A Real Lawyer!

As Orin noted a few days ago, I've become an Academic Affiliate of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. (My wife, babies, dogs, and I have been moving to Pacific Palisades this week, so I haven't had much of a chance until today to post about this myself.) I'm delighted to be working with the Mayer people, who are first-rate lawyers, and who have the largest appellate practice in the country. I'm particularly proud that Michael McConnell, one of my academic idols, used to be an academic affiliate at Mayer. Leading First Amendment scholar Martin Redish and tort law scholar John Goldberg are academic affiliates there, too.

I've been a legal academic for going on 12 years, and a law clerk for 2 years before that; but I have little actual lawyering experience, and I think being affiliated with Mayer is an excellent way of filling that gap. I'll only be working roughly 150 hours a year or so with Mayer, so I'll continue being a law professor first and foremost; my teaching load will remain the same as before, and I'll continue writing legal articles as before. In fact, I hope the experience will make me a better teacher and scholar, and give me lots of ideas for new scholarly work. (For those curious about how the University views consulting arrangements, I should mention that the UC rule seems to be that academics are expected to spend no more than 1 day in 7 on outside work; my 150-hour target is roughly half that maximum.)

I'll also continue blogging, talking to reporters, and writing the occasional op-ed, though I'll probably comment relatively little about cases that I'm involved in. (This has been my practice in the past as well; this is why, for instance, I've not commented much on the Lyle v. Warner Brothers "Friends" sexual harassment case.) I will naturally disclose my connection with any case that I do blog or comment about. If I'm right that this will be an important learning experience for me, then I suspect that it will improve my blogging as well, since it will give me a better perspective on how the legal rules actually play out on the ground.

Filling in that gap on your resume while eyeing those empty seats on the 9th Circuit, are we?
1.27.2006 3:01pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Congratulations. Sounds like you have the ideal setup. Just enough work for it to be fun, and you get to pursue your academic interests just the same. Lucky man. 150 hours! I've billed that this year already . . . and then some.

(By the way, when I first read that you were proud to work with "JonAH Goldberg", I almost fell out of my chair. Good thing it was a John Goldberg instead.

Good luck.
1.27.2006 3:14pm
If Pacific Palisades is still the neighborhood it was 20 years ago, that extra income will come in handy for meeting those whopping monthly mortgage payments.
1.27.2006 3:31pm
Bpbatista (mail):
I think all law professors should have actual experience in practice. After all, the vast, vast majority of law students are becoming lawyers in order to actually practice law. If you wanted to become an auto mechanic, you would not want to learn from someone who has only read books and written articles but has never actually worked on a car.
1.27.2006 3:35pm
So how many hours did this post take to write? 0.1 or 0.2?
1.27.2006 3:40pm
Guest2 (mail):
Congrats! I've no doubt that "the experience will make [you] a [still] better teacher and scholar[.]"

If you're so inclined (and are permitted to divulge such matters), it would be very interesting to hear more details about this arrangement. E.g., will you share fees? Are you on the letterhead or website as an attorney? Will you be taking the CA bar (if you're not already admitted)? Will the firm's conflicts be imputed to you? (You know, the typical practitioner/geek questions.)
1.27.2006 3:44pm
We all know what you're getting for Valentine's Day!

Seriously, though, does the affiliate thing work on a straight billables, or does Mayer Brown go "pay us X more and we'll get you some celebrity action on your brief"?

I doubt you can tell us anyway- billing arrangements are usually confidential.
1.27.2006 3:45pm
Justice Fuller:
Of course, you'll never teach at Yale now. Even 150 hours of practice per year will no doubt poison you with excessive understanding of reality.
1.27.2006 3:46pm
I think a gift is in order:

Billable Hour Watch
1.27.2006 3:46pm
I'm itching to know what kind of dogs a law professor would have.

Something like this?
1.27.2006 3:52pm
1.27.2006 3:53pm
Chase (mail) (www):
Congratulations. I can certainly vouch for Professor Redish, as he taught me Civil Procedure...a wonderful guy and excellent professor. Enjoy Mayer.
1.27.2006 4:03pm
Wintermute (www):
Welcome to the trenches! You will attend to things and attain knowledge you would not have otherwise. While reading and research may keep me up nights, it's dealing with DA's and judges and helping clients that gets me up in the morning.

Your attitude is refreshing, further evidence to me of a sound character. I wish you well.
1.27.2006 4:03pm
Brian Erst:
Eugene -

Congratulations! My wife used to work as a law librarian at Mayer Brown back when their corporate offices were on LaSalle Street. An absolutely gorgeous library (it was in an enormous, multi-story penthouse) and good people too.
1.27.2006 4:14pm
Denny Crane (mail):
A dose of real-world experience will be invaluable. As a consultant, will you have access to the real world?

If possible, I would also recommend a few annual hours of sub-appellate work. Learn to feel your clients' pain and jump in the trenches with them to actually develop the trial court records you are accustomed to relying upon and routinely take as a given. I firmly believe that level of experience and perspective is sorely lacking in most law professors.
1.27.2006 4:15pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
A.S.: VERY funny!
1.27.2006 4:21pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Actually, A.S. and E.V., most big firms bill by the quarter hour, so whether it was .1 or .2, it's .25.
1.27.2006 4:27pm
gvibes (mail):
A.S. and EV - They bill in quarter increments at MBP (except for those few loopy GCs who require other increments).
1.27.2006 4:32pm
keypusher (mail):
Congratulations! It sounds like a wonderful opportunity for you, and quite nice for Mayer as well.
1.27.2006 5:32pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Congratz on the new position, and the new home. Pacific Palisades is a lovely community.
1.27.2006 7:36pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
Does this mean you are now being paid to say things you know to be false, and to suppress inconvenient truths?

