August 2006 Archives

Today the judge took my co-clerk and me out to lunch in San Francisco. The restaurant she chose looked nice, but from the outside didn't strike me as an exceptionally exceptional place. Of course, once we walked in we immediately noticed another federal judge eating there, and as we sat down we noticed yet another federal judge. The owner, who sat us in a very doting manner, also gestured toward a window table and informed us that "The Mayor is right over there." I took a look and saw the back of a very large man with unmistakable hair. Yes, it was our own Gavin Newsom, in all his charismatic glory. Clearly, we had just entered a high-powered San Francisco hot spot.

Apparently the Mayor was eating with someone who knew the judge, because as we were having coffee and dessert, the Mayor and his dining companions came over and said Hi. The Mayor introduced himself and shook my hand. His grip was firm, yet gentle. Strong, confident, yet strangely tender. I enjoyed it. I looked up at him and said with a smile, "Mayor Newsom, you spoke at my law school graduation." I was immediately aware of how awkward that came out. The Mayor gave me a searching look, and I quickly said, "I went to Boalt."

He said something affirming, like "Right on," or "Way to go," and gave me a friendly punch in the arm. He then made a self-deprecating comment about how he hoped his speech didn't put me to sleep. I gushed about how excellent his speech was and he gave me another friendly punch in the arm.

The Mayor and his friends then talked with the judge for a while and left. To be sure, this isn't Cement Horizon's coolest Gavin Newsom encounter, or even my first encounter with the Mayor, but I left the restaurant feeling pretty good about myself.

Up yours, Pluto.

When I was discussing this with Meli last night, she asked me who gets to make these decisions. Drawing on my experiences among the Astronomy majors I encountered in Le Conte Hall, I said, "I'm sure there's some international group of people with oppressive body odor and no girlfriends." That was actually unfair, since at least one of those Astronomy majors was a highly attractive woman. But she was the exception that proves the rule.

My Crazy-Ass Family's Crazy-Ass Dog


Years ago, when I was a senior in high school, my family rescued a German Shepherd from the streets. It was about one year old, and clearly malnourished and mistreated. And so, my dad and my brother took the dog into our home in order to give it a new life. My brother named the dog "Rolex." I'm allergic to dogs.

Sadly, the trouble began with Rolex right away. Apparently a short life of abuse had rendered him psychotic. Every human (except, oddly, my dad and my brother) was an enemy. Everyone Rolex saw was greeted with loud, vicious barking and violent, spasmotic movements. Rolex had an insatiable bloodthirst. He wanted to exact revenge on all of humankind for whatever unspeakable and unknowable horrors he faced as a puppy. Once, Rolex bit me on my butt.

The family tried different things. Numerous dog trainers and obedience schools. One trainer assured my dad that Rolex was a lost cause, that he could never be truly tamed. My dad found another trainer. My dad even almost bought a choke chain. He held it in his hands at the pet store for a short while but couldn't bring himself do buy it. Rolex probably would have eaten through the choke chain and then killed someone.*

When I would come home from college, law school, or what-have-you, Rolex would be there, behind a fence or enclosed in some sort of large chainlink thing, barking at me, convulsing hither and yon, staring at me with his menacing eyes. He treated Meli the same way when she started coming around. Meli is convinced that Rolex wants to eat her.

I'm sure Rolex could lead a very happy life in some sort of government work, perhaps terrifying prisoners at Guantanamo. But he's just not cut out for life as a family dog. He likes to chase rabbits. Maybe he could live in the Outback of Australier.

Recently, my brother posted this photo to his MySpace. The caption he gave it was "family pic gone bad." I think this image accurately sums up what Rolex means to me and my family.

* I don't advocate choke chains or any other cruelty to animals. I'm glad my dad didn't get the choke chain. I also acknowledge that Rolex's behavior isn't his fault. But that doesn't decrease the extent to which I don't want to get mauled by him.

With a Righteous Bosom and a Waist of Truth


Armor of God PJs.

Because every little boy wants to wear a helmet to bed.



Apparently more people can name the seven dwarves than can name two Supreme Court justices. This helps explain why, all day yesterday, the lead story on was about some guy who says he killed some little girl ten years ago, and the story about the NSA's warrantless wiretapping being ruled illegal was relegated to the number two slot.

Jeez, you people.

Vault Poll


The Vault rankings are out, in case you were wondering where a particular firm measures up in the eyes of other attorneys.


Eight of the top ten firms are New York-based. From what I hear working in New York is miserable beyond description, but that could be my West Coast bias coming through. But still, screw New York.

The firm from whence I came is not in the Top Ten. It's also not hovering around the 9-13 area like my law school tends to do. It's buried firmly in the recesses of the latter tens, apparently on the decline from last year.

