Judicial Notice (12.04.21): 'Stench'
A deep dive into Dobbs, a major merger in Biglaw, and other legal news from the week that was.
The highlight of this week for me has been… walking. That might sound lame, but let me explain.
Each week, I walk or jog at least 25 miles, which works out to around 3.6 miles a day. I had this weekly resolution pre-Covid, but obviously it fell by the wayside during and after my hospitalization in March 2020. Not surprisingly, I didn’t walk much during the rest of 2020.
But I have slowly been building back up in 2021, and since June, I’ve covered more than 3.6 miles a day on average. This week has been one of my best weeks ever, with three days of 6.5 miles or more. I prefer to walk or jog outside when I can, but now that the weather is getting colder, I also hit the treadmill. One advantage of the treadmill is that I can read on my phone while walking—and many of the articles I link to in this roundup are ones that I discovered while on the treadmill.
Now, on to the news.
Lawyer of the Week: Brian Potts.
In 2002, Brian Potts, then a law student at Vermont Law School, wrote to Perkins Coie, an Am Law 100 law firm, inquiring about a job. The firm responded by mail politely informing him that no positions were available.
Almost 20 years later, he is now a partner at Perkins Coie’s Madison, Wisconsin, office.
But he kept that rejection letter. Last month, he posted a copy of it on LinkedIn with the classic words, “Law Students: If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.”
His post went viral. It has been viewed more than 3.5 million times and received over 48,000 positive responses. Many people have reached out to him requesting advice, and as a result, he is currently booked out for at least a month speaking with law students and recent graduates.
In the wake of this, Potts started mentoring several law students, but he had more requests for mentorship than he could handle. Friends and colleagues started to pitch in as mentors, creating an informal mentoring network.
It eventually evolved into something more official: the Legal Mentor Network, a registered nonprofit dedicated to connecting law students and recently barred attorneys with legal mentors, which launched this week. The Network currently has more than 1,000 mentees and more than 250 mentors from several Biglaw firms and corporate legal departments, as well as a founding sponsor, DLA Piper.
If you’re a law student or young lawyer looking for mentorship or an experienced lawyer willing to serve as a mentor, you can do so on the Network’s website. And now that the Network is officially a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, you can also support it with a tax-deductible contribution if so inclined.
Kudos to Brian Potts and his co-founders—Chrystal Mauro, Matt Schwartz, and Lenora Ausbon-Odom—on the launch of this wonderful, worthwhile initiative. And thanks to all 250+ mentors for everything they do to help law students and young lawyers succeed in this often challenging but deeply rewarding profession.
In memoriam: Howard Godnick, a former litigation partner at Schulte Roth & Zabel in New York, who passed away on November 28 at the age of 63. His obituary on the SRZ website alludes to his excellent sense of humor—the subject of this 2013 Above the Law story by Elie Mystal, Funny Man Partner Now Spreads Joy With Reply-All Responses To Spam. Howie Godnick, rest in peace.
Judge of the Week: Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
This week, everyone was talking about Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the major abortion case just argued before the Supreme Court that could lead to the overruling of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. And everyone was talking about Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the most aggressive questioner at oral argument. In an exchange with Scott Stewart, the Mississippi solicitor general defending the state’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Justice Sotomayor had this to say:
Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible.
Left-leaning Twitter users loved it, the Wall Street Journal editorial page hated it, but pretty much everyone had an opinion. Her words inspired numerous newspaper columns, including ones from Ruth Marcus, Judge Nancy Gertner (Ret.), and Jonathan Turley, for the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and The Hill, respectively. (Thanks to Howard Bashman’s How Appealing for the links; whenever a big case comes to the Court, How Appealing and SCOTUSblog are invaluable.)
Here’s what one reader of mine had to say about Justice Sotomayor’s “stench” comment:
Whoever smelt it, dealt it. Sotomayor and Alito are the two most partisan, results-oriented members of the Court. It’s pretty rich of her, of all the justices, to be complaining about politics stinking up SCOTUS—in a soundbite that was clearly crafted to fire up the left.
But whether you like them or not, Justice Sotomayor’s words reverberated. As Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund wrote, in a tweet that garnered almost 64,000 likes, “I just can’t move off of Justice Sotomayor’s question: how will this Court survive the stench? It was a shocking moment. An unadorned recognition of the legitimacy issues that are clearly preoccupying a number of the justices.”
Justice Sotomayor will likely end up on the losing side of Dobbs. But her memorable words make her a winner for Judge of the Week.
Meanwhile, in nominations news:
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