Milbank got the ball rolling several weeks ago with a round of raises. Cravath has now upped the ante for more senior associates and the Biglaw landscape has finally decided to pile on. Where is all this going and what does it all mean? We’ve got thoughts. Meanwhile Amy Wax went ahead and invited a white nationalist back to campus and one of her students is disappointed that people weren’t nicer about it. Finally, a new lawsuit presents an ethics issue spotter involving Trump lawyer Alina Habba.
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Joe Patrice: Welcome to another edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer. I’m Joe Patrice. I’m from Above The Law. That was Kathryn Rubino saying something over, you know, out of turn. Chris Williams is here.
Kathryn Rubino: Wow! Out of turn.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: That’s how we’re going, though. That feels a little extra.
Joe Patrice: If you want to handle the intro to the show, by all means, but otherwise, you wait. You got to wait.
Kathryn Rubino: I got my turn. Excuse me.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: Excuse you. Excuse you.
Joe Patrice: So, anyway, now that, with that interruption, we’ll move on. Chris Williams is here, too. We’re actually all together in the Above The Law offices, which we aren’t always because we usually work fairly remote, but we’re here today. How’s everybody doing? Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: That’s how it is.
Chris Williams: We’re good.
Joe Patrice: Great. As always, this is the Above The Law podcast, where we talk about some of the big stories of the week in Above The Law. But, of course, we begin with some small talk.
Kathryn Rubino: Small talk. That is the saddest small but big small talk horn that you’ve ever done. Do it like, — something. Come on. Put a little effort into it. A little oomph, if you will.
Chris Williams: That was effort.
Kathryn Rubino: You think he made an effort?
Chris Williams: I don’t think he could do better.
Kathryn Rubino: Wow! Your expectations are pretty low for that man.
Joe Patrice: Listen, I was stylistically going for kind of a sad trumpet situation, but all right.
Kathryn Rubino: The expectations for the white man are very low.
Joe Patrice: Okay. All right. We’re here. This is where we are. Okay.
Kathryn Rubino: This is your life, friend.
Joe Patrice: Does anybody have any small talk worth discussing?
Chris Williams: Yeah. I’m doing good. So was it yesterday? I built, with the help of some friends, a fireplace in the backyard.
Kathryn Rubino: You build? Okay. Because if you build the fireplace, that seems —
Joe Patrice: Fireplace is a little bit more of a–
Kathryn Rubino: Engineering marvel.
Chris Williams: Listen, I’ll be very happy this Christmas season, roasting chestnuts and ramen noodles. Whatever I can afford to throw on the Barbie. I’ll just start and end with that marvel of architecture. What about y’all?
Kathryn Rubino: I actually went to brunch with some girlfriends of mine. Since being a mom, I haven’t had a chance to have, like, a girl’s morning or brunch situation often. So it was really nice to see people I haven’t seen for a few months, and it was really good. I walked in, and one of the girls was already there. I was like, oh, I love your shirt. It’s so nice. It was, like, a little dressy. She’s like, well, I knew you were going to get dressed up, so I felt like I had to. And I was like, I mean, you’re not wrong, but I don’t have much of an opportunity to put something on that doesn’t have spit up on it. So I’m going to take the chances I have.
Joe Patrice: Meanwhile, I spent the whole weekend preparing, of course, for the show because this is the most important thing that we do.
Kathryn Rubino: Stop it.
Joe Patrice: So I was working on — oh, no.
Kathryn Rubino: Then maybe you should be better at it.
Joe Patrice: I mean, I would be great if I wasn’t constantly being interrupted.
Kathryn Rubino: Would you like a solo podcast? Would you like just like 30 minutes of the dulcet tones of Joe Patrice’s voice?
Joe Patrice: I think the audience would love that.
Kathryn Rubino: I don’t think there’s an audience for that. I don’t think there’s an audience.
Joe Patrice: Okay. Fair. All right. But no, I did spend a lot of the time preparing for this evening’s event, which obviously, by the time this comes out, will have been completed. But we’re having our annual holiday party, so hopefully we’ll get to see several of you who are in the New York area tonight. And if know next year, by all means, you should make an effort to come out so we can meet you and chat and know the audience a little bit better.
Chris Williams: Just to double down to show how much effort Joe has put on, he’s actually wearing socks. This is — I’m very impressed.
