Articles Posted in General

The Patterico Pontifications Blog has a post today about Judge Alex Kozinski, the Chief Judge for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Kozinski has been a prolific and relatively public conservative judge. I remember thinking it was pretty cool when I heard that he closed one important opinion with the line: “The parties are advised to chill.”

Anyway, apparently Judge Kozinski had gone Eliot Spitzer on us. He has website filled with a lot of pornographic images, photos of transsexuals, naked women on all fours painted to look like cows, people fooling around with barnyard animals, and lots of other images that I really don’t feel like describing. Let’s just say the guy is twisted and leave it at that.

To this, I say creepy, but who really cares? But he also had a picture on his website of what looks like a child giving oral sex to a priest. The Patterico Pontifications Blog provides a picture that I would have done just fine without seeing.

A lawyer in New York wrote to tell me that Eliot Spitzer has already tacitly admitted violating the Mann Act, a felony that leads to an automatic suspension or disbarment (he could not remember which) in New York.

The Mann Act makes it a felony to aid in the transportation of a woman in interstate commerce “for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose, or with the intent and purpose to induce, entice, or compel such woman or girl,” to commit immoral acts.

Okay, ah, I think Eliot Spitzer is guilty of that. Spitzer committed a felony technically. But at some point, prosecutors are charged with applying a little common sense. Does anyone think it is a more serious crime in 2008 to bring a prostitute across state lines than it is to hire a local prostitute? Should prosecutors give a ton of deference to a statute that was named the “White Slave Trade Act” as opposed to applying common sense?

My blog on Friday on large law firms and their lawyers poked a bit of fun at my brother-in-law in Arizona, who is a partner in a very large firm. I forwarded him the post and got no response. Today, he responded with a comment to my blog which I have converted into a post. Apparently, he had an opinion on the subject. He also proved the point of my original post by using the word “untermenchen” at one point. This is his response:

In response to my brother-in-law, I would agree that associate salaries fresh out of law school have just become plain silly. And I say that not because of the amounts at issue, but because of the incongruity between those amounts and the “new work ethic” of those now entering the profession. It is difficult to look someone in the face who is making $160K a year and seriously consider their views on work/life balance. Not that our profession cannot make work/life balance a reality. It is to say, however, that those entering the workforce seem to think (and I concede this is a gross generalization) that they ought to be able to punch the clock 9-5 and still get those princely sums of money and bonuses. When an associate bills 1600 hours (10% of which is then written off for various reasons) and charges another 200 hours of non-billable time, and then calls it a year, I can safely say we are paying new associates too much.

The great myth orbiting big firms is the notion that their associates work like slaves. Over the last 15 years, I have worked at two of the largest firms in the U.S. You would be shocked to learn that neither firm has succeeded in cajoling, begging, and/or threatening its associates to reach 1700 average associate billable hours across those firms. At my prior firm, the average associate’s billable hours were below 1650 per year. So, the basic truth is, in any large firm, some people work ridiculously hard and ordinarily succeed. Some people work like mere mortals, hit around 1900-2000 hours, make good client contacts or develop their own business, and also succeed. Many, many more, however, jump into the pool for a few quick laps, sit at the pool bar drinking daiquiris while their colleagues lap them, and then whine incessantly about their small bonuses and the sweatshop they loathe. It may surprise you to learn that most large firms lose money (and a lot of it) on associates until they get into their 6th year of practice. Think about that. We make a 6-year investment, which is right around the time associates become marketable as individuals rather than as fungible commodities (no offense intended to newbies). It’s akin to drafting a high school kid, giving the kid a big signing bonus, bringing him up through the minors, and as soon as the kid appears to be ready to hit .300 and stealing 40 bases a year, the kid goes free agent on you. I realize that is not the aptest analogy, but you get the picture. To use your analogy, consider pouring all that money into JaMarcus Russell, but as soon as it is time for him to take his first snap from the center in a meaningful game, he just leaves and your investment was worthless. Enough on associate salaries.

Eric Turkewitz’s New York Personal Injury Law Blog has a post on Staten Island’s Acting Supreme Court Justice Philip Straniere growing an out-of-control beard in protest of New York judges failure to get a raise in nine years from their $135,900 salary. As Eric points out, first-year salaries at large New York firms go well beyond the salary of a New York judge.

When I was an associate for a large defense firm, I complained about… pretty much everything come to think of it, which may account for why my tenure was short and unsuccessful (my distaste for pharmaceutical companies didn’t help either). But I did not complain about my salary because I always figured if I wanted to make more I could go elsewhere and that was how the free market worked. Maryland judges are paid about the same (here are their salaries) but when a spot becomes available, a long line forms of people who are making a lot more in private practice than they would on the bench. See this post, for example. Why? Because it is a very prestigious job both in and out of the legal community, you can make a difference, and because the only client you have to answer to is your own conscious.

Look, I’m mindful of the judge’s point. I also support higher judicial salaries because I think it will help recruit and, more importantly, retain good judges. (I also think judges should make more as their tenure increases.) But I don’t think growing a beard in protest is the solution, and it certainly is not good PR for the legal profession. Believe me, there will not be a huge groundswell of public sympathy for the poor judge making only $135,900 with, I’m sure, wonderful benefits, a great pension, etc. If this judge feels that strongly about it, he should leave the bench and go get a job. I’m sure he will find a job paying at least twice that in a New York second in the Big Apple. But here’s the thing: there will be qualified lawyers making three times what this judge is making lining up to take his place.

Fourteen people have applied to fill the current vacancy on the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County. I believe the Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission will receive the results of the balloting conducted among members of the bar shortly. Below is an alphabetical list of the candidates:

Hon. Krystal Quinn Alves (District Court for Prince George’s County)

Hon. Hassan Ali El-Amin (District Court for Prince George’s County)