Thursday, October 05, 2006



Legal Blog Watch

Supreme Court Clerks Reaching (er, Representing) the Stars

No one has done more to glamorize and create a celebrity mystique for Supreme Court law clerks than David Lat at Underneath Their Robes. But the allure of the Hotties of the Law simply doesn't compare to the Hotties of Hollywood. And as this article, Supreme Court Connection:  High Court Clerks Tackle Entertainment Law ( Matthew Belloni -- Oct. 3, 2006), explains, Supreme Court clerks are trading in on their celebrity status in the small pond of the legal profession to represent big-time, Hollywood celebrities. Though generally, entertainment boutiques do not hire lawyers without experience, Supreme Court clerks have proven the exception to this rule. As Belloni reports:

The boutiques . do not hire . without experience.  Except when they do. Tara Kole and Theane Evangelis are first-year associates at two of L.A.'s most elite talent boutiques - Kole at Gang Tyre Ramer & Brown in Beverly Hills and Evangelis at Ziffren Brittenham Branca Fischer Gilbert-Lurie Stiffelman Cook Johnson Lande & Wolf in Century City - firms with client rosters among the most enviable in the business that rarely take on young associates, much less lawyers who are new to private practice. It might have helped that both Kole and Evangelis are the legal world's equivalent of young rock stars, having spent the 2004-05 term clerking for the U.S. Supreme Court, whose new term begins this week. Kole worked with Justice Antonin Scalia, Evangelis with now-retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The duo's credentials meant they likely could have selected anywhere to begin their careers - anywhere, the conventional wisdom goes, but the insular and highly specialized world of talent dealmaking. But the two managed to graduate from one of the most selective positions in law to one of the entertainmentindustry's toughest to crack. In the process, they exemplify both the level of legal talent the industry is attracting and, perhaps a bit disheartening for the community at large, the kind of credentials that may increasingly be required to break into the practice.

As of yet, entertainment law is not a popular choice for Supreme Court clerks. Describes Steven Krone (another Supreme Court clerk who went to the entertainment industry):

"Certainly I was a curiosity," Krone says. "There were 35 clerks my term. Half went to appellate divisions of Washington firms or the office of the Attorney General. One went to the Southern Poverty Center, and the rest went to traditional firms."

As law firm life grows more arduous for new associates, even the $200,000 signing bonuses that Supreme Court clerks can command may not be all that appealing. After all, when you can bask in the bright lights of Hollywood, why would you be content to be one of hundreds of associates, burning the midnight oil?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 4, 2006 at 11:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does Technology Make Our Lives Easier?

The JD Bliss Blog poses the question of whether mobile technology helps or hinders work-life balance:

Some say the technologies keep employees tethered to the office 24/7, while others argue that the ability to communicate with the office and clients anytime, anywhere is liberating.

JD Bliss sites a study out of the United Kingdom, where 73 percent of respondents said that they have seen an improvement in their work-life balance as a result of  using mobile technologies. (But, as the post notes, the survey was  commissioned by Damovo UK, which provides mobile communication technologies to businesses). 

Meanwhile, another survey suggests the opposite result. According to this news release (October 2006):

A new university study and the ever-increasing use of wireless devices, such as the BlackBerry, could result in a flood of lawsuits against employers for creating an allegedly dangerous environment where unpaid overwork is required for success, promotion and job security, a leading law firm warns [...] Giving rise to possible claims, is a recent study by Gayle Porter, Associate Professor of Management at Rutgers University in New Jersey, which suggests possible liability for companies if they keep their employees on "electronic leashes" as part of their job requirements."We could easily see the plaintiff's bar pursuing class claims. In light of possible claims involving stress related illnesses, carpal tunnel, and for overtime, companies need to be proactive to avert possible serious monetary consequences," said Morris.

