August 2014

New York Times screaming headline.jpgLegal blogs and trade publications have been writing about “The Death of Big Law” for months. But now it’s official. The patient has been pronounced dead by no less an authority than the New York Times. Who needs the fat lady to sing when the Gray Lady has spoken?
First, a quick caveat. Obviously Biglaw hasn’t “died”; large law firms continue to exist, and they continue to be very profitable. They may have to evolve with changing times, but they are still with us, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. What has died, rather, is a certain version of Biglaw, full of fabulosity, fun and frothiness — think Biglaw, circa 2007. May it rest in peace.
So, on to the article. It appeared in print in yesterday’s Sunday Styles — yes, the Style section, normally the home of wedding announcements and trendspotting pieces (sometimes of questionable validity). Despite its location in a guilty pleasure of a section, however, it’s a solid and hard-hitting piece.
The reporter, Alex Williams, begins by discussing The Deep End, the new ABC show set in a law firm (and previously mocked by Elie). It features associates having tons o’ fun — which makes it ridiculously outdated (assuming it ever was accurate). Williams writes:

“The Deep End” was conceived in 2007, that halcyon era of $160,000 starting salaries and full employment even for law grads who had scored in the 150s on their LSAT’s.

Those days are over. As the profession lurches through its worst slump in decades, with jobs and bonuses cut and internal pressures to perform rising, associates do not just feel as if they are diving into the deep end, but rather, drowning.

As you can tell from this excerpt, the article is stylishly written and fun to read. Although it might not tell regular ATL readers much that will surprise them, it’s a well-reported wrap-up of where things stand now, sure to be appreciated by a general audience. (It’s also much better than the Times’s last major effort to tackle Biglaw as a topic.)
The piece has been at or near the top of the NYT’s “Most E-Mailed” list for a few days now (since it first appeared online well before it showed up yesterday in print). Help it stay on the list by emailing the article to your parents or friends. Or do a good deed, and email it to that cousin of yours who is thinking about going to law school. She’ll thank you later.
Okay, that was a cheap shot — there are legitimate reasons to go to law school. But there are also things about the law, as a profession and as a business, that potential law students ought to know.
Let’s dig deeper into the piece….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Bloom Is Off the Biglaw Rose”

Gerald Ung Gerry Ung Jerry Ung Jerald Ung Temple Law School 3L shooter shooting.jpgMany law students these days are angry and frustrated. If the allegations are true, one has resorted to gun violence (and not just against his casebooks). From Philadelphia’s Fox 29:

A Virginia man is in custody after a weekend shooting in front of Fox 29′s studio in Philadelphia that was caught on camera. Temple University grad student Gerald Ung allegedly shot Villanova graduate Ed DiDonato at 4th and Market Streets early Sunday morning.

According to WPVI, the suspected shooter, Gerald Ung (pictured), is a third-year fourth-year law student at Temple’s Beasley School of Law.
UPDATE (1 PM): Temple has confirmed that Ung, 28, is — or “was,” to use the exact language from the Philadelphia Inquirer article — a law student there.
CORRECTION: Ung is not a 3L, as we originally wrote. Rather, he’s a fourth-year law student in Temple’s evening program.
It is unclear what exactly provoked the shooting, although it appears that Ung and DiDonato were engaged in an argument before the incident. You can see this by watching (somewhat grainy) video footage of the altercation over here. One tipster’s reaction:

This happened in my hometown, which I miss less and less these days. And the [alleged] perp lived three blocks from where I used to live. I wonder if having an appreciation of the law and how much it’s going to run over you makes it any more difficult to sit in jail knowing you’ve done something like this.

UPDATE (2 PM): A different perspective on this incident, after the jump.

