Yesterday, American Lawyer released the results of its annual survey of midlevel associates. Morale is about what you would expect from postal workers applying for a gun permit, not upwardly mobile white collar workers. But the results should surprise no one:
Associate morale plummeted to the lowest level in five years (since we started asking about it). It fell from a rating of 3.1 last year, on a scale of 1 to 5, to 2.7. The drop is clearly related to job insecurity. Eighty-three percent of our respondents reported medium or high anxiety about losing their jobs. The midlevels had good reason to be concerned. Sixty-one percent said that their firms had layoffs. And, for those who kept their jobs, there wasn’t enough to do. As early as last year, one-third of associates saw a drop-off in their workload, and this year 46 percent said it had decreased.
But it’s not just job security that is making Biglaw associates blue. The pay cuts don’t just hurt associates’ bottom line, they make associates feel less valuable:
Many survey respondents were also disappointed with their firms’ pay cuts, reduced or nonexistent bonuses, and decreased benefits. They were also troubled by what they saw as a lack of transparency on financial issues and layoffs.
After the jump, let’s look at the firms where midlevels are least miserable, and the firms that should consider adding Lexapro to the vending machines.
* Arturo Gatti’s death has been ruled a suicide, and Brazilian authorities have freed his widow. [BBC]
* David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez tested positive for steroids in 2003. D’uh. But the media learned about the positive results from blabber mouth lawyers. Do court orders mean nothing these days? [New York Times]
* Investigators are looking for evidence of whether Michael Jackson was a drug addict. [CNN]
* People are still trying to figure out what to do about the University of Illinois. The ABA is having a panel on public corruption, and one UofI trustee has resigned. [Chicago Tribune]
* Forced California court closings are going forward. [Law.com]
* I believe it was Chris Rock who once asked: “What do you got to do to be a racist anymore? Assassinate Medgar Evers?” [Boston Globe]
If you just finished your state bar exam today, Above the Law is here for you. If you finished the bar yesterday, immediately went to a purveyor of alcohol, and are just waking up now with a midget stripper in your bed, welcome back.
No matter how badly you think you did on your bar exam, trust me, you did better than Carlos Enrique Gomez-Alvarez. The Salt Lake Tribune reports:
A Utah immigration attorney and four of his employees accused in a visa fraud scheme on Wednesday entered not guilty pleas to the crimes. …
Carlos Enrique Gomez-Alvarez, arrested in New York while taking the bar exam in Buffalo, also entered a not guilty plea in New York on Wednesday and is expected to be transported to Utah this week.
Arrested while taking the bar exam? That’s got to add up to a galactic fail.
After the jump, check out some tips on what to do next.
* The Ticketmaster / Live Nation merger reminds me that Robin Williams is a poor replacement for Teddy Roosevelt. [Miss Trials]
* Who voluntarily dismisses a complaint against Pfizer for $50,000? It’s a plaintiff’s goldmine if you can force a settlement. Silly non-lawyers. [Drug and Device Law]
* European clients don’t like American civil litigation. Well, I think Europeans are wussies that we had to bail out of world warfare twice. Ooohhh. Burn. Take that, “Old World.” (Psst … can you send me some prescription medication? I won’t tell anybody.) [What About Clients?]
* I hate hate-crime laws. But I also hate homophobia. I didn’t hate the state of Pennsylvania Board of Accountancy, but now I do. [The Volokh Conspiracy]
* If you failed the bar, here’s why. [Litination]
* Congratulations to our friends at Practical Law Company (PLC), which just won a 2009 InnovAction Award from the College of Law Practice Management. [Marketwire]
You’ve heard horror stories about messy divorces where people litigate over the family pet. Traditionally, pets are regarded as just another piece of property to be divided up among the former spouses. But that could be about to change. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:
[A] second trial on the custody of the nearly six-year-old brown pooch is set to begin. [Doreen Houseman] plans to testify again that her ex-fiancé broke an oral agreement to let her have the dog after she moved out of their house.
In March, a three-judge appeals panel ordered a new trial, saying Superior Court Judge John Tomasello should not have treated Dexter as just another piece of furniture during the first trial, in Gloucester County, in 2007
Houseman argued against the speciesist system where pets are considered mere property by family courts. Houseman and various animal defense lawyers tried to use the Michael Vick case as precedent:
They suggested the judge should also weigh what was best for the dog. That had been done, they said, with the dogs that belonged to former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, after he was involved in a dog-fighting ring.