The Vault survey that yields this thing asks attorneys questions about their own firms, and then asks them what they think the most prestigious firms are. That, apparently, is the meat and potatoes of the prestige rankings, which are driven entirely by image rather than any objective criteria. There are plenty of other rankings out there that do take a more empirical approach. The Am Law 100/200 ranks firms based solely on profits. The American Lawyer "A-List" ranks firms based on revenue, pro bono activity, associate satisfaction(!), and diversity. So, unlike U.S. News, Vault isn't the final word on ordered goodness.

The Vault survey also gives attorneys an opportunity to provide comments about law firms, some of which are reproduced in the printed version of the guide. Two that stick in my mind from the free copy I got as a 2L were "Macho sweatshop" and "B-Team." I won't say which firm(s) those referred to.

Secret Government Stuff

Sometime last week, not long after I started my new job, I noticed that the elevator in the San Francisco federal building doesn't have buttons for 12, 13, or 14. At first, I wondered if this was just extreme superstition -- A lot of tall buildings don't have 13th floors (the elevators go from 12 to 14). Perhaps they planned on getting rid of the 13th floor, but thought people would just think that the 14th floor (indeed, the real 13th floor), would be unlucky as well, and decided to excise the whole three-floor block surrounding 13 in the hopes that figuring out that the 16th floor is now the 13th floor would require too much math for the average government employee.

But then I noticed that the number indicator on the elevator doesn't go from "11" immediately to "15." Rather, it goes from "11" to "XX" to "15," in the same way that the express elevator displays "XX" when zipping from the 2nd floor to the 10th floor. I surmised that some number of missing floors are present in the building, and wondered if there was secret government stuff in there from which the public were excluded. Nuclear weapons? Detainees? Extraterrestrial biomatter? Barney Frank's colon? What could it be?

And so, I asked the Internet. Apparently the 13th Floor is where the San Francisco FBI offices live, which is pretty cool. The 14th Floor is the district office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. I'm assuming these places have their own special elevators, or perhaps heliports. The 12th Floor is still a mystery. That must be where the truly secret stuff is.

Law Firm Recruiting: It's a Seller's Market

| 1 Comment has another story about law firm recruiting and how firms are stretching themselves thin to fill out their ranks. The main consequence of this is that more schools are being targeted for on-campus recruiting, which is interesting. Firms apparently prefer to expand the number of schools they visit (which, I assume, means moving further down the U.S. News rankings) rather than relax their academic requirements within the schools they already target.*

The article also quotes the shocking 78% senior associate attrition rate, and discusses how law firms are clamoring to find the law students who are clearly interested in staying with the firm forever. If you're too "passionate" about your outside interests, apparently, that's a red flag for the firms. The lesson is: Don't come across as well-rounded. When asked, "What do you like to do in your spare time?", the correct answer is, "Think about work."

It seems to me that the firms could also solve the problem of reducing the number of short-timers by making the big-firm lifestyle more appealling (as opposed to appalling, hurr!) to a broader swath of law students, but that's just me.

* Which reminds me of a joke my dad likes to tell, which doesn't work for lawyers:

Q: What do you call the person who finishes at the bottom of his class in medical school?
A: "Doctor."

EDIT: Switched to non-self-destructing article link. Registration required indeed!

The Future of This Here Blog


I've left The Firm and begun my one-year stint as a government employee, and as such I'm feeling a little more antsy about (1) blogging about work and (2) posting my own uninformed legal commentary. So I'm going to be doing less of these things from now on, at least for the next year. I'm not sure how much of either of those things I've been doing on a regular basis, but whatever it is it'll be less so for a while.

I won't have any compunction about blogging about law firms, the legal profession in general, legal developments that don't bear directly on the types of things that I'll be working on as a law clerk, law school, or the types of trade-rag gossip that shows up on So in that regard I should be able to maintain some legitimacy as a "blawg." As for legal commentary, I've started another, completely anonymous blog (which I'm not going to link to here for obvious reasons), which will be the sounding board for my wacky perspectives on court decisions and what-not. I'll quietly add a link to my sidebar shortly. If you want me to email the link to you, let me know.

Finally, I've made some feeble attempts to anonymize this very blog as well (for example, I no longer use my last name to sign my posts or comments). So, if you're one of those people who likes to refer to me by my last name in comments, please choose another nickname for the time being. "H-Bomb" is still preferred.

I think that's it. Happy Monday.

Hello Vader


At the risk of reopening old wounds, I'd like to put forth the proposition that this version of Darth Vader is much more of a badass than the version of Darth Vader presented in Revenge of the Sith.