Joe Patrice: I mean, I’m always wearing that. I’m also wearing a blazer, so that’s a little bit more–
Kathryn Rubino: I like that the socks is like the mark of formality to you, not the fact that he actually has on like a suit blazer.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: And a button-down shirt. He’s a collar, my friend. He’s a collar on. You’re like, but have you seen his socks?
Chris Williams: They’re very socky people.
Joe Patrice: I did notice, actually I was watching the Heisman presentation, and it seemed like everybody wasn’t wearing socks this year. And all I could think back to was when Robert Griffin won, he had like superman socks, socks that had capes on them. And now the game is just no socks at all. I guess so much has changed, style wise.
Kathryn Rubino: Are you keeping on top of the trends?
Joe Patrice: I’m trying to keep on top of this trend.
Kathryn Rubino: Are you? Are you trying? That’s interesting.
Chris Williams: And there is a method to the madness. If I would have just said he was wearing a blazer, no interesting tidbits. But now we have Superman socks so there you go.
Kathryn Rubino: Those were really cool. I remember when The Gurchick Tree had those on. It was like a whole thing. I think they sold out, like, the next day or whatever. It’s like a whole moment.
Joe Patrice: Nobody was wearing socks this year anyway.
Kathryn Rubino: But Joe is wearing socks because he’s formal like that.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, obviously. Let’s end this doomed event here. Small talk over.
Kathryn Rubino: You seem so frustrated with us.
Joe Patrice: As always. I’m always so frustrated.
Kathryn Rubino: Like, your burden over there.
Joe Patrice: It is.
Kathryn Rubino: Is that your white man’s burden?
Joe Patrice: This is the second time that me being white has become a big issue today.
Kathryn Rubino: Also a man.
Joe Patrice: Dear diary, they interrupted me again. The only thing that comforts to me are my tax returns.
Kathryn Rubino: The vibes are just different when we’re all in person. That’s all I could say.
Joe Patrice: We do need to do this in person more. So Kathryn’s dying over here.
Kathryn Rubino: That’s not even dying. There is, like, a cough going around, and I don’t think that’s it. I think that I just laughed too hard. I hope I don’t have a cough. I have a baby at home. I can’t be sick. I can’t be given her RSV and all that terrifying shit.
Chris Williams: And a party tonight. That’ll be a weird ATL, you know.
Kathryn Rubino: Like super spreader event.
Joe Patrice: Okay. So let’s talk up–
Kathryn Rubino: You’re so annoyed.
Joe Patrice: We don’t have access. I don’t have access because we’re all here to my usual soundboard. But this is where we would hear the dulcet tones of Jamora is saying layoffs. So we have a layoff story. What’s going on there, Kathryn?
Kathryn Rubino: Yes, there are layoffs at KNL, gates at a number of their offices. So, yeah, what I think was interesting about the capacity, I think that that’s primarily due to sort of capacity issues. But I think what’s interesting is that the firm’s statement about them indicated that it was not a reflection on the overall health and revenue of the firm. And indeed, they expected their numbers for the end of the year to be good, which is a weird flex, right? I mean, it’s like, well, it’s good, I guess, that your revenue numbers are where you want them to be. But also, you care more about that number than you do about keeping people employed through the holiday season.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, it’s an awful time to be engaging in the layoff world. Not just that it’s holiday season, but doing it right in the middle of every other firm in the tier, issuing raises, let alone bonuses, to start your layoffs is a real bad sign. I had not really been tracking where the folks at KNL were, but it’s hard to imagine that things are going great.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean, they literally said, their statement was that revenue will be up over last year.
Joe Patrice: Which, I mean–
Kathryn Rubino: Revenue will be up over last year, but they’re laying off. Four different offices are impacted. It’s not like it’s some sort of small or group. We don’t know the exact number of people who are impacted. But we know that people in Chicago, Boston, Washington and Pittsburgh.
Joe Patrice: Washington being DC or Seattle?
Kathryn Rubino: I believe it’s DC.
Joe Patrice: Okay. Obviously, this is a northwest in the old days.
Kathryn Rubino: I think it would be Seatle, right?
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: I think it’s interesting that they’re very excited to tell you how their revenue numbers will, in fact, be up. But, I mean, listen, we all know big laws of business, and you should always treat it that way, never think that it’s anything but a cold business at the end of the day. But this seems particularly cold. Their billable hours weren’t there. Their work was down. The number of hours that those associates, I suppose, had was down and so they’re gone. You’re only as good as the number of hours you can bill is a takeaway, I take away. I mean, that’s my takeaway.
