Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.
Labor Day weekend is here. So let’s talk about… labor! In the Biglaw salt mines.
In response to our earlier Flashback Friday posts about associate compensationin the 1990s, we received a few requests for information about billable hours back then. People wanted to know how hard associates had to work back in the day for that $83,000 starting salary.
It’s a good question. You hear anecdotal evidence going in both directions. Sometimes people who have been in the profession for a long time talk about how hard they had to work before technology made things so much easier, recalling the bad old days of never-ending, hard-copy due diligence or document review. On other occasions, though, old timers reminisce about the good old ways when law was more of a profession and less of a business; sure, lawyers earned less, but they had lives — or , at least, better work-life balance.
Which picture holds more truth? Here’s some data….
* The Second Circuit ruled that the World Trade Center Cross may remain on display in the September 11 Memorial and Museum. Apologies, atheists, but it’s a “genuine historical artifact.” [New York Daily News]
* Howrey going to get money back when judges keep tossing unfinished business claims like they’re yesterday’s trash? We’ll see if such claims will be laid to rest after a hearing later today. [Am Law Daily]
* Paul Weiss had a good get this week, with Citigroup’s deputy general counsel leaving the bank to join the firm — which coincidentally has served as the bank’s outside counsel for two decades. [WSJ Law Blog]
* North Carolina, a state that adopted a ban on same-sex marriage in 2012, said it will no longer defend its law in the wake of the Fourth Circuit’s ruling as to a similar ban in Virginia. Hooray! [Los Angeles Times]
* If you missed it, a judge issued a preliminary ruling against Donald Sterling, meaning that the sale of the L.A. Clippers may proceed. Don’t worry, his attorney says this is just “one stage of a long war.” [CNN]
* It seems that “weed-infused weddings” are a hot commodity in states where the drug has been legalized. Sorry, it may be better than an open bar, but it doesn’t seem like a very classy thing to do. [Boston.com]
* Footnote fight! Justice Sonia Sotomayor has been clashing with quite a few of her fellow Supreme Court jurists lately, aside from Chief Justice John Roberts. She recently inspired the wrath of Justice RBG herself. [New York Times]
* After months of being poked and prodded for cash, 60 former Howrey equity partners have reached clawback deals with bankruptcy trustee Allan Diamond, and it looks like a few of them agreed to pay pretty hefty sums. [Am Law Daily]
* Here’s a headline we could’ve told you was coming: “The US lawyer bubble has conclusively popped.” It’s not a terribly good decision to attend now, but if you do, people who can’t pay you need your help. [Quartz]
* Cutting law school tuition may be a good idea to attract more students, but in the long run, it could hurt the schools, says Moody’s. Aww, let us shed some tears for those poor law schools. [WSJ Law Blog]
* The University of Arizona will be the first school in the U.S. to offer a bachelor’s degree in law. The degree is being marketed to people who eventually want to have lots of law-related debt. [National Law Journal]
Albert Togut: man with a plan (of reorganization).
Maybe the floundering firm of Patton Boggs can actually right itself. It doesn’t have the Biglaw mark of Cain, namely, a name that lends itself to bad puns — e.g., Dewey and “do we,” Howrey and “how are we,” and Thelen (rhymes with “feelin’”). In hindsight, Patton Boggs did the right thing when it dropped George Blow’s name from the marquee and went from “Patton Boggs & Blow” — a name we would have had a field day with — to simply “Patton Boggs.”
(Yes, Patton Boggs has some pun potential. But there are only so many “bogs down” and swamp-related plays on words to be had. Yes, even for us.)
Luckily, for the time being we can use some “Dewey” puns. Because Patton Boggs, for whatever reason, is using all of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s old advisers….
