May 2009

clifford chance above the law.jpgLast night, Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance announced that Mark Kirsch, the firm’s U.S. litigation leader, is leaving the firm’s New York office. It’s unclear where he will be going next or if this is part of the trimming of the partnership ranks that Clifford Chance warned about back in February.
Given his departure, a source within the firm tells us that Clifford Chance is looking hard at the 29 associate positions in New York’s litigation group. There will be layoffs, though the total number is not yet clear. The firm plans to move quickly so those associates being let go will know who they are soon.
This is the second round of bad news for associates in the New York office within a matter of months. In March, the firm laid off 24 of its New York associates.
The firm made the announcement of impending layoffs and sent around a memo last night. The memo emphasizes that litigation in D.C. is still very strong. The new U.S. litigation practice leader has already been chosen: Juan Morillo, who is based in the nation’s capital. Read the full memo, after the jump.

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perfectUnion.jpgYour ATL editors kicked off the Memorial Day weekend with a trip to the East 13th Street Theater in Manhattan, where we saw A More Perfect Union, presented by the Epic Theater Ensemble. The play, by Canadian playwright Vern Thiessen, is about two members of The Elect — i.e., two Supreme Court clerks, who fall in love while clerking at the U.S. Supreme Court. Maddie, a white Jewish woman from Ohio, clerks for a fictional conservative justice called “The Wise One”; James, an African-American man from Georgia, clerks for a fictional liberal justice called “The Enlightened One.”
Like the night we spent reviewing Law Revue videos, there were highlights and low points. A big highlight was a post-play discussion featuring former New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse. As you know, we are what some might call Greenhouse groupies, though she was not as excited to talk to us as we were to talk to her. We just got a little handshake, a “nice to see you,” and an introduction to her daughter.
The post-show discussion also included professors Elizabeth Emens and Susan Sturm, both of Columbia Law School. Professor Sturm mentioned being a law school classmate of SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor, whom she described as “a straightforward person, who doesn’t hide from her background or make decisions based on it.” She also defended Judge Sotomayor’s Berkeley remarks about personal experience informing a judge’s jurisprudence, noting that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg basically said as much in discussing the recent strip search case before the Court (noting that her colleagues, who seemed less sensitive to the plaintiff’s plight, “have never been a 13-year-old girl”).
Obviously, we think the legal world is an exciting place, and we are always thrilled to see the courts get dramatic treatments. But our standards for fictional treatment of the courts, and especially the Court, are high.
Check out our reviews, after the jump.

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Roland Burris ATL Lawyer of the Day.jpg* Right now, I’m Terrence Howard in Crash. Roland Burris is Ludacris. It’s too bad because I hate Terrence Howard in that movie. [FOX News]
* Who the hell is Charles Whittaker? [CQ Politics]
* Some help for Mayer Brown summer associates. [Copyranter]
* Wait, am I the only dude that actually kidnaps white women and takes them to Disney World? Damn man, I can’t catch a break. [Bossip]
* Take a good look at this picture, partners. Remember, you can’t do this if you fire all of your associates. [Legally Drawn]

burch porter and johnson working out in the storage room.jpgNot all firms are cutting back on the perks. The Memphis Commercial Appeal has an enthused article today about the perks to be had at the small Tennessee firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson.
The article, “Legal firm helps its employees find essential balance,” talks about the firm’s AMAZING perks:

Something refreshing for body and soul is happening within the 119-year-old walls that house a venerable Memphis law firm.
Refreshing as a good yoga session. Strengthening as a brisk core-body workout. And uplifting as guest speakers whose work has made Memphis a better place.

Sweet. You can work out at work! And they friggin’ bring in guest speakers at lunch. Wow! Do they have as much free coffee as you can drink too?
If you thought firm life in Memphis couldn’t compare to Biglaw in the big city, think again:

That quest for balance explains why Leah Hillis strolled down the hallways on a recent lunch hour wearing workout clothes for a yoga session.
The associate attorney headed for the firm’s large, third-story storeroom overlooking Court Square… Other exercise classes to strengthen the core-body are Mondays and Fridays in the same unfinished space, which holds files of old cases, surplus furniture and cleaning supplies.
The classes are inexpensive: $4 for yoga and $3 for the core-body sessions.

Only $4 to work out in the storage closet!
If that’s not your cup of tea, you can spend lunch with a guest speaker during one of the firm’s “fireside chats” in the Crump Room. A recent speaker mentioned in the article is a Holocaust survivor. Fun times.
Law and life: Legal firm helps its employees find essential balance [Memphis Commercial Appeal]

If you are of a certain age, your first experience with Delaware was probably this:

But then you went to law school. And at some point, you learned this:

But now we are in the 21st century. And it’s not your father’s Delaware, not anymore.
After the jump, Delaware gets ready for football season.

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staff attorney contract attorney doc review.jpgIn March, we reported that Skadden was essentially canceling its staff attorney program. We reported:

Only staff attorneys that were “integral” to ongoing matters have been kept on. And there is no word on whether those people will have any job security after their matters wrap up.