Which brings me to the following conversation between me, Meli, and a Borders checkout clerk, slightly edited for clarity:

Meli: [Indicating the light saber replica behind the counter.] How many of those do you actually sell?
Clerk: We actually just got a bunch more of them in.
Matt: [Mistakenly mistaking the color white for purple.] Looks like you have the Mace Windu one back there. Nice.
Meli: That's Darth Maul, honey.
Matt: No, look. It's purple.
Clerk: [Turns on the light saber replica, which begins glowing red.] I wish we had the Mace Windu light saber. That's the one I want. The most popular one is Luke's light saber. And the second most popular is Anakin's.
Matt: But wouldn't those be the same?
Clerk: No, no [you idiot], Anakin is Luke's father as a young man.
Matt: Yeah, I know, [I've seen the fucking movies,] but Obi Wan gives Luke Anakin's light saber, so the two should be the same.
Meli: No, honey, Luke makes his own light saber, remember?
Matt: After Darth Vader cuts his hand off, right?
Meli: Yes.
Matt: So for the first two movies he has Anakin's light saber.
Meli: Yes, but his light saber is the one he makes.
Matt: Well, that's dumb.
Clerk: If you buy two Darth Maul light sabers you can stick them together.

Seventy Eight Percent?!


This brief article over at reports on the 2006 law firm salary bumps, and makes the argument that inflated junior associate salaries may increase mid-level and senior associate attrition by encouraging people to work at a large firm for a few years until their debt is paid down, and then move on to other things (what we in the business call "three and out").

But one statistic in the article really caught my eye:

Indeed, attrition has jumped dramatically from 2000, especially for experienced associates, according to NALP. In 2000, some 60 percent of associates with about five years of experience left their firms. By contrast, 78 percent of those lawyers with the same level of experience left in 2005.

78%? Yow! I knew that large firms experienced a steady attrition rate but I had no idea that only one out of every five associates made it to the senior level last year. I mean, really. Talk about a pyramid scheme.

When I quoted this factoid to one of my co-workers (actually, mu only co-worker for the next week or so), her theory was that a lot of associates who signed on during the boom years have grown dissatisfied now that wining and dining has faded into assloads of billable hours, and that may account for a lot of people jumping ship. That makes sense, but that still seems like an unreasonably high number. Maybe I'm just naive.

Punctuation for Canadians


This glorious fable of contractual interpretation comes to us from the Northland (and to me from the SomethingAwful forums). It's always sad when companies accidentally lose jillions of dollars, but I can't say that I'm terribly distressed to see a comma-happy contract drafter get its comeuppance. Commas aren't toys, kids. You don't just stick them into sentences, when it seems like a good idea. Otherwise you look ignorant and, marginally illiterate. Commas have a narrow and well-defined purpose and should not be used, beyond that purpose.

And while we're on the subject of important little bits of punctuation, I suggest you look at this.

Rememberations of Things Past


I've been spending the day packing for our upcoming move, which involves deciding what to throw away and what to keep (which, as every gambler knows, is the secret to life). This time around I've decided to get rid of my obsolete Zip drive. I've given the Squelch the right of first refusal, since they're the only entity I know of that still might have a need for one, but if anyone else wants it let me know. I'm also getting rid of a perfectly good scanner because we got a perfectly better scanner with our new computer. If you have need for a free scanner with which to scan freely, let me know.

Anyway, in the process of going through my old Zip disks I found this picture of me and Stephanie, probably from 2002:

I like this picture a great deal, for a number of reasons. First, the soft focus gives it a kind of artsy look. Second, the soft focus, in addition to giving the picture a kind of artsy look, makes me look strangely youthful. Third, I'm pretty sure Stephanie is laughing at a joke I just made. And so I share it with you.*

* The picture, not the joke, which I don't remember what it was.

This is another rant about Perspectives on KQED radio.

This morning I heard a Perspective by Sandip Roy for the third time. The first one I heard a while ago when Kaavya Viswanathan was exposed as a filthy plagiarist for ripping off another crappy book for her own crappy book. Roy's editorial was a tongue-in-cheek discussion of how Indian American children are pushed hard by their parents to be overachievers, so it's no wonder Viswanathan cut corners to make a name for herself. It was basically an irony-soaked list of Indian-American stereotypes that was supposed to be funny for some reason.

Later, I heard another Sandip Roy Persepctive, this time making the point that Superman is an illegal immigrant, and giving a detailed account of all the things about Superman that would be illegal if the House immigration bill became law. In addition to not being very clever, this particular meme had already made the rounds among political blogs cartoonists several times over before Roy lent his own dreadful spin to the subject.

