Latest Legal News: The New Face of the Second Amendment

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A daily look at the legal news and the business of law:Is It Because He's Black?

When the Supreme Court decides a seminal case, the name of the lead plaintiff becomes part of our language, our national history: Think "Miranda" or "Brown." Well, a landmark gun rights case with four plaintiffs is pending: McDonald v. City of Chicago. When Otis McDonald, the only African-American of the four, was picked to be lead plaintiff, he joked, "Is it just because I'm the only black?"

Though the lawyer's answer isn't on record, it was likely yes. The key issue in the case is whether the Second Amendment applies to the individual states; if it does, it's because of the 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War to prevent states from infringing the rights of the newly freed slaves. Deciding another recent landmark gun case, Justice Antonin Scalia cited that history.

Admittedly, McDonald is a sympathetic plaintiff for other reasons; he's 76, he's a Democrat, and he clearly wants his handgun for self-defense: He wants to keep it by his bed in case the gang members in his Chicago neighborhood break in. In all these dimensions, McDonald is different from the classic picture of an gun owner -- white, middle-aged, middle class, suburban or rural -- and could not get further from the classically unsympathetic Montana militiamen so many people associate with gun rights.

Choosing a sympathetic plaintiff as the poster child/named plaintiff in a case is a legal strategy pioneered by the NAACP: As a landmark case builds towards a decision, the media frenzy frames the issue in the public eye through that lead plaintiff's story. And it seems the new face of the Second Amendment is going to be Otis McDonald's.

Partners on the Move: The Great Recession Shakes Up the Big Firms.

Since the recession hit, unusually high numbers of partners at big law firms have switched firms or left to start their own, according to American Lawyer's 2010 Lateral Report. In the 12 months following Oct. 1, 2008, four firms dissolved, dumping their entire partnerships on the market. Many other firms saw partners jump ship, or pushed out less desirable partners -- 17 firms lost 20 or more partners. Some firms gobbled up the newly mobile: Excluding law firm mergers, 10 firms picked up forty or more partners, topped by Greenberg Traurig, which picked up 66. Partners who left to set up their own firms said that they'd improved their quality of life while ditching big firm overhead, allowing them to give more value to their clients, an advantage during the recession.

Speaking of partner departures, the bleeding at White & Case doesn't stop. On Sunday, I noted that four partners had just left. On Monday Legal Week reported that eight more partners are headed out the door.
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