It appears that Covington & Burling is also undergoing a major reduction of its staff attorney program.
Tipsters (including some recently laid off staff attorneys) report that firm management has decided to effectively discontinue its staff attorney program. The firm has been letting go of staff attorneys at the rate of a couple per week over the last few weeks. As we understand it, as staff attorneys finish up their active matters, they are being let go.
Our sources tell us that the decision was made by firm management some weeks back. At the time the decision was made, the staff attorney manager was out of the office on vacation. When she came back, she allegedly told Covington’s staff attorneys that they should start circulating their resumes.
In some cases, laid off staff attorneys are being given a one week severance option. One week, if they sign a form promising not to sue the firm over the circumstances of their termination. Some Covington personnel that spoke to Above the Law believed that clause is proof that Covington decided to move out staff attorneys as a response to the lawsuit filed by former-Covington Staff Attorney Yolanda Young.
After the jump, we have statements from Covington & Burling, and Yolanda Young.

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Career Center AboveTheLaw Lateral Link ATL.jpgThe new ATLCareer Center, powered by Lateral Link, is a useful resource for learning about law firms. Last week, we brought you information about partnership prospects at different firms.
This week, let’s talk about working on the weekend. Working on the occasional weekend is part of the experience at every big firm, but at some firms that experience is more frequent than occasional. (Of course, in this economy, some lawyers may welcome weekend work — staying busy is the best way to avoid being laid off.)
Quinn Emanuel takes the top prize for weekend workers, with 100% of associates surveyed saying that they regularly do some work over the weekends, and a full 14% saying that “weekends are just another workday.”
Also near the top are Sullivan & Cromwell, Simpson Thacher, Milbank, Kirkland, and Cleary — all firms where more than 80% of the surveyed associates said that it is common for them to work at least some portion of the weekends.
At Skadden and Gibson Dunn, the large majority of associates surveyed said that it is common for them to work on the weekends, but most associates reported that they do that work from home.
And what firms are more likely to leave associates free on the weekends?
Read about them, after the jump.

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At which firms can you expect weekend work?

AmLaw 100 2009.JPGCongratulations Am Law 200 firms. You have weathered all the disparaging comments about your cities, your practice, the quality of lawyers that work at your firms. And now, as we stare into the sewage drain of the American legal economy, the Am Law 200 firms are coming out smelling like roses:

Reports of their demise, it turns out, were premature. For years, the regional firms that constitute much of the Second Hundred were told that they were exactly the wrong size: too big to compete with the narrow focus of boutiques and too small to match The Am Law 100′s national footprints and marquee names. But last year, as the financial sector began its meltdown, the Second Hundred’s slow-growth strategies were vindicated.
While average revenue per lawyer at The Am Law 100 decreased by 1.2 percent in 2008 (the first decline since 1991), Second Hundred firms were essentially flat. And when the Second Hundred’s national firms, as well as those in the nation’s biggest money centers–Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.–are left out of the calculations, average RPL growth was 1 percent. In all, 49 Second Hundred firms posted increases in RPL, compared to 42 Am Law 100 firms.

As Bob Sugar might say: “This is a nice moment for you, I’m going to let you have it.”
After the jump, more ego-shattering news for coastal, prestige conscious associates and partners.

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Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to [email protected].

pls hndle copy 2.jpgDear ATL –
I’ve been unemployed for almost a year. I have good academic credentials, but lost my job as a junior-associate in Biglaw before I could develop a highly valuable set of skills. At first, finding interviews for available positions was easy; I just wasn’t able to close. But about five months ago, interviews stopped altogether. I haven’t even been able to find contract work.
The economic recession is obviously a big part of my problem. But I also feel that part of the problem now is my extended term of unemployment. So my question is: How long is too long? When do I have to accept that I simply will not be a lawyer?
He Who Longs to Measure Time in 6 Minute Increments

Dear He Who Longs to Measure Time in 6 Minute Increments,
The fairy tale that you’ve concocted for yourself — that you will never again be a lawyer after T-minus one year of unemployment — is an homage to the Beast, who despairs of turning back into a prince. From the Beauty and the Beast prologue:

Ashamed of his monstrous form, the Beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his 21st year. If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return, by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a Beast for all time.
As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a Beast?

You have one year to receive True Love’s Kiss and clinch that “awesome” associate job before the enchanted rose’s last petal fell and seals your fate. After one year, you are to remain a Beast forever, hideous to law firms and vile to any employers other than traveling circuses and minstrel side shows. The End.
If really believe that you’ve been out of the law firm game for “too long,” what are your other options? Living as a hermit by the sea? If you have another dream career, by all means pursue it, but if you really want to be a lawyer, you can be one again, even if you’ve been out for a year. This economy is like the Mayer Brown swine flu outbreak — if you make it out alive, you’re expected back at the office. Law firms will have a hard time rejecting applicants based on gaps in their resume alone, when talented and bright laid-off attorneys will comprise a huge chunk of the applicant pool. Patience, Iago. The last petal has not fallen and Elizabeth Halverson has not sung.
Your friend,
Marin
Some advice from Le Fou, after the jump.

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schulte logo.JPGMaybe work is booming at Schulte Roth & Zabel? The firm is changing its vacation policy to make it more stringent. Could it be that the firm wants all hands on deck? A tipster reports the major changes:

* Personal days are now limited to 5 per year (there was previously no limit). Any days in excess of 5 count as vacation.
* SRZ previously reimbursed attorneys for nonrefundable costs associated with vacations that the firm cancelled due to work obligations. The new policy states that reimbursement will now be considered on a case-by-case basis.
* Weekend trips will only be reimbursed when the firm requires them to be cancelled if the trip has been previously approved by the partner appointed to approve vacations. The firm previously did not require attorneys to request approval for weekend trips.

Another tipster quips:

Schulte Tries Increasing Egg Production by Choking the Chicken

But it could also be that Schulte’s new vacation policy has an eye towards layoffs.
Read more, after the jump.

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