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Martha Coakley President Barack Obama US Senate race.jpg* The Obama administration extends temporary protected status to Haitian immigrants (a possibility that we discussed here). [New York Times]
* The Massachusetts Senate race between two lawyers, state attorney general Martha Coakley (B.U. Law) and state senator Scott Brown (B.C. Law.), is too close to call; Obama takes the stump for Coakley. [Boston Globe; Associated Press]
* A young lawyer at Stroock is selected by Governor Paterson as the executive director of the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. [New York Times]
* A federal judge puts the kibosh on one (but not all) of the websites a disgruntled attorney is using to criticize the law firm he used to work for. [NJ.com]
* Washington Wizards point guard Gilbert Arenas pleads guilty to illegal possession of an unlicensed handgun. [CNN]
* A law providing veterans’ benefits to Filipino World War II vets who served under U.S. command comes too late for some. [Associated Press]

martin luther king.jpgToday we remember the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the pioneering civil rights leader. Dr. King’s birthday was actually on January 15th, but the holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year.

If you’re not at work, we hope that you are enjoying the day off. If you are at work, check in with us from time to time; we are around today (but will be posting less than usual). Feel free to complain in the comments about the evil law firm / partner / client that does not recognize this important holiday.

If you are looking for something to do, we suggest that you use today as an opportunity for public service. You can look up a service project in your area at MLKDay.gov. (A number of today’s service projects are aimed at helping the people of Haiti.)

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service [MLKDay.gov]

pink slip layoff notice Above the Law blog.jpgEd. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.
If you thought unemployment and underemployment (which does include people who become discouraged and voluntary stop looking for work) were arbitrary and capricious, you’ll really enjoy the latest explanation from the White House.

The White House has abandoned its controversial method of counting jobs under President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus, making it impossible to track the number of jobs saved or created with the $787 billion in recovery money.

Despite mounting a vigorous defense of its earlier count of more than 640,000 jobs credited to the stimulus, even after numerous errors were identified, the Obama administration now is making it easier to give the stimulus credit for hiring. It’s no longer about counting a job as saved or created; now it’s a matter of counting jobs funded by the stimulus.

That means that any stimulus money used to cover payroll will be included in the jobs credited to the program, including pay raises for existing employees and pay for people who never were in jeopardy of losing their positions.

That lede is a little skewed, though – it was always impossible to track the number of jobs saved or created. The administration just finally realized that, and now the Republicans are going to have to find a new angle of attack after coasting for a year on easy cheap shots against the White House’s unsupportable numbers.

However many jobs the plan saved, created, or funded, unemployment ticked up again slightly last week, but the general trend is still flat or slightly improving.

Similarly, law-firm layoffs have slowed down, although there are still no signs of significant hiring. Developments in that little slice of heaven after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Layoffs: 01.17.10″

Google Nexus One smartphone.jpg* Hey law students: Why not donate your Lexis points to Haiti earthquake relief? It’s better than using them for this. [Nuts & Boalts]
* Professor Dave Hoffman reads the fine print in the terms of sale for Nexus One (pictured), the new Google smartphone, and suggests a new slogan for the company: “Don’t be evil. But if you must be evil, be really good at it.” [Concurring Opinions]
* Professor Ann Althouse asks: Is Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, running for Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat, “destined to lose”? [Althouse]
* Is Gawker’s “Apple Tablet Scavenger Hunt” illegal? Quite possibly, according to Ben Sheffner. [Slate]
* If the check is in the mail, and if it’s from PricewaterhouseCoopers, beware: it might be fake. [Going Concern]
* A future torts exam hypothetical: “Weight Watchers clinic floor collapses under dieters.” [Telegraph - U.K.]
* If you’ll be in D.C. next Thursday, January 21, come hear Elie Mystal (and others) discuss the legal job market. [D.C. Bar]
* We definitely have balls here at Above the Law. [Twitter]

outsourcing biglaw aba tsunami.gifI’ve been trying to be optimistic about the future of Biglaw in 2010. There’s no harm in hoping for the best.
But I’m positive that 2010 will see more outsourcing of American and British legal jobs to India. And from the perspective of junior Biglaw associates or current law students, that trend does not lead them to a good place.
The Times of London (gavel bang: Am Law Daily) has an excellent expose on Pangea3, an Indian company doing work that used to be done by junior attorneys in the U.K. Once again, we see that law firm managers — and their clients — have compelling cost reasons to ship legal work overseas:

Much of the work that Pangea3 and similar firms deal with, such as drafting derivatives contracts or conducting due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, was once the preserve of trainees and associates at big City law firms. Some of those firms racked up annual revenues of more than £1 billion during the boom years, in part by billing out teams of junior lawyers for up to £300 an hour for even the most routine tasks. …
Whereas a new recruit at a “magic circle” firm in London can expect a starting salary of about £60,000 — rising to more than £90,000 at the best paid firms — Pangea3 can pay a good Indian law graduate as little as £350,000 rupees (£4,700) a year.

