Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sasha Frere-Jones Tweeted a series of "Perfect Recordings": Volume One, Volume Two, Volume 3, Volume 4, and Volume 5. Somebody assembled them into a Rdio playlist, which is here. There is quite a bit that I am familiar with, and some things that I've heard of but never heard, and some things that I probably wouldn't have ever listened to but for this curation. (When I take the time to listen to rap or hip-hop I recognize that it is closer to the R&B that I like than I think when I am not paying attention, for example.) It is a revelation, is what I'm saying.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Urban Outfitters is selling Kent State sweatshirts with fake bullet holes and bloodstains. Obviously this is appalling, but you know what? As far as I am able to tell, Neil Young and his harmony buddies kept the money from "Ohio" and nobody accused them of crass commercialism. I've always been kind of shocked that the university continued operating under that name-- call it re-branding or call it commemoration, some profound acknowledgement seems in order. Kent doesn't conceal its history on its website and apparently commemorates it with scholarships and memorials. Good for them, I guess, but I could no more wear a Kent sweatshirt than I could a Confederate uniform. Here in WNY there are a surprising number of people who are Ohio-oriented rather than New York-centric, and quite a few of those people end up going to Kent. I cannot imagine what that would be like, but the massacre was a long time ago, and to high school students today it probably seems as remote as the Civil War. 44 years is a long time: we're six or seven wars on since then. The other day a friend posted this photo
of a spent tear gas canister on her Facebook page: it is from the Special Collections Library at UB, and even though the entire architecture of UB is a kind of commemoration of the anti-war riots at Buffalo, essentially none of the students there are aware of that history. It was about ten years before my time-- I wasn't quite in high school back then, but I knew about Kent, of course, and about UB, and Columbia, and the rest of it as well. It was happening all around us, and it seemed like a big thing. Now, apparently, all of it is recalled, if it is recalled at all, ironically, with a Jimi Hendrix soundtrack. I harbor no nostalgia for the Sixties, but I like to think that I likewise have no illusions about that time either.

Friday, September 12, 2014

I ran into one of the former partners of the firm where I once worked at the deli the other day. He was a big deal back then, because he had a big institutional client, and then that client collapsed and suddenly he wasn't such a big deal. He landed on his feet, more or less, and then the firm blew up. Seeing him got me to thinking about what fragile entities law firms are, even though they seem substantial. When it blew up (a couple of years after we'd left) that firm was over 150 years old, but when they blow up all law firms are revealed as being less substantial than Papier-mâché. Yesterday news hit that Bill Savino and three other partners at Damon Morey are walking away to join a Rochester-based firm, and this seems like a fairly significant seismic event in the local legal community. Damon says it is the third largest firm in the area, and I suppose it is. Whether it will endure after losing a big chunk of the work that it is largely known for is an interesting question, and the answer is likely to come down to whether the partners that remain are committed to practicing together. Law firms depend on synergies-- if everyone merely tends his or her garden and expects compensation in excess of actual contribution then they are in an unsustainable posture, but because lawyers are so clever we are pretty good at constructing operations that operate in exactly that way-- for a while. I suppose the paradigm is Dewey LeBoeuf, but there are plenty of other examples.
Peter S. Marlette, Damon Morey’s managing partners, confirmed their departures and said he was sorry to see them leave, but he noted Damon Morey continues to have 85 attorneys among its 160 employees. “We’ve got a firm that’s filled with excellent attorneys and terrific clients, and we will continue to serve our clients as well as we always have,” he said.
Well, there's part of the problem right there: the 75 employees who are not lawyers (lawyers, mind you, not partners) are pretty much pure overhead. So too are some of the 85 lawyers. Ideally associates and paralegals are profit centers, but associates expect to become partners at a rate that typically outpaces their ability to expand the practice. Some leave-- the time spent training them is a lost cost. Overhead will kill you: Class A office space doesn't come cheap, and neither does Westlaw, or photocopiers, or computers, or software (I wonder what the license for 160 copies of MSWord runs?). The service that comes and waters the plants, the money laid out to sponsor the Zoo, or Shakespeare in the Park, or tables at the Heart Ball-- it adds up pretty quick, and meanwhile you have partners who reckon that the client that that retained them 25 years ago is their client, not the firm's client, and that therefore they should get the slice with four pieces of peperoni, not the slice with two, or the slice with just olives, or the plain slice.

I hope Damon circles the wagons, I really do, chiefly for the sake of the 75 people who are not lawyers, and for the sake of the people who are not partners. And I wish Bill Savino well.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

If I wanted a U2 album I'd have gone out and gotten a U2 album. And I think it is a little weird that Apple can just put stuff on my phone. I mean, Thanks for the U2 album, Apple, but stay out of my stuff from now on, okay?

