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Heard on the Amtrak Acela: the Latest in Law Firm Gossip

Ah, the Amtrak Acela train: A convenient and sensible transportation choice, especially with all that wacky winter weather grounding flights these days. But not such a great place to conduct confidential law firm business on your cell phone.

2385941127_63a37e0066One might consider that common knowledge after the unfortunate incident of February 2009, when Above the Law leaked news of impending layoffs at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, courtesy of a law student who overheard a loud cell phone call made by Pillsbury partner Robert Robbins on an Acela train bound from Washington, D.C., to New York. Pillsbury then had to confirm the layoffs and apologize for the "unfortunate manner" in which the news was leaked. And a lesson was learned by all.

Well, apparently not all. Above the Law has done it again, thanks to a tipster who was riding in a packed Acela car last Friday within earshot of Kelley Drye & Warren's managing partner, James J. Kirk. Though Kirk didn't treat his fellow passengers to anything as juicy as layoff scoop, he did take the opportunity to call a partner at a New York litigation boutique to offer him a non-equity partnership position at Kelley Drye. The ATL tipster was able to record not only the specific terms of the offer, but the offeree's name and home address, since Kirk then made a second call to one of his firm's HR employees to request a background check. (To protect the innocent, ATL declined to divulge the name and address information). Kirk then left his Amtrak ticket stub behind on his seat, where it was retrieved by the sleuth and then posted by ATL as evidence.

For law firm partners still confused about the moral of this story, ATL's David Lat provides a helpful mantra: "I will not discuss confidential matters, using my cell  phone and speaking in a loud voice, on the D.C. to New York Acela train."

And if you're going to ignore that, at least take your ticket stub with you when you exit the train. Happy travels!

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Written by Laurel Newby,'s courts editor.

Posted by Product Team on January 13, 2011 at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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