Those are powerful numbers. And apparently it’s not even all that hard to start one of these companies.
Details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Outsourcing: It’s Cheap and Easy to Do.”

The Tenth Justice Fantasy SCOTUS League.jpgEd. note: ATL has teamed up with the 10th Justice to predict how the Supreme Court may decide upcoming cases. CNN has called FantasySCOTUS the “hottest new fantasy-league game.”

Welcome to the sixth installment of Predictions of the 10th Justice, brought to you by FantasySCOTUS.net. The league has over 3,400 members, who have made predictions on all cases currently pending before the Supreme Court.

By conducting a rigorous statistical analysis of 26 of the most hotly contested cases this Term, we have developed a descriptive model to elucidate how frequently a Justice will vote in the majority, and how this affects the building of majority coalitions on the Court. Additionally, these statistics paint a picture of how Justice Sotomayor, the newest addition to the Court, will vote, and which coalitions she will join. Finally, this analysis aims to answer the elusive question of how often Justice Kennedy will be in the majority.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “FantasySCOTUS Predictions of the 10th Justice: Predicting Justices in the Majority and Probable Coalitions”

Happy New Year 2010 Above the Law blog AboveTheLaw legal blog.jpgGreat news for Biglaw partners and the associates who love them. Early returns suggest that despite the global economic meltdown that wrecked multiple American industries, profits per partner remained relatively stable in 2009.
Biglaw partners made out okay. They survived. And they’re looking forward to even more profit in 2010. The WSJ Law Blog reports:

Here’s one thing that’s not in dispute: 2009 was awful for firms. A survey by Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group of 50 of the country’s 100 largest firms, as measured by revenue, found last year’s revenue at the firms was down an average 4% from 2008. These same firms, according to Citi, averaged 7% revenue growth in 2008, and 12% growth from 2001 to 2007. And the profit picture would have been worse had firms not aggressively cut expenses, by an average of 7% in 2009, says Dan DiPietro, the Citi’s Law Firm Group advisory head.

I think a four percent haircut, in the middle of the worst recession anybody can remember, is actually strikingly good for Biglaw partners. A lot of associates saw salary cuts of 10% or greater — to say nothing of all the people who saw salary cuts of 100%, i.e., who lost their jobs. Relatively speaking, I think a four percent drop in revenue — with the possibility that PPP won’t even fall by that much — is good news.
Of course, some firms beat the curve….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “All Your Sacrifices Helped in 2009″

Sidley Austin new logo Sidley Austin Brown Wood ATL Above the Law blog.jpgOn December 30th, 2008, Sidley Austin froze associate salaries. At the time, the firm said:

Given the current uncertainty in the economy and financial markets, and the impact on law firms, we are still in the process of evaluating associate salary levels for 2009. We expect to make a decision on this issue sometime during the first quarter of next year.

Well, here we are, in the first quarter of 2010, and Sidley’s associate salaries remain frozen in place.
But maybe that is about to change? Multiple tipsters report that Sidley is holding an all-associates town hall today. The scuttlebutt is that associate salaries are on the docket, and the firm-wide memo announcing the meeting also specifically states that salaries will be discussed:

You are invited to attend a meeting on Friday, January 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm EST to report on year-end results, U.S. associate salaries, and other matters.

Could this be good news? Sidley has done it before. Despite laying off 229 people back in March, Sidley hasn’t been the kind of shop where morale goes to die during the recession.
But our tipsters expect the worst. Details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Mystery Meeting at Sidley Austin: Today at 2:00 p.m.”

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