Is there really blood in the water around the billable hour? Or are we simply hearing an updated version of a familiar refrain? This morning the Wall Street Journal took another look at killing the billable hour (subscription):
People who follow the world of law firms know, among so much else, two things: 1) that billing-by-the-hour has long been the way law firms get paid and 2) companies have over the years had only limited success in getting firms to agree to do it any other way.
That’s changing. In a big way. Companies are starting to ditch the hourly structure — which critics complain offers law firms an incentive to rack up bigger bills — in favor of flat-fee contracts and other types of arrangements.
Of course, we’ve heard all that before. Heralding the death of the billable hour is much like predicting the end of the world: eventually somebody is going to be right.
Has anything fundamentally changed this time around to make the billable hour more susceptible to death? Here’s the best argument.
The Vault survey rankings may have created buzz last week, but we’re going to kick off the buzz this week by unveiling our first annual review of the summer associate experience at the major law firms. With information based on surveys conducted by Lateral Link and tips we’ve gathered at ATL, the summer program snapshots give you an insiders perspective on each firm. So if you are heading into OCI and want the scoop on what 2009 summer associate class felt about their experience, check out the ATL Career Center, powered by Lateral Link.
The Summer Associate Program review is located within each firm snapshot. Surf over there to find out:
Which firm received high marks for being “open and honest” with summer associates “at every juncture of the law firm strategy in this economic climate?” Click here.
Which firm gives summers an $85 dinner budget and does a two day retreat for all summers at Catalina Island? Click here.
Which firm’s summers report that the firm is “fantastic” when it comes to summer salaries and offers “job security” that is hard to find elsewhere? Click here.
Which firm had summer associates go head to head in a “Roc the Guac” guacamole-cooking contest? Click here.
More after the jump.
Yolanda Young is back with a vengeance, and an amended complaint against Covington & Burling.
The brief synopsis on Young is that she was a Covington & Burling staff attorney who sued the firm for racial discrimination. Covington has denied the charges at every point. The firm briefly got the suit tossed, but it was reinstated.
Young’s basic allegations remain the same:
Through its pattern and practice, Defendant, Covington & Burling LLP, systematically relegates its black attorneys to its lowest rung of practicing attorneys — the position of staff attorney. Firm policy bans the promotion of staff attorneys to the position of associate and, ultimately, to partner. This prohibition adversely impacts Defendant’s black attorneys by consigning the majority to earning less money, performing less challenging work, and enjoying less opportunity for professional growth than Defendant’s nonblack attorneys.
This time around, Young argues that black staff attorneys at Covington are more qualified than their white colleagues:
Young points out that while Covington uses a combination of law school grades, journal membership, and clerkship experience to determine the assignment of its attorneys, many of their partners — who decide how an attorney should be assigned — lack such credentials, but presumably are able to perform adequately at partner-level.
Young also asserts that black practicing attorneys, as a group, typically graduated from higher ranked law schools than their white colleagues and that, more often than their white counterparts, black staff attorneys attended law schools from which Covington’s partners, counsel, and associates graduated.
I think I know what is going on here. See, this is a revenge fantasy lawsuit. And Covington has been typecast in the role of Major King Kong.
After the jump, Young brings charts to back up her claims, and announces her full intentions exclusively to Above the Law.
[Ed. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks. Law Shucks has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.]
It seems so good, doesn’t it? According to the lead of a recent AP story, "The unemployment rate fell in 17 states and the District of Columbia last month, a positive sign even as the pain of joblessness remains widespread."
Don’t believe the hype. Even lawyers can subtract when it’s only double-digit numbers. Are we not supposed to notice that that must mean the unemployment rate increased, or at best was flat, in more than 30 states? In fact, it was up in 36 states and territories, more than twice as many as it was down in, but the AP is just drunk on White House Kool-Aid apparently, how else to explain that spin?
* More on the skanks. ‘Skanks in NYC’ blogger plans to sue Google for $15 million for disclosing her identity. [New York Daily News via Gothamist]
* A Michigan attorney has filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the University of Iowa College of Law, claiming that the school wouldn’t put him on faculty because he’s the ripe old age of 56. [Chicago Tribune]
* The Justice Department may prosecute CIA employees for torturing detainees. [New York Times]
* Child molester hatched a bizarre $3 million defamation suit against his victim. And won, but only for one day. [Washington Post]
* Gerber Baby Foods doesn’t like women or minorities. [Courthouse News Service]
* As we’ve noted before, prospective law students tell Kaplan the economy is motivating them to head to law school. Obviously, they haven’t done their due diligence here at Above The Law. [Oregon Daily Emerald]
Ed. note: As previously mentioned, LEWW is on vacation this week. Regular weekly posting will resume with a double issue on Friday, August 28.
