-Laiolo now had in his possession.

Along with the draft complaint, Boies Schiller also sent Cline's lawyers a letter that explained why it included her sexual history: Because Cline had alleged Reetz-Laiolo abused her and justified her use of spyware by claiming that she suspected that he was unfaithful to her, she placed her "sexual conduct directly at issue." 

Let's just stop here and say that no one is coming off smelling like a rose here—not Cline, Reetz-Laiolo or their lawyers. Using spyware to monitor a boyfriend is not cool. But neither is threatening to air an ex-girlfriend's sex life.

And the lawyers? Let's just call Boies Schiller's action for what it is: Slut-shaming. While Cline might have tried (fairly or not) to portray herself as a young naif and her ex-lover as a manipulative older man, it's a stretch to say that details of her sexual exploits are relevant to this suit. I mean, did we need to know that she trolled Craig's List for hookups to assess whether she had plagiarized?

But all's fair in love and litigation, right?

Yes, except that the winds have changed. Slut-shaming might be an ugly tactic that's been more or less tolerated in the past (remember how Gibson Dunn & Crutcher portrayed Bridget Anne Kelly as an unhinged, scorned lover in the Bridgegate scandal?), but we are less apt to put up with it in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. 

And that's exactly what Cline's lawyers are counting on. Although her lawyers have had that controversial draft complaint since May, they decided to go public with it now. They are capitalizing on our collective outrage about the way powerful men abuse women and—more strategically—the negative publicity surrounding Boies and his firm's former representation of Weinstein. 

It's probably smart strategy for Cline's lawyers to suggest that Boies and company have a propensity to deploy dirty tricks to smear women. It's also transparently exploitative. Arguably, her lawyers are not acting in good faith by disclosing what went on during confidential settlement discussions. (Her lawyers did not respond to my request for comment.)

Ultimately, Boies Schiller decided to omit those sexual details in the complaint it filed on November 29. But even absent the salacious stuff, the filed documents (Cline's lawyers file a counter-complaint the same day) read like a soap opera replete with sex, betrayal and rampant insecurity.

Boies Schiller denies that it omitted Cline's sexual history because Weinstein has changed the game. Boies Schiller partner Nicholas Gravante says, "the current climate, while a factor to be carefully considered in all future tactical decisions," had little bearing on how the firm handles the suit. He adds: "When the other side makes false allegations as a defense to his or her violations of law, we are under a legal, ethical, and moral obligation to vigorously defend our clients by pointing out the truth, even when the false allegations consist of fabricated sexual abuse."

That's a convoluted way of saying that the firm will do what it's got to do to defend its clients.

Which brings us back to Boies. While it's clear that the firm has deployed some unseemly tactics in this case, is it fair to put the spotlight and blame on Boies? 

Not according to his firm. A number of partners have said that Boies had little involvement in the case, beyond lending his name to the draft complaint, and that Edward Normand is the real partner in charge. (Boies' name was not on the filed complaint.) Gravante says: "Boies had nothing to do with the draft or filed complaint, but he did participate in one settlement discussion."

Is it credible that Boies had nothing to do with the draft complaint and its sordid details? Yes, because it's hard to imagine that he would personally get into the weeds representing some little-known writer in an infringement matter where the odds of success are far from certain.

But putting Boies' name on draft complaints and trotting him out as a showstopper at settlements seem to be part of the firm's practice. It might work to impress or intimidate rivals some of the time, but in this matter, Boies name is backfiring. 

Boies and his firm are taking a hit—deservedly so, I'm afraid. You'd think the firm would be more careful of the way it uses its most precious commodity.



December 5, 2017

Are Lawyers that Thick?



Another quick look at the news:

Yes, you need to have business if you want to trade up. This is why I'll never make it as a diplomat or career counselor. I have little patience with those who are hopelessly thick.

A lawyer asked columnist and "lawyer whisperer" Julie Brush at our sibling pub, The Recorder: "I’m a junior litigation partner at a mid-sized law firm. I have great credentials and trial experience, but no portable book of business. Will I be able to 'upgrade' to a big firm as a partner?"

tactfully answered that his options would be "limited." She said that if he had solid trial experience in a high demand niche area he might be able to move, though probably into a position with a less prestigious title. Having business, she emphasized, is key for making lateral moves in the major leagues.

I applaud Brush for answering the question so delicately. But I'm amazed that any lawyer would ask such a silly question in the first place. Are lawyers so out of it that they'd think that having "great credentials" and "experience" will land them a position (partner, no less!) with a big firm?  

Frankly, I would have been a lot more blunt with this litigator. So here's my tough-love message: You ain't going nowhere. If I were you, I'd double-up on the brown-nosing at your current firm.

The official list of 10 law schools to avoid like the plague. Of course, there are many, many more law schools that are not worth your time or money. But these schools have earned the distinction of being publicly disciplined by the American Bar Association for enrolling students who are unlikely to graduate and pass the bar. 

The schools are: Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia, Arizona Summit Law School in Phoenix, Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida, Charlotte Law School (now closed), Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston and Valparaiso University Law School in Valparaiso, Indiana.

According to Law.com, it's rare for law schools to be publicly sanctioned this way. You know that these schools must the worst of the worst, because some legal education experts, including Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency, have argued that the ABA's own standards for law schools weren't that stringent in the first place. 

Perhaps this sounds harsh and elitist, but I don't believe these schools (and lots of others with poor job records for graduates) have any business in legal education. They are parasitic institutions that play to the pathetic vanities of people who think they can be lawyers. Sad.

Is The Mooch running out of things to do? Remember Anthony Scaramucci, who was White House Communications Director for about 30 seconds? He's now threatening to sue the Tufts Daily and Tufts Fletcher School of Diplomacy student, Camilo Caballero, for a series of op-eds in which Cavallero calls the Mooch "irresponsible," "unethical," someone who just wants "attention and nothing more," plus "a man who makes his Twitter accessible to friends interested in giving comfort to Holocaust deniers."

When asked why he'd bother with this suit, Scaramucci told Tufts Observer: "When you guys get a little older and you start running businesses . . .  and your reputation in this business is super valuable . . . you will fight aggressively defamatory public remarks that are made about you whether they are in a student newspaper or a much larger publication." (Scaramucci said he would drop the lawsuit threat if the student and the paper apologize.)

Sounds high and mighty. But wouldn't it be more graceful (and mature) to just let these swipes go? I mean, Mooch, are you serious about this lawsuit or are you just afraid that we've already forgotten you?

TED Talks are hot beds of sexual harassment. Considering how often it offers upbeat talks with feminist messages (e.g., speeches by Sheryl Sandburg, Monica Lewinsky and Gretchen Carlson), it's a bit unnerving to hear that TED conferences are crawling with creepy guys. 

As first reported by The Washington Post, male attendees groped female attendees at conferences. What's more, even TED's top lawyer was not spared the indignities. "Nishat Ruiter, TED’s general counsel, seems to have been both privy to information about the harassment and herself a subject of inappropriate behavior," reports Corporate Counsel.

First of all, who knew Ted Talks were run like rock concerts (alcohol and drugs are plentiful, according to internal emails unearthed by the Post)? And who would have thought that a bunch of "ideas" nerds (Bill Gates has been spotted) would be going for the sexual atmospherics? Really, what's this world coming to?


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

My Other Accounts

Google Plus
Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 03/2010