Joe Patrice: Cheery philosophy from Kathryn.
Kathryn Rubino: Listen, I’ve been laid off of a big law firm for similar reasons. Like 2009 happened. We’ve seen this happening before. And if you don’t think of it as coldly as big law leaders look at it, you will be disappointed.
Joe Patrice: I mean I think that’s fair. It’s just weird. Like 2009, though, everybody was hurting.
Kathryn Rubino: That’s true.
Joe Patrice: We’re instead dealing in a world where some firms are issuing raises.
Kathryn Rubino: And again, it would be different if this firm was hurting too. That it would be, maybe other firms are doing well and that’s great for them. We’re not. We’re laying people off. But to come out and say there’s not enough billable hours for everyone, we laid people off, but revenue is going to be up.
Joe Patrice: But we’re still making. Not exactly the exactly the best tone.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean they said the exact quote. The firm is performing quite well with year to date revenue up strongly over last year which was itself a record revenue year for the firm.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: That’s cold. I keep on saying, come on, give me a thesaurus word. What should I be saying? And not just cold.
Joe Patrice: No, that’s cold.
Chris Williams: They should have like breakup, they’re broke. We were up. They would have been more word efficient.
Joe Patrice: That was the, “It’s not you, it’s me” in a press release forum.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, it is perhaps not unexpected. I think that firms are trying to get leaner generally. I think that they’re concerned that even if they did well, that it may not last and there’s a lot of excesses I think in 2021, 2022.
Joe Patrice: Actually, I guess, I had that backwards. That was , “It’s not us. It’s you.”
Kathryn Rubino: It’s you. It’s you. It’s you.
Joe Patrice: You’re the problem.
Kathryn Rubino: According to sources that American lawyer talked to, these folks who were laid off were utterly blindsided by it. Again, it is banner year at the firm.
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All right, so we’re back. Stephen Miller is back in the news. We talked about him recently. He has jumped from gay pop tarts to suing Macy to filing a complaint against Macy’s and now he’s intimating that he sees some sort of a weird conspiracy involving Taylor Swift. That’s where we are.
Kathryn Rubino: The man is just a vampire, literally sucking from anything that has an ounce of mojo or popularity in order to grift money from people at home who are otherwise buying gold bullion for the next crash. Right?
Chris Williams: Did you just call him the Drake of lawsuits?
Joe Patrice: So Stephen Miller, who left the Trump administration to go into being running a legal entity, he is not, in fact, a lawyer, but he does threaten lawsuits and file lawsuits against all sorts of people, usually for the (00:13:07). It’s kind of like, as I put it, a wokeness ambulance chaser. And he’s doing it over and over again, trying to get attention. And now his latest is to suggest that Taylor Swift, being times person of the year, is inorganic.
Kathryn Rubino: What does that even mean?
Joe Patrice: The Jews is what it means. It was one of those cryptic things that is not so cryptic within a couple of, as soon as he put it out, his followers immediately started going off on a number of anti-semitic conspiracy theories, mostly surrounding George Soros being involved in creating Taylor Swift, I guess, for the purpose of, I don’t know.
Kathryn Rubino: For something. But I think that actually Taylor Swift winning science person of the year is perhaps the most organic person of the year that I have seen. Because it’s not just one thing that you could sort of calculate. It was like a groundswell of series of events and tour dates and releases and videos that went viral that had led her to end up relationship that has captured the imagination of the nation.
Joe Patrice: Oh, my God. See, I was worried about having this topic.
Chris Williams: This podcast is sponsored by.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I was worried–
Kathryn Rubino: You don’t need our sponsors.
Joe Patrice: I was worried about bringing this topic up inorganically like this, because I knew that she would go off.
Kathryn Rubino: No, I’m just saying that, has anybody in a positive way dominated headlines for the entirety of a year the way Taylor Swift has this year?
Joe Patrice: Limiting positive way is key.
Kathryn Rubino: In a single year, I’m not sure. I don’t know.
Chris Williams: The Renaissance tour is going to go crazy.
Kathryn Rubino: Sure. Taylor Swift has five of the top ten albums. That’s the first time a living person has ever done it.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I also think it was, she also, at one point this year, had all ten of the top ten singles or something like that.
Kathryn Rubino: Also true. She also did that. She’s breaking all sorts of records.
