October 2014

Is your law firm this transparent?

Greetings from lovely Palm Springs, California, home to the 2011 annual education conference of the Association for Legal Career Professionals (better known to many of you as NALP). The setting is beautiful, the weather is fabulous, and the conference panels have been stimulating thus far. Who needs SXSW?

Yesterday I attended a very interesting session, covering a topic near and dear to the hearts of many Above the Law readers. The apt title of the panel: “From Black Boxes to Glass Houses: Evolving Expectations of Law Firm Transparency.”

The lively discussion covered a wide range of topics — and also offered some advice for law firms for dealing with the increased transparency of the digital age….

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Profits per partner numbers are out and they confirm what we’ve all suspected: 2010 was a really good year to be a Biglaw partner. The Am Law 100 reports that 2010 PPP rose 8.4%. That’s a significant improvement over 2009, when PPP rose only 0.3%

Kind of makes you wonder what the hell firms were thinking when they initially tried to give the same crappy 2009 bonus in 2010.

Gross revenue also went up 4% (kind of — more on that below), that’s compared to a 3.4% decrease in revenue in 2009. However you crunch the numbers, Biglaw had a better year in 2010 than it did in 2009.

If you managed to stay in Biglaw. Some of these gains can be traced directly to Biglaw’s willingness to shed people, including equity partners, in order to keep the numbers up…

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* Guys in my law firm used to wank it on a webcam for undercover officers pretending to be teenage girls all the time. It was no big deal. Seriously, “millions of people do this every day, and they don’t get charged with crimes.” [National Law Journal]

* A baseball fan’s lawsuit over spectator safety got thrown out yesterday. How about not being a Mets fan? Admitting to that alone could get you killed. [Wall Street Journal]

* Dashing through the snow, on a one-horse open sleigh, Christmas time is ruined now because of Beyonce. You’re not Sasha Fierce, you’re just a grinch. [Daily Mail]

* For this famous chef, Chopped isn’t just a television show, it’s a litigation strategy. Geoffrey Zakarian cut his losses and declared bankruptcy to avoid a $1M class action suit. [New York Times]

* Why did the stoner cross the road? To get to his dealer on the other side. As a PSA to parents, pot makes you think it’s a good idea to eat a pound of McDonald’s, not walk across a highway at night. [San Luis Obispo Tribune]

* Knock it off: being a fashion victim in New York City may soon cost more than the designer bags at the heart of this proposed law. [New York Post]

Back in November, we told you that Thomson Reuters was looking to unload BAR/BRI, its bar exam preparation business. The news was huge, given BAR/BRI’s status as a de facto finishing school for would-be lawyers.

Today, it appears that BAR/BRI has found a home. According to various reports, BAR/BRI will be acquired by Leeds Equity Partners. Leeds is a private equity firm that specializes in educational products and services.

Above the Law just spoke with Jeffrey T. Leeds, the co-founder and president of Leeds. He called BAR/BRI a “jewel” for the firm. And since the man is a graduate of Harvard Law School (Class of ’83), he knows just how important BAR/BRI is to our system of legal education… .

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I bet Brazillian lawyers are just a 5 on the scale of Brazilian hot, but 11 on the scale of "law school hot."

* A Perkins Coie partner got to go to Hawaii to pick up the President’s birth certificate. Weird, I thought the corporate headquarters of Adobe Photoshop was in California. [BLT: Blog of the Legal Times]

* More fun lockout news. Hey, can somebody tell Paul Clement that while he’s busy defending marriage from gays and lesbians the NFL owners are getting reamed by principles of fundamental fairness? [Blackbook Legal]

* The country with the second highest number of lawyers per capita is about to get full frontal Westlaw treatment. I hope they are oiled and ready. [Law Librarian Blog]

* Do ladies have to wear high heels at work this season? [The Careerist]

