Wednesday, October 15, 2008

LIVEBLOG: David Lat - "Big Law and the End of the World as We Know It"

NB: We are counting the number of time the speaker says "ESPECIALLY IN THIS ECONOMY". [He said it four times, and Troy Felver said it once].

NB 2: Mr. Lat points out, correctly, that by the time he actually started speaking - a little after five - Caplin auditorium was pretty full and there were people standing in back. We meant to note that but we can only types so fast . . .

: The man himself is here, looking sharp in a dark blue suit and a nice tie in a full windsor knot. His shoes have a WLRK shine to them. He's chatting up a few students about the election. In regards to debate, "This one could be especially interesting, because McCain has nothing to lose." We agree - Obama should probably just take a knee every time the moderator asks a question. Not too many other students here - of course, we're the obnoxious guy in the back row, pounding away on our laptop.

Let's hope that Lat doesn't pull a Scalia and make us put away

4.43: OMG - Mike Stark and David Lat meet. Stark is dressed in a tasteful yellow button-down and is carrying a 20 oz. bottle of Coke Zero. Stark is already talking his ear off about politics. . . some other students have intrepidly tied to edge their way into the circle. Caplin Pavilion is also staring to fill up. Lat: "It's great to meet you in person."

4.52: Stark just finished talking with Lat. Is it the personality-monopolizing we saw at the Scalia FedSoc thing all over again? Still plenty of empty seats, but we're waiting on a big VLR contingent.

5.00: And we're off. A hush falls over the crowd . . . surprising that there is not a bigger crowd; Frank Easterbrook packed the place, but right now I'd say it's about half full. And really, David Lat is more monolithic than the Easter Bunny, at least in our humble opinion . . . [see above though]

5.04: Troy Felver, 2L, is giving the introduction. He seems very intellectual . . . thanking people, blah, bah, I'm not typing this Troy . . . On ATL "We enjoy the wickedly sardonic comments, but return for the public service it provides . . . ESPECIALLY IN THIS ECONOMY it provides nervous law students comfort that they are not alone." He goes over Lat's godlike resume and tenure as the editor of Underneath Their Robes.

5:07: "No matter what the rankings say . . . you guys were voted America's coolest law school on ATL" - so Lat begins - AND "don't tell anyone this . . . but UVA's libel show is the best produced of all them."

UVA also has it's own category on ATL, says Lat. Your welcome, says us. UVA has also provided me with good material for UTR, says Lat.

5.08: Lat calls out Mike Stark, as a UVA, and also calls out aquagirl at Cleary. Conclusion: UVA rocks. "To be a good blogger," he adds, "you need to have a bit of ADD." Hrmmm...

5.11: He's going to briefly describe his career . . . he's a guy who has tried it all, govenrment, law firm, clerking, blogging - this is going to lead into "Big Law and the End of the World as We Know It" . . . he's telling us now we should all go clerk on the 9th Circuit. Yowsers . . . that's an easy job to get, right? Cause OGI be gettin' us down . . . "take refuge in government."

5.15: "Then I went to Wachtell Lipton - a law firm in New York - you probably all know that already . . ." Nope, they don't come to OGI . . . and we don't have a Wachtell conference room. He talks about being there from 2000-2003, the last economic downturn. Now he is talking about the USAO. If you're a 1L, ESPECIALLY IN THIS ECONOMY, think about working there this summer, he said.

5.18: "Back in 2004, there were fewer blogs out there . . . soooooooo" he's telling the story of the founding of UTR. Gossip about judges is scintillating, and allowed Lat to indulged his "gossipy-fun" side. "Switched everything about myself" to mask my identity, says Lat - including gender, firm/government, time-zone . . . but then "I kind of got really into the persona, got carried away, and knew more about shoes than my mother did." Posner speculated that he was not a chick because "no professional women would talk like this." They eventually tracked him down with an IP address.

5.22: "When I met with Jeffery Toobin, he was expecting a gorgeous leggy woman . . . what he got was a Filipino guy" . . . lead to his outting, and he eventually let Toobin out him, hoping that it wouldn't be a big deal at the New Jersey USAO . . . well, not so fast . . . though "I didn't actually get fired." Lat: It wasn't like I was divulging any secrets or contravening US policy. USAO just wanted him to shut down the blog, and go back to work as a prosecutor . . .but he missed life on the interwebs too much.

Still only two "ESPECIALLY IN THIS ECONOMY" lines . . .

5.25: If I could do law school over again, I would spend less time in the libray and more time hob-nobbing with classmates." Networking is important says Lat . . . why doesn't he add *when* it's important.

5.27: [Once I started blogging] I got to meet Hillary Clinton. Yay Hillary!" An endorsement?

5:30: "No one is getting rich off [ATL] . . . I think people go into media because they love it."

"We've been covering the rise and fall of the legal profession - what we're seeing in the law firm world now is what we are seeing in the economy at large."

He's going to open it up for questions. . . .

