Biglaw is suffering — big time. Meanwhile, many smaller and midsize law firms are doing just fine, even thriving. (A number of them — e.g., Silver Golub & Teitell, McKool Smith, and Stone & Magnanini — are expanding, with the help of job postings on Above the Law.)
These days, Am Law 200 firms are generally doing better than their Am Law 100 counterparts. This generally hasn’t been the case, at least in recent years. Industry observers are wondering: Is small beautiful?
That was one theme of Casting a Wider Net: The Rise of the Small to Mid-Sized Law Firm, another panel at yesterday’s conference, co-sponsored by the New York City Bar and Vault, entitled Getting Back in the Game: How to Restart Your Career in a Down Economy. (We wrote about an earlier panel here.)
The panel on small to midsize law firms consisted of:
ALLA ROYTBERG (moderator), Solo Practitioner, and Director, City Bar Small Law Firm Center;
Yesterday we participated in an extremely interesting panel discussion, Breaking Back into a Large Law Firm: How to Make Your Way Back into a Top Law Firm. It was part of a day-long conference, co-sponsored by the New York City Bar and Vault, entitled Getting Back in the Game: How to Restart Your Career in a Down Economy.
The panel consisted of:
Write-ups of the discussion have appeared on the websites of the New York Times, Vault, and the ABA Journal. We recommend them to you.
We’ve also prepared our own summary of the discussion, which goes into greater detail than the other write-ups. It tackles such topics as general recommendations for the job search, when to use a recruiter (and when not to), how contract work is viewed by prospective employers, and what happens to your résumé after you send it into the cyber-ether and it arrives at a firm.
Read more, after the jump.
[Ed. note: This post is authored by ATL guest columnist Hope Winters. Hope is an early retired lawyer, turned Senate staffer, turned corporate lobbyist. She lives in Washington, DC. Read her previous work here.]
Well, as I told you in my last piece, I have been desperately searching for inner peace during these incredibly depressing times.
I decided, however, that I needed to amp up my desire for such peace. Meditation class was increasingly becoming too easy, and I was now ready to become a guru of inner peace. So, my friend Olivia and I packed up our car, left the comforts of our urban existence, and headed out to the great unknown. The Ashram.
I had found the Ashram online. It was a place where we could find balance, do yoga, and eat organic vegetarian meals. And it was dirt cheap, to boot. Girls, in case you missed the Times piece, ashrams are the new spas. We all have to cut back now. And isn’t it about time we work on our insides instead of outsides? Don’t worry. Those saddle bags are going to whittle away anyway due to scarce food supplies forecasted for fourth quarter ’09.
“I didn’t know it was a silent retreat all weekend. I thought that was just on Saturday.” Olivia, already breaking the rules, whispers to me upon arrival.
Oops. I forgot to shepardize this case. I don’t recall reading that part on the website.
More after the jump.
Last night we tuned into a very interesting (albeit somewhat depressing) conference call, Staying Competitive During an Economic Downturn, sponsored by the National LGBT Bar Association. Three experts provided their thoughts on the current legal job market and advice for navigating it:
Robert Depew. A Managing Director in Major, Lindsey & Africa’s San Francisco office, Depew helps lawyers evaluate career alternatives and places attorneys at top tier law firms and select in-house positions in the Bay Area.
Christopher LaFon. As director of recruiting at Kelly Law Registry, one of the nation’s largest job placement firms, LaFon builds careers and aids in career transitions for attorneys, paralegals and other legal professionals.
James Leipold. The Executive Director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), Leipold helms the legal profession’s leading association dedicated to research, education and career development.
When will the legal economy return to normal? What can laid-off lawyers do while they wait for recovery? Is there any hope, for any of us?
Find out the views of the experts, after the jump.
Dear Above The Law,
I am currently clerking and the term ends Sept. ’09, and I’ve applied to a bunch of firms for an associate job, but none have responded to my resume.
I routinely field calls from whiny associates and partners from firms that have declined to interview me. During these calls, the attorneys are looking for some leniency from me (and ultimately the judge), usually because of some oversight their firm made in the filings, etc.
Am I really expected to bend over backwards to help out attorneys from a firm that wants nothing to do with me? Would respectfully and carefully hinting at the fact that I would enjoy an associate position with the firm have any positive impact, at all, at my current job (lack of) situation?
Circle of Life
Dear Circle of Life,
Listen to me very carefully. Take your law school diploma off the wall. Proceed to the bathroom. Place it in the toilet. Stand on top of the toilet, take a gun and then shoot your degree.