* Wow, a 5-4 SCOTUS decision that protects big business and makes things more difficult for everybody else. Is this even news any more? What’s the point of being a “person,” I’m going to incorporate myself just to maintain my eligibility for Constitutional protection. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Does Texas A&M need a law school? If so, can it be located at “Legal Station”? And can we call people who attend the law school “The 13th Juror”? And at the start of every OCI, could the Aggie Law students use their transcripts to light a 50-foot-tall bonfire that will represent their willingness to take any job a UT-Austin man won’t do? [Austin-American Statesman]

* Lawyer tells judge: “your unconditional releases are meaningless.” I hope the judge writes back: “you have no chance to survive, make your time.” [Legal Blog Watch]

* I thought the new skin on Above the Law was pretty nice, until I saw the new skin on our sister site, Fashionista. After complaining all afternoon, I’ve been informed that ATL advertisers don’t like to give us campaigns that we have to post with a NSFW warning. [Fashionista](NSFW)

When we point out this week’s offerings in Sponsored Content:

  • a contest open to small business owners (including law firms);
  • a solution to transcript-management troubles; and
  • the latest installment of the Asia Chronicles, a series about living and working in Asia.

And when we express thanks to this week’s advertisers on Above the Law….

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Lat’s at NALP – 2011. If you don’t believe me, see Above the Law, April 26, 2011.

If he was here, maybe we’d have the resources to give each of these entertaining lawsuits the full posts they deserve. Instead, it’s just me, and I’m a little pressed for time now that Harvard has decided to release the transcripts of every black person ever admitted so it can prove that we were all more deserving than George W. Bush.

So we’re going to have to tackle three fun lawsuits in one post. Breathe deep and smell of funny, my friends…

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Somewhere down there live law students worse off than you.

You don’t see this every day. We have one law school offering the recent graduates of more prestigious law schools the job of teaching its law students how to pass the bar. It’s probably a great opportunity for people with only limited experience to get into legal academia, but man, I think it would make the students at the offering law school feel kind of crappy.

I mean, the position their school is looking to fill is called “Bar Passage Counselor.” It’ll be a non-faculty, administrative position. One of the core duties will be to “teach a law school course developed to increase students’ likelihood of bar exam success.” Isn’t that, like, the whole point of law school? What does it say about this law school that it’ll be looking for a non-faculty person to spearhead this effort?

At least they’re trying to fill this position with a person who went to a good law school….

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My first job out of law school was at a five-lawyer employment-law boutique: two partners, two other associates, and me. (OK, it was my only job out of law school; I started my firm after four years at this boutique.) The other two associates were third-years when I started. To be sure, they were both excellent lawyers and had already gained much experience working in a small firm with top-quality partners.

(I’ve often said that I’d take a third-year small-firm associate over a Biglaw third-year any day. The Biglaw associates have spent two years reading cases and writing memos; the small-firm lawyers have actually been doing, you know, lawyer work.)

I got along well with both associates, but one of them had more of a hierarchical view of the firm. One day, after I’d been there a couple months, that associate said to me, “I have an assignment for you.”

Being the new kid at the firm, the proper and deferential response might have been “Great. Thanks. Happy to help.” But my answer was less proper and by no means deferential.

And even though it ruffled some feathers, I’d recommend it to any new associate at a small firm. What I said was …

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Having known many, many lawyers over the years, it seems clear to me that the typical overworked lawyer spends most non-working moments daydreaming of one of two things: an exit strategy and meeting another attractive human being. The demanding hours of the legal profession can make it difficult to meet a potential mate. After too many long hours at a desk without any real social interaction (trolling the ATL comments doesn’t count), even the dorky associate down the hall in the tax department can start to seem attractive. I’ve heard far too many stories from fellow associates about how sleep deprivation and loneliness can lead to some pretty bad decisions.

One New York lawyer has decided to get more creative in his quest to spend some actual face-to-face time with a real live attractive woman. This attorney, we’ll call him “Mr. Model,” has turned to Craigslist — and not the Casual Encounters section — in search of a smokin’ hottie….

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