Joe Patrice: The positive way was key because obviously there’s a case to be made for Elon Musk in a negative way.
Kathryn Rubino: Sure. And like, Hitler was person of the year, right, one year and that also dominated headlines.
Joe Patrice: And it was organic that–
Chris Williams: Also one thing, just to be in case, make sure I’m not tripping. Wasn’t our person of the year (00:15:25) one time? Wasn’t there a year where the time just had said it was you?
Joe Patrice: Yeah, no. We were person of the year once.
Chris Williams: I need to update my resume. But yeah, it’s just a thing who looks at us like, oh, this isn’t vegan enough.
Joe Patrice: But that is a good point. That little section at the end of the resume that career services always tell you to say something interesting about yourself, just put in there like person of the year 2008 or whatever year it was. See if anyone even remembers why that happened. Yeah, no, that’s great. Yeah. So anyway, it’s Steve Miller doing Steve Miller things, obviously.
Kathryn Rubino: But yeah, I mean, good news. Our legal system is often used for people’s petty grudges, so here we are.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. So it’s not great, the world we live in, but I think Taylor’s going to be just fine. She seems to have everything under control.
Kathryn Rubino: I feel confident she will be just fine. She’ll shake it off.
Joe Patrice: Boo!
Kathryn Rubino: You’re just mad that you didn’t get to make the joke first.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I had some good — I had some good lyric based jokes in the article about it.
Chris Williams: And let’s save them for the article.
Joe Patrice: I mean, although my best joke was referring to Stephen Miller as skinhead by nature, white nationalist by choice, but here we are.
Chris Williams: Wait, isn’t that the second Amy Wax album?
Joe Patrice: We’re going to have more Amy Wax eventually. Not this week, though. But don’t worry, I’m sure it’s coming.
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Joe Patrice: All right. You know, you mentioned Amy Wax. Let’s talk about a different law professor situation. Joshua Wright, former FTC commissioner professor at ASS Law for those who aren’t familiar with that. That’s George Mason University’s law school changed its name to the Antonin Scalia School of Law briefly, before somebody pointed out that that
Kathryn Rubino: Above The Law.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, before we pointed out that that’s ASS law.
Chris Williams: Did you ever do a former FTC employee now in trouble for fucking the children, Joe?
Joe Patrice: No, why? Oh, yeah. I’d never heard the FTC referred to that way, but sure.
Chris Williams: There were students. It was fucking the children.
Joe Patrice: All right, so Wright is ultimately left for the left ASS law for the private sector. It was revealed quickly after that that there might have been some reasons why he left for the private sector. He was accused by some people who are now partners at law firms, partner in a counsel at big law firms, that when they were One Ls, he was sleeping with them, and that he then maintained relationships with them over the years, dangling career prospects and so on and so forth. He then sued them for defamation for $108,000,000, saying that they defamed him because he was sleeping with them. But it wasn’t any big deal.
Kathryn Rubino: It’s consensual.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. His defamation complaint did not say that they were lying about this. It admitted that he was sleeping with all the One Ls all the time, but that that harmed his reputation. I think he might misunderstand what the reputational harm was. Anyway, that lawsuit has been dismissed without prejudice, giving him some time to, according to the order, giving him some time to amend it to come up with any defamatory statement that he thinks they made.
In the meantime, he’s now sued, and this is where we get to this story. He’s now sued George Mason claiming that they have ruined his life by giving some credence to these allegations, which, again, he admits he actually did but he is mad.
Kathryn Rubino: It’s a weird one. It’s a weird one.
Joe Patrice: The weird one. Well, he filed a title nine complaint against one of his accusers, claiming that she was harassing him by accusing him of all this stuff, which, again, he admits he did. The school did not dismiss that on the grounds that she was not a university employee and it had no jurisdiction over her. That’s the basis of — one of the key bases of this complaint. He says that she was kind of hypothetically, potentially an employee in the future, and therefore, they shouldn’t have treated this complaint differently. I think maybe they treated the complaint differently because they actually believe her allegations. Again, especially to the extent that he admits that the key allegations were all true. The key to this is the Wright situation continues with him filing more lawsuits against more people for stuff that he fundamentally admits he did.