If you are seriously asking whether granting judicial favors, however small, in return for a job, is acceptable behavior, maybe it is time to burn down the country and start over. I had hoped that we had made some progress since the time when Richard the Lionheart slaughtered the nobles of Gascony and then imposed crushing taxes on the survivors to obtain their fealty. I read about that episode while sitting by the pool in a West Palm Beach retirement community and I remember thinking, “Those medieval people had it bad!” But maybe the framers of the Constitution have it worse, because a mere two hundred something years after the ratification of their glorious document, some pipsqueak clerk took a sh*t on it.
If you “respectfully and carefully” hint at the fact that you’d like a job at the firm that’s calling the judge for a favor, the only “positive impact” you will have is that you will never have to worry about getting a legal job again after your disbarment proceedings.
Elie alerts the bar association authorities, after the jump.
I’m a summer associate in Texas (3,500 sq. ft., wife, etc) and I drive to work where I park my car in the office’s parking lot. My car is a 2005 BMW. Should I be concerned about looking like a jackass?
Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car
Dear Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,
You should always be concerned about looking like a jackass, whether it’s rolling up to work in a Beemer or wearing a fedora at Sunday brunch. In any other year, normal associates might look forward to the summer class arriving; but this year, the summers are viewed as intruders, freshly arrived to snatch associates’ jobs out from under them. Despite the ludicrous scavenger hunts and game nights concocted in your honor, make no mistake; you’re persona non grata at terra law firma, and your goal this summer should be to be as unobtrusive as possible. Your car should reflect your humility as well as your groundling status at the firm, and a BMW, no matter how ancient, will never do that. You’ll need to lease, but what should you get?
Driving up in a car of the Ferrari/Lamborghini/Lotus ilk is obviously out, since you’re not Richard Gere from Pretty Woman and this is not a “dream date” with Jillian on the The Bachelorette. Jaguars are for eccentric billionaires, Ford Probes are for high school sleazebags and Mercury Sables are for drug dealers. Since you’re in Texas, you may be tempted to trade in your BMW for a pickup truck, but I strenuously advise against this since pickups indicate that spend your free time listening to Toby Keith while patrolling the Mexico border with a rifle and Coonhound named Rusty. Toyota Priuses are for wimps, and minivans are for people who drive carpool or own florist shops. DeLoreans, Pintos, GMs and other cars that are dangerous and/or no longer made are always cool.
When I worked as an intern in Newark, I drove a 1997 teal Toyota Camry with Cobra rims (not kidding). The smooth handling and tape deck made many people very jealous, and when someone stole my front left rim, I learned firsthand the dangers of driving flashy cars. Go with something junky, like a Kia or an Isuzu, but if you don’t feel like shelling out the extra cash, your best bet is a Huffy. Get the one with the basket so you can take your laptop home.
Elie loses his sh*t while parallel parking, after the jump.
Dear ATL –
I’ve been unemployed for almost a year. I have good academic credentials, but lost my job as a junior-associate in Biglaw before I could develop a highly valuable set of skills. At first, finding interviews for available positions was easy; I just wasn’t able to close. But about five months ago, interviews stopped altogether. I haven’t even been able to find contract work.
The economic recession is obviously a big part of my problem. But I also feel that part of the problem now is my extended term of unemployment. So my question is: How long is too long? When do I have to accept that I simply will not be a lawyer?
He Who Longs to Measure Time in 6 Minute Increments
Dear He Who Longs to Measure Time in 6 Minute Increments,
The fairy tale that you’ve concocted for yourself — that you will never again be a lawyer after T-minus one year of unemployment — is an homage to the Beast, who despairs of turning back into a prince. From the Beauty and the Beastprologue:
Ashamed of his monstrous form, the Beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his 21st year. If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return, by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a Beast for all time.
As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a Beast?
You have one year to receive True Love’s Kiss and clinch that “awesome” associate job before the enchanted rose’s last petal fell and seals your fate. After one year, you are to remain a Beast forever, hideous to law firms and vile to any employers other than traveling circuses and minstrel side shows. The End.
If really believe that you’ve been out of the law firm game for “too long,” what are your other options? Living as a hermit by the sea? If you have another dream career, by all means pursue it, but if you really want to be a lawyer, you can be one again, even if you’ve been out for a year. This economy is like the Mayer Brown swine flu outbreak — if you make it out alive, you’re expected back at the office. Law firms will have a hard time rejecting applicants based on gaps in their resume alone, when talented and bright laid-off attorneys will comprise a huge chunk of the applicant pool. Patience, Iago. The last petal has not fallen and Elizabeth Halverson has not sung.
Some advice from Le Fou, after the jump.
