January 2012

Hands off the dancers, sir.

Our latest Biglaw blind item concerns the sighting of a partner at a strip club.

Right now you’re probably thinking: yawn. A law firm partner at a strip club? As they say, it happens every day (or night — and often gets billed to “business development”).

But there are a few more details that make this item noteworthy….

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First, a shameless plug. Then, back to business.

I’ll be giving my “book talk” about The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law at The University of Michigan Law School on Monday, March 5, and again at Northwestern University Law School on Tuesday, March 27. If there’s a chance your organization might be interested in that talk, and you’ll be in Ann Arbor or Chicago at the right times, please let me know. We’ll sneak you into the room, and you can get a sense of the topics that I discuss.

Now, the business: You are not a potted plant! When you transmit something, either within a law firm or to (or within) a corporate law department, add value. You are not — or should not be — simply a conduit through which things flow. You don’t impress people with your timidity, and you may well annoy people.

What am I thinking of?

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Keeping you unemployed since 2008.

* People like it when the members of the Supreme Court agree with each other, except when the justices forget to tell them exactly what to do. Poor sheeple. [Washington Post]

* If you’re wondering why you can’t get a Biglaw job, it’s because the firms don’t need you. Well, they probably do, but definitely they need their money more. [Wall Street Journal]

* Chadbourne & Parke to 190K square feet: partners seem to be pissy about the move, but this white-shoe firm may soon be a blue-chip tenant at One World Trade Center. [New York Times]

* British blokes like scamming folks. Kevin Steele, a former Mishcon de Reya partner, has been sentenced to more than five years for his role in a $28M fraud scheme. [The Guardian]

* Florida’s former foreclosure king might have been dethroned, but David J. Stern refuses to give up his crown. Say hello to the Five Guys burger king. [Real Time / Palm Beach Post]

* My Fair Wedding? More like My F**ked Wedding. A New York couple is suing celebrity wedding planner David Tutera, alleging that he left them waiting at the altar. [New York Daily News]

Last week, we covered an unsettling rash of lunch thefts at UCLA School of Law. The problem was sending hungry students into a tizzy. Now, like a way less deadly version of the Motaba virus, the outbreak has spread to Washburn University School of Law.

Several tipsters have forwarded us an all-school email sent yesterday to address the problem. Tipsters also sent us a fantastic listserv response from a student who identified some potential suspects.

We’ve got both emails after the jump. You’ll never guess the “monster” suspected of stealing student lunches….

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Fight, you damn coward.

* Rutgers Law: where things just got real. Real worse. [Courier Post Online]

* I’d like to think that law schools are better at giving bad news to faculty than they are at giving bad news to students. The way they tell students, “Congratulations, you’ve been admitted,” is so unprofessional and cold. [Faculty Lounge]

* Floyd Mayweather is above the law. He’s a rank coward who is going to get beat down by Manny Pacquiao if he ever develops the stones to face him. But Mayweather has good lawyers. Maybe he can hide behind them instead of fighting Pacquiao. [The Legal Blitz]

* Facebook and Washington State team up to stop clickjacking. [Corporate Counsel]

* I thought that magic mushrooms came from bizzarro Care Bears. [Underdog]

* I oppose the religion of the Sith, but I would defend their right to practice it. [College Humor]

* The Patent and Trademark Office says, “Leave Blue Ivy alone, leave her alone!” [Government Executive]

* Our own Chris Danzig will be covering LegalTech New York next week. Email him if you want him to check something out. Maybe he can figure out why social media use is up among in-house counsel. [Inside Counsel]

A. Gail Prudenti

It’s the best chambers in the state. Believe me, I know. I’ve seen them all.

– Judge A. Gail Prudenti commenting to the New York Times about pleasing chambers afforded to the Brooklyn Presiding Judge. Prudenti was recently promoted to Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts of New York State, creating a vacancy for the position of Brooklyn’s Presiding Judge.

19 judges have applied for the position, apparently because the Brooklyn Presiding Judge doesn’t have to work in a spider hole like the rest of the borough.

In-house promotions are tricky. There are so many different kinds of companies, and so many things that can go wrong when you’re looking for a promotion. Some companies are upfront about the process: they’ll inform you if you’re being considered, let you know which committees need to approve, etc. Others are kind of like, “Uh, promotion, what’s that?,” and then they’ll just drop one on you when you least expect it, and run away (not that you’d complain about it).

