Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, Biglaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.
For the lucky few who were able to secure jobs in the drastically reduced summer programs this year, the good news keeps on coming.
Unlike last year, offers are coming in near the traditional rates approaching 100%. Champagne bottles were popped, literally or figuratively, when 100% offers were announced at Kirkland Chicago, Skadden DC, Kaye Scholer NY, Freshfields NY, and Quinn Emanuel NY. With the bar clearly set, expect peer firms to match – absent individual misbehavior, of course.
Don’t forget, we’re talking about 100% of classes that were off by approximately 44% compared to last year, though.
So as the economy improves, class sizes for next year’s summer programs look like they’ll continue to expand. Columbia is reporting an 8% increase in OCI spots for its 2Ls. More immediately, will that translate to the return of something we haven’t seen in three full years: OCI for third years? Believe it or not, there was a time when firms had huge summer programs and still had to go back to campus for more bodies (e.g., 1997, 2000).
The news isn’t all good, though.
Details after the jump, including layoffs, two stories involving Playboy magazine, and a plethora of associate-vs-firm litigation.
Optimism is relative, so while the class of 2011 has more to look forward to than the classes of 2009 and 2010 (but less than the classes of 2007 and 2006 and pretty much everyone else since 1991), the legal sector certainly hasn’t fully recovered yet.
Overall, the legal sector lost 800 jobs in July, a marked improvement over the adjusted 3,200 lost in June. There are still 17,200 fewer jobs than this time last year, and that was at the beginning of the end of the worst run in law-firm layoff history, so the comparison to two years ago would be even worse. Also bear in mind that summer numbers can be a little wonky because of the hiring of summer associates, their departures, then the arrivals of the new first years.
Layoffs are still on the table, unfortunately.
In fact, we believe they’re likely to increase, but be harder to track. As firms finally get with the outsourcing program, they’re going to lay people off (or have their outsourcing providers do it so the firms save face). Eversheds just announced that up to 100 people will lose their jobs as a result of its outsourcing some back-office functions. It’s not just BigLaw laying people off, either. IP boutique Brinks Hofer laid off 18 people – seven lawyers, one patent agent, and 10 staff.
Some of the "hiring" doesn’t even involve pay. A number of prosecutors’ offices are advertising for unpaid internships, and receiving scores of applications.
Firms aren’t just struggling to right size their staffing, they’re also trying to figure out the best way to compensate, and in Boston at least, merit-based compensation is the hot item.
Boies Schiller, meanwhile, lets associates bet on themselves – and claims they end up better paid than most in BigLaw for it.
Anecdotal evidence of lateral hiring is also increasing. Recruiters report that Chicago moves are increasing – you can see for yourself on the Law Shucks Lateral Tracker, which allows you to sort or filter by city. We’ve tracked more than 25 partner-level moves in the Windy City so far this year. That’s still far short of Washington, New York, London and other cities, according to our Mid-Year Lateral Report.
Hugh Hefner’s empire rarely has much to do with BigLaw, but for some reason, there were two recent stories that related to the gentlemen’s magazine.
Orrick hired a new CFO, Linda Havard, who used to have the same job for Playboy Enterprises.
Then we discovered that Jodie Fischer, the woman who brought down HP CEO Mark Hurd, posed for the magazine in 1980 – and indicated that not only did she want to be a corporate lawyer, but her goal was to achieve something that Elena Kagan eventually did.
Lawyers Behaving Badly
This week’s bad behavior pretty much runs the gamut.
At the foolish and harmless end, we’ve got a Milbank associate who, despite being an Olympic-caliber athlete, doesn’t play well with others. At least when it comes to wine.
Then there’s former Skadden associate Loren Elliotte Friedman, who didn’t hurt anyone other than himself (and perhaps his parents) with his series of transgressions involving academics and applications. He got a reciprocal suspension from New York to match the three years (plus) he got from Illinois.
More seriously, two former associates of Seyfarth Shaw and Schiff Hardin were suspended by the bar after being convicted of crimes (and serving time) relating to a drunken incident with a woman at a summer cottage in Wisconsin.
Partners have also been misbehaving.
Former Kaye Scholer partner Stephen Garcia has been indicted for fraud due to his alleged failure to disclose extensive involvement with a creditor on a matter where he represented the debtor. The firm is already out over $4 million in settlement payments, and returned or waived fees.
Alan Kitchin, the head of Clifford Chance’s Japanese corporate practice, has been arrested for allegedly punching his girlfriend in the face while on vacation in Scotland. The resort where he was arrested is the same place where another English lawyer, Philip Anderson, was arrested for, apparently, trying to reenact (if not outdo) the "I Think He’s Gonna Pork Her" scene from National Lampoon’s European Vacation.
There’s always tension between associates and their firms, usually petty squabbles over things like hoarding work. But this week there were a host of developments from around the world on matters that actually culminated in litigation.