Look, I get his argument colloquially. He argues that he wasn’t using all of these career prospects to sleep with folks. He was sleeping with his students based on his own charm and the fact that he was dangling career prospects in front of them was nothing to do with it and it’s wrong to claim that’s what he was doing. That said, that is not defamatory. The important part of the case is he slept with his student’s part. And his idea that they’re defaming him by claiming that he was doing it in a cynical way kind of misses the point entirely. But that’s where we are. But I get it. Look, I get it colloquially. Like, he wants to, at parties say that he’s just kind of a playboy rather than a cynical predator. And that’s fine, you can say that, but none of that is defamatory.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, I was like, the distinction there is the opposite side of a coin. I think that is very much opinion, which is fundamentally protected based on the same set of admitted facts.
Joe Patrice: Right. Well, and this is why the initial lawsuit has got kicked back, for him to come up with any statements that he thinks actually is defamatory. He, of course, is represented by the (00:22:53) Group, which is the law firm that now does mostly. “Hey, were you accused of doing awful things to women while you were in college.” That’s their primary ad pitch now. I get those, somehow Facebook thinks its algorithm thinks that know am interested in them because I’ve written about them before, so I get those ads all the time anyway. But you may remember Jesse Benoff(ph) from, he was Sidney Powell’s, like, sidekick on all of the bogus and ultimately, for Powell criminal inducing lawsuits that they all did, trying to pretend that Trump won the elections.
Kathryn Rubino: Right, where they’re trying to get the voting machine. She’s trying to take over possession of the voting machine or something like that, right?
Joe Patrice: Yeah. When the Georgia stuff, but Jesse here was involved in a lot of her other cracking efforts.
Kathryn Rubino: Cracking (00:23:49).
Joe Patrice: Oh my God, no. No. Stop.
Chris Williams: For the listeners at home since we’re all here, Kathryn got thumbed down in real it.
Kathryn Rubino: You look so disappointed, Joe.
Joe Patrice: Maybe we don’t have video on all the time. I look disappointed in every episode. I always looking disappointed. Yeah. So do we have anything else that we want to toss in here? We got a couple more minutes. I don’t know if anyone else had a favorite story.
Kathryn Rubino: I would say that 80% of what we’re writing about right now is raises. It’s hard to make that dog bark again.
Chris Williams: Also, I think the Young Thug RICO case.
Joe Patrice: Go for it.
Chris Williams: Hilarious. So, in the opening argument, Young Thug’s lawyer said you might have some preconceptions about my client. What you need to know is that the Thug in Young Thug stands for truly humble under God. And they’re just a long list of very criminal activities that were given, like, wholesome, godly acronyms.
Joe Patrice: I got to say that I believe is an acronym as much as I believe your FTC one. Yeah, no. But look —
Chris Williams: Just to be clear, that acronym for the FTC applied to the professor.
Joe Patrice: Understood. Yeah, no, absolutely. I get it.
Chris Williams: He was doing this.
Joe Patrice: This other one does, too, because young thug is, in fact, truly humble before. Yeah, so you’ve got to respect the lawyer. I mean–
Chris Williams: No, you got to respect Doug. There is a tweet from, like, a decade ago with him having this acronym breakdown.
Joe Patrice: Oh, he did?
Chris Williams: Yes.
Joe Patrice: Okay.
Chris Williams: This is thugger(ph).
Joe Patrice: I didn’t know that this predated. I thought this was the thing we were all doing now. Okay. All right. Look—
Kathryn Rubino: That’s impressive.
Joe Patrice: That’s good. Understanding your client, knowing the record.
Chris Williams: And listening to them.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, listening. We should do a CLE, like on how client relations and we should just use this trial as our basis.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean, I think that a lot of law school hypotheticals will be based on this particular one.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Okay, so with that all, let’s. I think we’re done. Great. Okay, so thanks everybody for listening. You should subscribe to the show, get new episodes. When they come out, you should leave reviews, stars, write something. It all helps you. Check out other shows. Kathryn’s the host of the Chapo(ph). I’m on the Legaltech Week Journalist Roundtable. You should listen to the other shows of the Legal Talk Network. Check out Above The Law to read these and other stories and see all the great lyric jokes that I made in the Stephen Miller story. You can read all those before we talk about them here. You should be following on the social medias at ATL Blog @josephpatrice @rightsforrent@kathryn, all on Twitter on Blue Sky. It’s basically the same, except I’m Joe Patrice instead of Joseph because I got to choose my name there. And with all of that, I think we’re done. We will talk to you again next week.
Chris Williams: Peace.
Kathryn Rubino: Peace.