Today, Roy's blather was about how hot it is in Calcutta during the summer. That's it. Two minutes of "Summer in Calcutta is soooooo hot." "How hot is it?" "It's so hot that sometimes there are rolling blackouts!" A 120-second spiel about the weather. It was like a small talk nightmare, the kind of chatter you try to avoid at cocktail parties and business meetings, sustained for two minutes of public radio airtime and blessed by a $65.00 honorarium.

Roy is an abysmal commentator in a sea of abysmal commentators. His subjects are tired. He has nothing interesting to say about them. He's so excruciatingly smug that he always seems to be on the verge of chuckling at his own imaginary cleverness. The fact that I've heard him three times, that I heard him this morning on the second day of the month, and that KQED has a policy of one Perspective per person per month suggests that I can expect to hear from Roy about once a month during my morning commute.

And worse yet, apparently Roy is a professional journalist in his own right. According to his little post-Perspective blurb/disclaimer, he's some kind of editor and radio host. I always thought Perspectives was a means for the howling masses to get themselves some airtime without wrangling with an actual talk show host. Why can't Roy peddle his verbal wares on his own time? Why can't Perspectives be reserved, as it should be, for ten-year-old girls talking about how wouldn't it be great if boys and girls played together at recess?

On Sunday I went to Nantucket on a business-related matter. Really a law-related matter, I suppose, but since my business is law, the phrase fits. Everyone I told this to was extremely incredulous. Twice I heard "There's business in Nantucket?" There may not be business in Nantucket apart from bicycle rental shops, tasty juices, and exclusive blue-blooded sporting clubs, but there are dudes in Nantucket. And we had to interview one of them. In Nantucket.

This led to a somewhat amusing colloquy between myself, the partner I was with, and the cabdriver who drove us from our hotel to the Nantucket airport (which, by the way, isn't nearly as much fun as I expected after all those years of watching Wings). We told him we were in Nantucket on business, and he asked what kind of business. I told him we were here to interview a witness. He said, "What are you, the FBI?" I said, "No, we're lawyers." He said, "Oh! Looooo-yaz. You come all the way to Nantucket to interview somebody? You never heard of a telephone?" Then I punched him, kicked in his windshield, and said, "What you don't know about lawyers could fill a phonebook, buddy."

But the overall Nantucket experience was positive, despite the general uninhabitability of the Atlantic coast. Haven't these people heard of California? Don't they know you can go to the beach without feeling like your skin is being boiled off your bones by the humidity, and without being bothered by man-sized insects? What wasn't positive was my trip from Palo Alto to Nantucket. Here's a quick run-down of what went wrong.

First, for the first time, I was actually close to missing a flight. I thought that 100 minutes at the airport would be plenty of time to check in and board the plane. This was not true, because I was flying out of SFO, where everything is terrible and nothing goes right. Also, everyone in front of me in the check-in line, which was overflowing almost to the point of fire marshall involvement, had a one-bedroom apartment worth of luggage and a story to tell. This was a very long and very slow-moving line.

In addition, I planned to do some work during the flight, you know, in order to pass the time. I fired up my laptop and the little battery gauge said I had three hours. I had been fooled by such representations before, so I compulsively checked the battery gauge every five minutes to make sure it wasn't counting down at an accelerated pace. It wasn't. And yet, when the gauge said two hours, the laptop abruptly went into stand-by mode. When I woke it up the battery gauge told me I had four minutes left. My battery gauge is a lying harlot.

So, I packed up the laptop and busted out my much-maligned iPod. My iPod has recently decided that there are certain tracks in its memory that it simply will not play. On Sunday, this list included every track in the hard drive. I could feel something churning and moving inside the tiny metal case as the little device tried to get each track playing before it automatically skipped to the next track, which it also could not play. I also got to actually watch the battery gauge decrease before my very eyes, as it wasted precious power on moving around whatever it was moving around. God, I hate my iPod. Hate it hate it hate it. I'll never buy another one. When this one finally craps out for good (and it will), I'll either buy whatever Microsoft is pimping or buy another little Flash mp3 player. Fucking iPods. Anyway, I managed to fix the no-track-playing problem on the flight home today by whacking the iPod several times with the meat of my palm. Just call me Fonzie.

I think those were the major irritants. The flight from Boston to Nantucket was pleasant enough, despite the fact that it was conducted in a minivan with wings. The trip back was also pleasant, since Logan airport is run with a modicum of sensibility. I really wanted to stop at the Dunkin Do-netz in the airport but was sensitive to time, and I already hadn't been to the gym in three days. And the best part was, since my flight got in at 2:00 p.m., I was able to head straight to the office and put in a few more hours of work.

I need to work on my endings.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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