Today we ask readers to choose the most impressive lawyer newlyweds of the past two months. Early summer traditionally represents the height of the wedding season, and this year’s June and July couples have not disappointed. Below the fold, you’ll find two SCOTUS clerks, a Harvard JD/MD, the GC of a major corporation, a Google millionaire, and two managing editors of the Harvard Law Review, plus the typical amount of prestigious Biglaw employment.
Click on the link below to review our prior write-ups of the Couple of the Week winners and vote for your favorites. (And remember: The two lucky couples who are selected will be eligible for Couple of the Year consideration.)
Last week, Above the Law was dominated by the Vault rankings. But we still had time to expose scandal and poke a little fun. This week’s top three stories:
The list which all prestige-based conversations will have to reckon with was released this week. Vault is so exciting that we even published an incomplete list earlier in the week to whet people’s appetite.
The big news from the rankings has been that Weil Gotshal surged to #6, while Latham & Watkins fell ten sports to #17.
We’ve also started our open threads to allows attorneys and law students to discuss the firms on the list. Click here and here for our first two open threads.
Trial Lawyers for Justice: Not every lawyer is obsessed with prestige of course. Some are just concerned about family. Really concerned. Check here for a law firm’s strange request that new applicants submit a family photo with their application. Here, the firm’s managing partner defends the request.
Moritz College of Law Scandal This week, Above the Law was able to expose a scandal at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. It appears that the school’s Student Bar Association President embezzled student funds for private use. Now, he might not be able to get his diploma. Check out our full coverage here.
Ok Partner, I will bust my butt for you, I will sacrifice my physical and mental well-being, and I will not complain. And in return, you will mentor me, show me the ropes, introduce me to clients, help develop my business, and reward me with a partnership down the road if I do all you ask of me. You know, the same deal that YOU had when you were an associate. Wait, you won’t do that? You have no interest in mentoring, teaching, or grooming me as a future partner?
Well then, you can suck it. I will continue to care about my “work-life balance,” collect a paycheck for a few years, and then get out of here while I’m still young and marketable.
Firms have been making offers this month. The good news came first, leading us to ask at the beginning of the month: Summer Offer Rate Open Thread: Are We Back to 100%?
We’re such optimists here at ATL that we followed that thread with this one: Summer Offer Rate Open Thread: Happy Happy Joy Joy!.
This week, a number of recent summer associates have asked us to take off the rose-colored glasses. On Monday, we reported that Paul Hastings would have a 75% offer rate, leaving a quarter of its summers with no offers.
We’re now getting reports of no offers at other firms. Two examples are after the jump. But tell us what you are hearing in the comments or send it into firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the San Mateo County Times, [Glad] had stopped to pick up some delicious Girl Scout cookies. But in his excitement to get his Samoa and Thin Mint fix, he neglected to shift his car into park. His Lexus then rolled into the cookie table. The car pinned Girl Scout mother, Holly Rogers, to a wall, causing her to lose her leg. Her daughter, then 6, suffered multiple leg fractures.
Did we mention that Glad had parked in a disabled spot? And that he was on prescription painkiller OxyContin on the day of the accident?
* Maybe this dude thought that displaying the mental aptitude of child would make it okay for him to look at pictures of naked children. He was wrong. [Roll On Friday]
* Facebook — good for cheaters and divorce attorneys. [Long Island Press]
* If you want to shoot at beautiful wild animals for “sport,” there’s a lawyer willing to help you. [Legal Blog Watch]
* Maryland’s chief Public Defender might want to get an employment lawyer. [Underdog]
* Are “wimpy local counsels” out for themselves more than their clients? [What About Paris?]
* If you take away the color of her skin, is Sonia Sotomayor still “diverse”? [Blackbook Legal]
* Notes from the late Justice Rehnquist’s poker buddy. [BLT: Blog of the Legal Times]
* Open Letter to VH-1: Please familiarize yourselves with the term “vetting.” That is all. [Popsquire]
* More about skanks, from Kash! [True/Slant]
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.