5:31: "I'm a total facebook friend whore - so add me! "

No one has asked a question, so Lat asks himself one: "What will law firm hiring be like next year?" Answer: "Crappy." He advises us to ask our cab drivers what they think, as they usually have the best grip on what's going on the economy. His cab driver had real estate investments . . . emphasis on the "had".

1) IN THIS KIND OF ECONOMY, you should try to be as informed as possible, and gather as much info as you can - in the old economy it didn't matter where you ended up, but that's not true now - look into how much debt the firm has.

You should really investigate things - don't be afraid to ask tough questions, but for 2Ls, be sure to wait until after the offer. Once you have an offer in hand, "then you can kick the tires."

Don't mention that you read ATL everyday, until you have an offer . . .

Said "IN THIS ECONOMY" again. Up to four

5:36 2) Think about your options than being at a firm. "My gut feeling is that we will be in a bad economy ofr about three or four years."

Remember that Law isn't a terrible investment, we are "far better off than our friends over at Darden." We're very well situated at UVA, "I would be giving a very different message if I were at a lower ranked school I would be giving a very different talk." Don't overlook government, "I hear that the DOJ is changing its criteria." Don't overlook midsize firms, smaller markets, or clerking.

The title of the talk is tongue in cheek, says Lat.

5.40 Mike Stark ask a question: Are you ever surprised at the level of emotional stuntedness of the people on your site? Lat: "Nothing surprises me at this point." He then responds to charges to elitism . . . he then takes up the comments, noting that they *are* moderated, and comments are removed with an appropriate request.

He notes that most of the inappropriate commenters are acutally people who are at top law schools or top law firms . . . "it's more of a mirror of [that] society" says Lat,

5.43: Another Q: "You didn't come to the blogging world with a journalism background . . ." Lat: "My legal background I think was very helpful . . ."

Keep in mid career alternatives, journalism is something to think about if the law profession totaly tanks. And journalism is always a good fallback . . .

5.46: We ask about the rumor that some of the heavy hitter firms might be raising their salries to differentiate themselves from the competition for top law students.

Lat: Here's what I think will happen: bonuses will be where the men are separated from the boys, he would be really interested in what the bonus expectations are this year. Wonders if firms are going to avail themselves of the Cravath model of regular and special bonuses . . . firms might just keep the regular bonus. Or, it's possible that firms will announce a schedule, but make it in practice tough to actually get that bonus.

"I think that there will be differences in compensation, but I don't think we will see any raises. I am especially interested in what Wachtell does . . . who had a very good year, but also tends to be a really conservatively managed firm . . . when i was there in an economic downturn bonuses were were below 50% . . . but now they are closes to 100%"

5.50: "What newspapers do you read?" Lat, after quoting Sarah Palin in jest: ", WSJ Law Blog, and so forth . . ." He notes that ATL is still a relatively small company that is not really focused on investigative journalism - it doesn't have the resources.

He notes one of the main editorial functions of ATL is aggregation - filtering through the news to get to the good stuff.

He also credits the readers - "If half a dozen readers email us the same story, we do a full post on it, because it is what people are talking about."

5.54: Question is interested why Gawker's site info isn't public? Lat: I'm not sure. Decemeber was a good month for us; the company is doing well, even though the traffic isn't that large, the CPM (advertising revenue indicator) is much higher because of the focused nature of the blog. ATL is actually in expansion mode. He's always happy to answer any questions about the traffic of his blog. "If you ask me, I'll tell you."

5.57: Will off-shoring legal work hurt us? Lat: This has been a hot topic - "My short answer is it's going to be huge factor - you can do a lot of things more cost effiectively where labour is less expensive - and thanks to technology, efficiently as well."

A plus side would be that "you can focus your energy on tasks that are perhaps of a higher value" with someone else doing the dreg work.

6.00: Q: Is the student obsession with the prestige of law firms to their detriment? Lat: This is a good bit to conclude on.

"At a certain point you have to get off the treadmill . . . and ask what *I* want to do. . . what depresses me is people who have been phenomenally successful at the legal profession who at age 50 or 60 are not happy about their lives or legal professions."

"When you're on the treadmill, you can be so focused on what is next, that you can't see that you're ridiculous."

Caution: Beware of the flight to quality - heading to the highest ranking firm possible. "Well I generally tell people to go as high as you can in the law school context, but in the firm context it's different." Dig enough to find the difference between firms, focus on these - and remember to kick the tires. "In the information age, law students and young lawyers get the legal profession that they deserve."

It's, of course, "a little bit different than it was before IN THIS ECONOMY" That's five, and he's done, time for some snacks....


Anonymous said...

Overheard in hallway: "So I see you have a Davis Polk & Wardwell conference room . . ." David Lat, you are so lame.

Rule 12 (f) said...

no WLRK rooms though! - that's probably what he meant.

Stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

OMFG! Like, what's he saying?

Anonymous said...

you were typing very loudly in caplin. it was distracting

Rule 12 (f) said...

have to break eggs to make omlette?


Anonymous said...

You can hear your typing on the video on the law school website. Well done!

Rule 12 (f) said...

ty ty xoxo

Anonymous said...

He was always at the Libeloke. Unfortunately, he did not show off his rendition of Unchained Melody.