As with everything else, portable technology can bring enormous benefits, if used properly. I'd hate to see a situation where lawsuits resulted in the elimination of the mobile technology from the workplace. More than any other tool, BlackBerrys, cell phones and the Internet have increased our flexibility and enabled lawyers to work away from the office. The solution is not to get rid of the technology but to prevent employers from abusing it.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 4, 2006 at 11:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Justice Scalia Continues His Precedent of Controversy

Last term, it was a crude gesture to reporters; now it's a comment that some say perpetuates stereotypes against Mexicans. With the Supreme Court just starting its new session, Justice Scalia is continuing his precedent of generating controversy. As CNN describes here:

Justice Antonin Scalia opened the Supreme Court's new term Tuesday by questioning whether a man deported to Mexico after a drug conviction would be "abstaining from tequila" for fear of violating his U.S. parole terms.The remark came as justices heard an immigration case involving a Texas man, Reymundo Toledo-Flores, who was deported in April after being convicted of illegally entering the United States.

But though Scalia's comments have drawn lots of attention, are they as offensive as they appear? In her Supreme Court dispatch of the term, Dahlia Lithwick says yes, writing that we have a double standard for Scalia:

If George Allen had uttered Scalia's "nobody thinks your client is abstaining from tequila" crack today, it would have been front-page news. The rest of us would have been forced to form some opinion as to whether it was an "aspersion," a stereotype, a gaffe, or just a celebration of worm-laden beverages. But the court exists on a different plane, and for good reason. We don't want every branch of government to be beholden to the electorate, but that doesn't mean that the justices shouldn't be beholden to themselves. Scalia wants to be a part of the national conversation, but not on the terms the nation has agreed to. And each time he unleashes one of these remarks, I find myself wondering whether he's protecting his right to express himself, or just relishing his free pass.

But taking advantage of same day argument transcripts, Hot Air.com  reaches a different conclusion, by showing how the quote appears in context:

MR. CROOKS: For example, he should not use alcohol, he should not associate with persons.


JUSTICE SCALIA: We have a case involving standing which says that - you know, the doctrine of standing is more than an exercise in the conceivable. And this seem to me an exercise in the conceivable. Nobody thinks your client is really, you know, abstaining from tequila down in Mexico because he is on supervised release in the United States, or is going - is going to apply having been deported from the country for criminal offenses, he is going to apply to come back - and look, these are ingenious exercises in the conceivable. This is just not the real world.

From Hot Air's perspective, Scalia's remark equating tequila with Mexican alcohol is no different than equating sake with Japanese alcohol or vodka with Russian alcohol. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 4, 2006 at 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trial Lawyers Collaborate on Web Site

If you think that trial lawyers constantly compete with each other for top cases, think again. The newly created Trial Lawyer Resource Center (TLRC) is a hot-off-the-presses blog that represents the collaborative efforts of 10 trial lawyers. Some of the collaborators, like David Swanner of South Carolina Trial Law Blog, John Day of Day on Torts, Mark Zamora of A Georgia Lawyer and Ron Miller of Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog may already be familiar names from the blogsphere. Here's how the TLRC blog describes its purpose:

[this is a blog where a] number of the USA's top trial attorneys join together with litigation experts to lend their expertise on topics that matter in your trial practice. Gain insight in case selection, work up, trial strategy, evidence, and post settlement issues. Contributors will reqularly share their real life experiences and knowledge to help you represent injured consumers.

But there's something even more radical about the TLRC besides collaboration and the wealth of information that it will provide to other lawyers at no cost. Traditionally, resources provided by the American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA; soon to be known as the American Association for Justice) has limited certain membership benefits, such as listserve participation, to plaintiffs lawyers. But the lawyers at TLRC apparently have no compunction about sharing their secrets, not just with other plaintiffs lawyers but with the defense bar as well. My guess is that TLRC will find a major audience not just with plaintiffs lawyers but with their adversaries as well.

For more information on the new site, read Evan Schaeffer's interview with David Swanner at Legal Underground.


Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 4, 2006 at 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)