The appellate panel declined to go so far as to apply the best interests test to a dog. Apparently, tail wags per minute is not a reliable indicator.
But the panel didn’t have to apply a best interests test. The trial court judge seemed to be just enough of a jerk to give the appellate court grounds to give Houseman a new trial.
More details after the jump.
Earlier this week, we reported that the Troutman Sanders pay cut applied to associates’ entire 2009 salary. We were wrong about that. A Troutman Sanders spokesperson explained to us that the pay cut will only apply to associate compensation from August 1, 2009 through the end of the year.
Why the confusion? Let’s go back to the original Troutman Sanders announcement of its pay cut:
Responding to changing market conditions for associate compensation, Troutman Sanders today announced a 10-percent reduction in the total amount of associate pay that was budgeted for Aug. 1-Dec. 31, 2009.
These reductions will not be made across the board but will be based on each associate’s individual performance evaluation.
Don’t get blinded — as we and some of our tipsters did — by the 10% figure. That’s just the target amount that Troutman wants to save off of all associate compensation between August and the end of the year.
After the jump, the firm explains that individual pay cuts will vary greatly.
With more summer programs getting the axe (including even non-firm summer programs), we want to remember what the summer of 2009 was like, so we can pass on the advice to the summer associate class of 2012 (or whenever they decide to have summer programs again). So please take a minute and tell us what you think about your summer associate experience. Click here to take our short survey.
For those of you who were summer associates years ago, perhaps you’re more focused on making partner. Check out this week’s review of survey data from the Career Center, brought to you by Above the Law and Lateral Link, in which we tell you which firms were most queried regarding the prospect of partnership. Remember that, in addition to the information here, you can see how associates at over 100 top firms feel about the chances of making partner at their firm by visiting the Firm Comparison section on the Career Center.
The partnership survey info, after the jump.
What is current law firm protocol with respect to affairs between partners and associates? The head of one the practice groups at my firm is having an affair with an associate in another group. It has been going on for awhile and is embarrassing for some of us who are aware (funny how people think they are being discreet, isn’t it?!). Am I obligated to tell someone? Will anything happen to them or is it generally acceptable (or not a concern) for this to go on? I’d like to send a note to the managing partner or head of HR — thoughts?
Rats of Nimh
Dear Rats of Nimh,
My first reaction to this question is, seriously, who cares? My second reaction is, calm down and get a life. Unless you think the associate has avoided layoffs (if any) because of protectia, what’s it to you if a partner you may or may not work with is having an affair with an associate whom he or she does not review?
I fail to see how this affair is embarrassing to you and others, unless you’re jealous that you were not selected as the object of desire. This happened to me once, where a partner I had a rabid crush on passed me over for another associate and I became enraged and threatened to three friends that I would lateral out because distance makes the heart grow fonder, at which point one of them reminded me that I had never actually spoken to said partner in real life, per se. The point is, “reverse Schadenfreude,” as my friend Megan likes to call it (i.e., fury at other peoples’ happiness), is a powerful emotion. It’s tough to think that others are experiencing carefree sexual liaisons and personal fulfillment while you code documents by the glow of your Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves computer wallpaper. However, polite society dictates that you grin and bear it. In these sort of situations, I find that gossiping viciously helps.
Emailing the managing partner or head of HR is patently ridiculous. They may be hosting the liaisons for all you know, like Jerry Seinfeld did for Madonna and A-Rod when he invited them to his Hamptons house to conduct their adultery in some peace and quiet.
Sorry to say, but you’ll just have to live with this one.
After the jump, no references to Les Miserables.
Earlier this week, we wrote about a serious drafting mistake by Stroock & Stroock & Lavan — maybe a typo, maybe not — that could cost Stroock’s client millions.
Could Stroock look to its malpractice insurer for help? Maybe not, according to the New York Post:
The gaffe exposes Stroock to the real possibility of having to pay back Extell and Carlyle out of its own pocket because sources said that if the developers sue Stroock, it’s unlikely its insurer will pick up the tab.
The basis for this prediction is not included in the Post article. If you have thoughts on the insurance issue, please do share. Stroock didn’t comment to the New York Times, which first wrote about the error, but they did offer brief comment to the Post.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
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