UPDATE: I'm not sure when I last listened to a U2 album straight through. Maybe Joshua Tree? I just don't need that much soaring pretention spiritual idealism in my life, you know? Anyway, this U2 album, which is called Songs of Innocence, god help us, sounds pretty much like every other U2 album I've ever heard or imagined. There is a song (it may be the single) about Joey Ramone, and that seems odd to me: what did Joey Ramone make of Bono, I wonder? If Bono had predeceased Joey Ramone, would Joey Ramone have written a song about him? Is there really any need for another song about Joey Ramone when Amy Rigby has given us this?

Also, while we are on the subject, I'd like to propose a few rules for bands. Rule One: Only one member may be barefoot on stage. (We can call this the Abbey Road Rule.) Rule Two: If you have a chick singer she is either the singer full-time, or she plays an actual instrument. Tambourine is not an instrument, Betty. Rule Three: If one member has a nickname, or a stage name everyone else must either adopt a nickname or a stage name, or no-one else may adopt a nickname or a stage name. So Ringo is fine, or Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, but either Bono and The Edge agree that one of them goes by the name on his Baptismal Certificate, or Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. adopt nicknames. I'd pay money to see Bono and The Edge in a steel cage match over who gets to keep their nickname (both of which are stupid and pretentious), but it would probably be easier for all of us if the other two just assumed names. For years I thought that Clayton's name was a weird homage to the late Harlem congressman, Adam Clayton Powell. If it actually is, then we are already nearly there, and if it isn't he should add "Powell" and wear Black Power tee shirts. The die is cast for Mullen-- he is Junior Mullen from now on. (And by the way, what's up with that guy from the Eagles, Timothy B. Schmidt? Was he getting a lot of mail for some other Tim Schmidt?)

A final U2 note: I should mention that I have seen them live. They were at the Tibetan Freedom Concert on Randall's Island back in 1997, along with Noel Gallagher, Foo Fighters, Sonic Youth, Biz Markie, Alanis Morissette, Patti Smith, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Radiohead, Yungchen Lhamo, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, Rancid, Björk, Pavement, Blur, Michael Stipe & Mike Mills, Taj Mahal and Phantom Blues Band, De La Soul, Dadon, Chaksam-pa, Nawang Khechog, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Eddie Vedder & Mike McCready, KRS-ONE, Porno for Pyros, and Lee Perry featuring Mad Professor & the Robotiks Band. Patti was great, A Tribe Called Quest was-- not my sort of thing, I guess. I don't recall a lot of the others-- there were multiple stages, but I absolutely remember that U2, who were in their Zooropa phase, were dreadful. 

I'm going to make knishes, but I have no idea who will eat them with me.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A. and I were 46 and 47 at our polling place this morning, at about 9:00 AM. That's kind of a light turnout. (We did see two other likely Teachout/Wu voters there, so on a percentage basis it looked like a pretty good morning for insurgents.)

UPDATE: Five Thirty Eight takes a look at the race. It is notable that there are no public polls available; I'm guessing that's so because no-one really saw Teachout/Wu as a meaningful threat. Andy is running hard in WNY-- this is where he spent the day yesterday. I'm thinking that Kathy Hochul has turned into a bit of an anchor--- they pretty much kept her under wraps for the entire run-up. 


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Bands I Wish I'd Seen (Probably An Ongoing Project):

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

As I go about my day here in the Queen City of the Lakes what I'm seeing is something quite new to me in my time here: economic activity. Success has a thousand fathers, of course, but there is no denying that the cranes and the construction and everything else has a great deal to do with Andrew Cuomo's WNY economic policies. Andy waltzed to a win last go-round, but he didn't carry Erie County, and he has been flirting with us ever since. As part of this he picked Kathy Hochul as his running mate, and here's the thing: Kathy Hochul kind of personifies what I don't like about Andy Cuomo in one convenient package. She worked in John LaFalce's office when LaFalce was in Congress, and LaFalce was an anti-Choice Democrat. Best case, LaFalce botched the Salamanca deal and brought about the Seneca Casino downtown. He denies that this was his intention, but I've read the statute. Hochul then went on to run the Erie County Clerk's office, a non-ideological position where she opposed the issuing of driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Then she ran for Congress, in a special election in the most Republican district in New York State. She won-- a big upset, and was certainly better than Tom Reynolds, or Chris Lee, her immediate predecessors. She was, however, unmistakably a Blue Dog, and voted to support bills that required states to recognize the concealed weapons permits of other states, and supported hydraulic fracturing. I suppose I could forgive the LaFalce connection, but the rest are deal breakers for me. Either Cuomo picked her in a cynical and wrong-headed attempt to appeal to the Western New York base, or she actually is ideologically aligned with him, or both. In any event, I have a progressive alternative, and that's how I'm voting. It is a win-win as I see it. I get to vote my ideology, and if by some fluke Teachout/Wu win then that's great. If they don't-- well, Wu may edge Hochul, which would have a down ballot effect. If that doesn't happen either then I'll vote for the Democratic ticket with my conscience clear.


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