The ABA Journal addressed a question that is near and dear to the hearts of many associates: How do you deal with a partner that is a big, bad meanie? The story comes from a weekend Wall Street Journal article on handling interoffice bullies. Apparently, a Jones Day associate had the perfect tonic for her blustery boss:
Chelsea Grayson, 37 years old, was an associate at the law firm Jones Day in Los Angeles when she was placed on a series of deals with an ornery senior partner. “He was very intimidating,” she says. “He’d give me these unrealistic deadlines, saying sarcastically that there were 24 hours in a day. He never smiled, and I just thought he didn’t like me.”
Ms. Grayson resolved the situation by making an effort to look at it from the senior partner’s perspective. Nearing retirement, he was under pressure to train the next generation of lawyers while making sure key clients were always happy. “Once I understood his motivation, I decided to take responsibility for changing the dynamic,” she says. “I demonstrated interest and enthusiasm whenever we’d interact, and eventually he became my mentor.”
Something tells me that Ms. Grayson managed this magic trick before the economy went into the tank. Are there strategies that are more relevant to the Great Recession for dealing with mean bosses?
Let’s explore, after the jump.
Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to [email protected].
This week, we’re changing things up a bit here at Pls Hndle Thx. Does this have anything to do with the fact that the usual problem-response-counter response-response format is getting a bit tiresome? No! It has everything to do with this week’s salacious question:
I have a crush on one of the ATL staff. I’m not going to give gender, and I won’t say anymore. You know me; I comment under the name “Guest.” You’ll recall that Meade, Ann Althouse’s commenter suitor, asked in her blog’s comments how he could win her affection, and Ann gave him some advice. Now I’m asking you all for your advice. How can I win this person over?
Cyrano de B.
If you wannabe my lover, you gotta get with my friends, the Spice Girls once sang, so I took their wise advice and went straight to the sources themselves — Lat, Elie, Kash and Roxana — to ask what it takes to be their Rock of Love.
Gentlemen? Elie: I like women who are demonstrably more intelligent than me, with large breasts. Which pretty much exactly describes my wife. Actually, it perfectly describes my wife. My wife is perfect. In every way. Are there other women? I didn’t notice. Can I go home now Marin? I have to make some space for myself on the couch. Lat: Charmingly eccentric, boyishly appealing, well-educated professional seeks same. Enjoys reading (mostly fiction and periodicals), blogging, theater, film, going to the beach, riding in cars with boys, getting free stuff in the mail, and drinking vanilla soy milk. Quintessential Gemini, with a wide range of interests and a weakness for novelty — willing to try almost anything once. Stalk me on Facebook or Twitter.
But we’re not done yet. Find out what kills with the Ladies of ATL, after the jump.
My friends and I are in bar trip discussions right now. We all have deferred start dates (some with stipends), but at least one of us is convinced that her start date will be pushed back further. I’ve been looking forward to my bar trip for all three years of law school hell, but is it stupid to go because we don’t know when/if we’ll actually be employed? Or should we go because we’ve got time on our hands and nothing better to do?
Island in the Sun
Dear Island in the Sun,
I’ll admit that I’m biased when it comes to bar trips. When I was graduating law school, my friends tried to get me to go on a bar trip to India, but I told them that I didn’t feel like dying of dysentery before we even got the bar results back. Sure enough, one of them returned from the trip with meningitis, and I spent the weekend before my first firm job in a hospital isolation unit looking like Michael Jackson in a face mask and reminding my friend that I had prophesied this outcome. This is all to say that I myself never took a bar trip and remain rabidly jealous of anyone who has.
Whether you’re worried about disease or expenses, taking a bar trip remains a calculated risk. If your future firm is being shady about layoffs, start dates and stipends, you shouldn’t blow your last dollars on $119 lunch-not-included glass bottom boating expeditions. There is no guarantee that any job will start at the deferred time or start at all, and even if your firm has agreed to pay you a stipend for a given period, you don’t want to find yourself in the position of my grandmother’s neighbor, Nelly, who sits in a lawn chair next to her mailbox waiting for her social security check to arrive each month so that she can play her numbers.
In a now-famous episode of MTV’s True Life: I’m Getting Married, Charlie and Sabrina go into debt spending $48,000 on their “dream” wedding, which includes pyrotechnics and a sizable shrimp buffet, In a follow-up episode, the couple sit in their twice-mortgaged Staten Island shanty and declare that the wedding was totally worth it, but I’m not convinced. No trip (or wedding, for that matter) is worth spending yourself into debt or having to move back home. If you have an ING Savings nest egg or an iPhone app idea that is nearly certain to strike gold, get thee to STA Travel. Otherwise, stay home and smugly monitor swine flu as it spreads to tropical locations.
Elie drains your savings, after the jump.
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
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 six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.