* Being a former partner of a firm that’s flopped ain’t easy. Ex-Howrey partners find themselves haunted by the failed firm’s “phantom” funds, and now they’re going to court to fight their tax liabilities. [Am Law Daily]
* Silly Cadwalader! You’re not the “oldest law firm in the United States.” Neither are you, Howard, Kohn, Sprague & FitzGerald. That title goes to Rawle & Henderson, a firm that’s been around since 1783. [ABA Journal]
* If you’d like to work at a firm that’s being touted for its anti-Biglaw culture, you might want to take a look at Tandem Legal Group. You won’t ever have to wear a tie at this “fun” and “cool” place. [Washington Post]
* Jason Bohn, the Florida Law grad accused of murder — who also happens to be the guy who was once featured in an NYT article about the perils of law school — has apparently killed before. [New York Post]
* Nicki Minaj is being sued for $30 million by the man who once served as her “wig guru.” Having absolutely nothing to do with the case, imagine being so obscenely rich that you could employ a “wig guru.” [CNN]
* Mayer Brown issued a response in the wake of its NSA scandal, saying there’s “no indication” spying happened “at the firm.” Spying “of the firm” is another question, but don’t worry, clients, your information is totally secure. [Chicago Tribune]
* “He is almost treating the clients as chattel.” Lateraling may have just gotten harder, because a judge in the Howrey case expects you to kiss your book of business goodbye as soon as you ditch your firm. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* Law school applications have plummeted, but some schools are really struggling. Which had the largest drops in enrollment? Take a wild guess. We’ll have more on this later today. [National Jurist]
* You can’t just sit back and relax after you’ve sent off your law school applications. You need to gun your way to enrollment and be as appropriately annoying as possible. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]
* George Zimmerman, who says God is “the only judge that [he] has to answer to,” hopes that he’ll eventually become a lawyer. We imagine that kind of an attitude will earn him a sanction or two. [CNN]
All those professional responsibility lectures, and bar prep, and boring CLEs that I attended after becoming a lawyer, and all the boring CLEs I dutifully watched on the Internet after I escaped the probationary period, consistently preached the evils of non-lawyer ownership of law firms.
It raises ethical concerns! It dilutes what it means to be a lawyer! This is a profession, not a business! All the usual complaints from a profession convinced that it’s made up of beautiful and unique snowflakes with unimpeachable judgment.
But the better question is, “Don’t non-lawyers own law firms already?” And to the extent the answer is “of course,” shouldn’t the profession be bending over backwards to approve ownership models that better serve the firms and their clients than the status quo?
There are only so many ways that we can tell our readers that the Biglaw boom years are over. Slow firm growth in terms of attorney headcount is now praised. Law firm mergers are common occurrences, if only because there’s always someone to save from a fate suffered like that of Dewey and the failed firms of yesteryear — Brobeck, Coudert, Heller, Thelen, and Howrey. Alternative fee arrangements are trending, and discounts are handed out as if clients are enrolled in fast-food loyalty programs (buy one multi-million dollar patent suit, get the next one 75 percent off!).
But just because the heyday is over does not mean that Biglaw’s all-stars are going to charge their clients any less cash. Back in the day, $1,000 per hour billing rates were considered obscene by some. Now, even in a still recovering economy, four-figure billing rates are just business as usual. In fact, some partners are edging closer and closer to a $2,000 per hour fee every day.
So which firms have the highest partner billing rates? Let’s find out…
* Judge Richard Leon’s decision in the NSA surveillance case is ripe for review by the D.C. Circuit, and given the court’s new make-up, we could see a very interesting result. Oh, to be an NSA agent listening in on those calls. [National Law Journal]
* With seven business days left until 2014, law firms all around the country are still desperately trying to get paid. Lawyers are working hard for the money — 83.5 cents to the dollar — so you better treat them right. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* Who you gonna call? Your local bankruptcy attorney. Alston & Bird, currently housed in Heller’s old digs in Silicon Valley, will head to a new office whose former occupants include Dewey, and Howrey, and Brobeck, oh my! [Am Law Daily]
* Four were arrested in the tragic murder of attorney Dustin Friedland, and each is being held on $2 million bond. One of the alleged assailants has a history of putting guns to other people’s heads. [NJ Star-Ledger]
* “I think it would be wise for the NCAA to settle this now.” Thanks to the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, the world of college sports will be forever changed, so all those video games you’ve got are now antiques. [CNBC]
* Tom Cruise settled his defamation lawsuit against a tabloid publisher over claims that he’d abandoned his daughter during the pendency of his divorce proceedings. Xenu is pleased by this announcement. [CNN]
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.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.