Here are a couple of the obvious considerations that the powers-that-be will take into account when deciding whether you are worthy of attainment of the next level:

1. Do you do good work (i.e., do you have good legal/technical skills)?

2. Do you have good soft skills? Remember, from my last couple of posts — this covers everything from effective communication, to leadership, to being tasked with convincing your peers that going as breakdancing elves to the holiday party can show the rest of the company that Legal can be fun, too! Soft skills make or break a lot of promotion opportunities, and your superiors are looking for them. For example, one very senior in-house attorney mentioned that having courage of your convictions — to speak up (in an appropriate manner and in the appropriate venue) when you think a strategy is flawed, or when you think you have a better idea — is what distinguishes a leader from the rest of the pack.

Alright, so let’s say that you have #1 and #2 covered. And you’ve made it absolutely clear that you want a promotion (and “I was wondering if, uh, you noticed what a good job I did on that contract the other day” doesn’t count). You should start evaluating color schemes for that larger office you’ve been eyeing, right? Well, don’t switch your name plate over just yet. As far as your company’s concerned, “yes” answers to the above questions are great, but they just mean you’re performing as expected for your level. Here are some of the less obvious questions that they’ll also be thinking about….

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Law students are starting to get a little loopy about receiving their first semester grades. It’s still too early to feel like grades are “late,” but competitive law students are starting to get antsy.

Speaking of competition, we’ve now seen a couple of examples of top law schools trying to reassure students who might receive less than stellar grades. The Dean of Students at the University of Chicago Law School sent around an important safety tip earlier this month. And you’ll remember that Columbia Law went so far as to share the unimpressive grades of Columbia faculty in an attempt to calm students.

Now another top law school is getting into the “dear God these millennials are made of porcelain” game. Note: people at low-ranked law schools, do not try this at home. Your grades actually matter, A LOT.

But even when you are being soothed by the Student Bar Association at your great law school, you should beware of the classmate that is willing to out-compete you for treats….

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[Ed. Note: Long time readers of Above the Law will remember Exley, a contestant for ATL Idol during which Lat had the ludicrous idea of letting the readers chose ATL's next editor. Exley's got a new blog called Ying-A-Ling, where she wrote this gem of a story of how she used her Biglaw skills to handle a subway situation that we thought you would like.]

So it’s Tuesday morning and the subways on the yellow line are mysteriously MIA. When an R-train finally arrives, it’s so packed that half the people on the platform give up and wait for the next one. I am about to give up too but at the last second see a tiny sliver of space and squeeze myself in just before the doors close.

Two stops into the crowded ride, I’m still congratulating myself on my urban ninja skills when the guy behind me mutters, “Don’t lean on me.”

I hadn’t been leaning on him, though I certainly could have bumped or nudged into him, given the sway of the subway car and all. But actual leaning was what the man in the full velvet suit on my left was doing to me. I was not leaning.

Two years ago, when I was new to New York, two girls had said the same thing to me on the shuttle from Grand Central to Times Square when I had accidentally touched their arms. I’m talking about two young girls, up to my shoulder in height, braces, maybe even pigtails. Nonetheless, I backed away as if they had scorched me with hot irons, and tears might have, you know, sprang to my eyes and s**t.

That was the old me. Today, I am a hardened urban f**king ninja….

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Tom Wallerstein

When Above the Law first covered my “adventure in shingle hanging,” I remember someone quipping that our only business came from attorney referrals and that we didn’t have our “own” clients. The comment wasn’t true, but I still found it interesting. Is a client who pays you money somehow not “your” client, or not a “real” client, just because the client was referred to you by another attorney? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

But it is worth thinking about the different ways that solo and small law firms try to generate business. There is a valid distinction between approaching a prospective client and asking him to engage you, and approaching other lawyers and asking them to refer cases to you. I’m not sure one is necessarily superior to the other, but they are different approaches. I think of them as “direct” and “indirect” client solicitation.

I also distinguish “active” and “passive” methods. An active approach is where you identify your client and solicit them. A passive approach is where you do something that encourages clients to solicit you. Passive isn’t a pejorative; for example, a good website is an important part of passive business development.

So, I think business development efforts can fall into a matrix. Check it out, after the jump….

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