It's one thing to like guns, and another thing to hire yourself out to the highest bidder as an assassin. Would you do this, and if not, why not?

I appear to be the only commenter who sees a problem with this. (Yes, I know "that's the way our system works". It's a bad way, and just about every non-lawyer knows it. For those who will demand that I propose a better system:
Have you never really thought about this? There are many constraints currently imposed on lawyers. I think we should impose many more. It's easy to think of such a list ... if you are not a lawyer. For example: lawyers should only say things they believe to be true, and must not suppress any relevant evidence. These issues should be discussed, and instead lawyers congratulate each other.)
1.27.2006 7:45pm
nk (mail):
I could not resist putting in my own two cents after seeing LTEC's comment. I advise you not to think along those areas. The law is a practical affair. It is not an intellectual exercise. Gain credibility with your peers, opponents and judges by being focused and correct in your recitation of the issue, the law and the facts. A poison-pen philosopher(snicker)/lawyer (double snicker)/blogger has described you as a very good cruncher of First Amendment cases. I presume that by "cruncher" he meant you knew, and could compare and analyze, the cases. This is invaluable in the actual practice of law. Be a case cruncher -- not a philosopher. There is nothing like a good record, from a lawyer who knows what he is talking about, to get a judge to rule for you and to be afraid to rule against you.
1.27.2006 8:01pm
Thales' comment raises a question I've always had: which way do (other) lawyers round? Up, down, or nearest increment?
1.28.2006 12:42am
Nobody Special:
At the places I worked, what happens is this:

Let's say you're on quarter hour increments. You make a phone call and leave a message. Time: three minutes.

You bill them for .25 of an hour. However, you don't start re-billing for another .25 of an hour if you call them back later that day- they still get the other 12 minutes.

At the end of the day, all the bills for the day are closed, so those minutes don't carry over to future work done.
1.28.2006 9:25am
Guest2 (mail):
LTEC said, "lawyers should only say things they believe to be true, and must not suppress any relevant evidence."

I've been in private practice for close to 10 years, doing a lot of commercial litigation. Not only have I never said anything to a court that I didn't believe to be true, but I've never said anything to a court that I wasn't almost 100% certain was true. I think most of my opponents have done the same. It's too risky to do otherwise, because (one of the beauties of our system) there's always someone on the other side who has every incentive to find out, and highlight for the court, any misrepresentations you may make.

Regarding suppression of relevant evidence: If what LTEC means by suppression is withholding non-privileged material that the other side has properly requested, then that is also already prohibited by the rules. If what LTEC means is voluntarily offering up everything that is relevant, then he/she's proposing a terrible rule. Just imagine the litigation explosion if every disgruntled employee, for example, could file some half-baked complaint about unlawful termination and the employer would then be automatically required to provide everything it has that's "relevant," for the employee to pore over in an effort to find something actionable.
1.28.2006 10:48am
Guest2 (mail):
In response to Bruce's question, at the one firm where I have spent all my career, we bill in 6-minute increments and round up. Personally, if a client calls me with a quick, simple question that takes only a minute of my time, I don't bother recording it.
1.28.2006 10:52am
Is there any connection between the law firm affiliation and "movin' on up" to the Palisades??
1.28.2006 11:51am
von (mail) (www):
A.S. and EV - They bill in quarter increments at MBP (except for those few loopy GCs who require other increments).

It's MBRM now, and virtually every GC for whom I've worked demands bills tenth of an hour increments. I'd be shocked if MB escaped the trend. (I speak only regarding MB's US offices; my experiences with EU offices of other, non-MB, US firms suggests that quarter-hour increments are still the rule outside of the US.)

I've been in commercial litigation with a strong patent focus for more than seven years, and I fully agree with Guest2's comment regarding the need to be as truthful and accurate as possible with the Court. Anything else is not only immoral; it's plain ole stupid.

Professor Volokh, you're joining a fine firm. Although I don't know the current attorneys at MBRM's LA office, my experiences with MBRM's attorneys at other of its offices have been uniformly positive. Moreover, the new head of MBRM's LA office -- who's transferring in from a different office, and with whom I've worked a good deal -- is a first-rate attorney and a generally good guy. Enjoy the experience.
1.28.2006 2:47pm
c.f.w. (mail):
Glad to see the academic affilate idea - first I heard of it. Should be encouraged for more professors and more firms. I would suggest a three year term at Mayer Brown. Then affiliate with another type office (eg US Attorney, Public Defender, boutique plaintiff's trial practice, in-house counsel). Having worked for several years at Morgan Lewis in LA in 80's and 90's, I can see large benefits for the law firm, at least, and not just from a marketing perspective.

Pacific Palidades: Lived there 8 years or so, in alphabet streets. Then moved to Palos Verdes (Kosinski's stomping grounds, I hear). Concern with PacPal is not enough space for sports: parks are tiny. Baseball players wear helmets in outfield to avoid getting hit by balls from other fields. Finding full-sized fields for soccer was a chronic problem. Otherwise, a perfect area (and closer to UCLA than Palos Verdes).
1.29.2006 1:36pm
jallgor (mail):
Guest3 : Eugene had some pretty nice digs when I was in school. Rumor on campus was that he made a small fortune writing software code when he was like 10 (alright 10 is an exaggeration but I think the rumor was 16 or 17). I don't imagine 150 hours a year at Mayer Brown would bring in a life-changing paycheck.
1.30.2006 3:36pm
von (mail) (www):
"more than seven years" ...

I'm reminded that it's actually "more than six years." But it feels like more than seven, FWIW.
1.30.2006 5:51pm