Law Shucks

Posts by Law Shucks

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.

We’ve hit another lull in the Biglaw calendar. Recruiting is pretty much over. 2Ls and 3Ls lucky enough to have offers for summer jobs and full-time employment, respectively, have accepted or are finishing up the decisionmaking process (and for those no-offered or otherwise shut out, or interested in a good read, don’t miss ATL’s new column about one guy who made it back to BigLaw). May’s graduates have either just started or are sitting out the last months of their deferrals — and either way, they’re waiting for bar exam results.

But there are two significant events on the horizon, and glimmers of hope and speculation are starting to appear. Much like Christmas advertising creeps earlier and earlier into the fall, so too does speculation about law-firm bonuses. We, at least, have had the decency to wait until after Halloween.

Above the Law barely made it to October. A month ago, ATL posted a survey on what bonuses would look like this year. Optimism abounded, with 50% (n=1,155) expecting higher bonuses, and 35% thinking they would be no worse than last year.

The last few entries in this series have been about law firm deals and law firm litigation; after the jump, we get back to focusing on the issues affecting the law firm lifestyle.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 11.08.10″

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.

Last time around, we focused on BigLaw deals – deals in which the firms themselves were the principals, or at least the suitors. Much as we like to make client disputes about the firms, we’ll continue the break from client work and this time we’ll turn our attention to litigation in which the firms are the parties.

It’s particularly timely because there was one lawsuit this week in which the firms weren’t parties, but boy did they have a vested interest.

The New York Court of Appeals handed lawyers and accountants their biggest win since Stoneridge, holding in Kirschner v. KPMG and Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana v. PricewaterhouseCoopers that, in New York at least, the doctrines of in pari delicto and imputation are alive and well. That means, if you believe the dissent, that the court has "effectively immunize[d] auditors and other outside professionals from liability wherever any corporate insider engages in fraud."

Woohoo! To whom do lawyers owe thanks for the new protection?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 10.24.10″

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.

Despite this being the busy season for the hiring and (in the few firms that cling to the traditional calendar) onboarding processes, things have been relatively quiet lately. Actually, we almost forgot about deferred associates – some of the members of the "lost" Class of 2009 are finally starting to trickle back to BigLaw.

Bimodal distribution is still the bugaboo of the legal industry. In the BigLaw section of the curve (i.e., that big spike out to the right), the good news for incoming associates is that $160,000 is still the norm for the largest firms in the top markets, despite some drift back to the left over the past few years as firms dropped down to $145,000. Don’t expect to hear cries of "NY to 180k" for at least a little while yet, even though the official word is that the recession ended in June 2009 (which coincides closely with the end of the peak of law firm layoffs). Flat is still the new up, and most of 21 managing partners who did an impromptu straw poll are optimistic.

Those salaries have to be supported by income, though. And no place beats New York for billable rates.

Unless you count the entertainment industry. Then, $900/hour is a bargain compared to the traditional commission-based structure for literary agents.

After the jump, we focus exclusively on the firms this week. No client work – we’ve got rankings, mergers, laterals, and, of course, layoffs.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 10.10.10″

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.

Most executives will agree that cutting expenses is the far easier way to increase profits. Growing revenue is far more difficult.

According to Citi’s Midyear Law Firm Review, law firms have picked the low-hanging fruit and will have to figure out how to increase productivity if they want to return to profit growth on pace with previous years’.

The key trends to keep an eye on: firms with strong BRIC presences are poised to cash in on a growth opportunity; clients are demanding firms support lower-cost strategies (e.g., firms handing off routine work to smaller/lower-cost firms, and interfacing with outsourcing providers); value-based billing (alternative fee structures or just lower cost); increased lateral hiring (hmm, someone should track those); and value-added services, like knowledge management, CLE and after-action reviews.

Those are the outward-facing trends.

There’s potentially troubling news on the "taking care of our own house" front (speaking of which, anyone know a lawyer who’s good with a broom?), which we detail after the jump, as well as some of the highlights and lowlights of the past few weeks in Biglaw.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 09.11.10″

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.

The road to BigLaw has always been difficult, whether you’re an undergrad posing for Playboy who ends up in the middle of a scandal 30 years later, or someone on the more traditional path, we’re coming out of one of the worst runs in the industry’s history. The side effects of some of the measures taken by firms to stop the bleeding are still being felt.

One of the stopgap measures adopted by firms was deferring associates. Most of the deferred will end up at their firms, albeit more than a year after their expected start dates. Some have lingered on, with perpetual deferrals and no updates on start dates. And some have had their offers rescinded.

That stringing-along was too much for one California woman, so she sued Howard Rice after it deferred her then rescinded her offer. Usually it’s the firms deciding who doesn’t come back, but sometimes it’s the would-be associates who change their minds. The New York Times and ABA Journal wonder whether deferred associates who don’t return to their firms will have to repay their stipends.

We called BS on that back in February. We can’t imagine any firm is going to be so penny-wise pound-foolish as to go after a lawyer they don’t have to hire (cheap severance!) and who found her calling in public service (good PR!).

After the jump, we catch up on the latest activity in BigLaw — including another week with layoff news — and try to sort through the mixed signals.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 08.22.10″

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 08.15.10″

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.

As summer programs around Biglaw wrap up, all eyes turn to offer rates.

The rising 3L participants are looking to wrap up the golden tickets* of an offer of permanent** employment (* – but don’t forget about deferrals and recisions; ** – or layoffs).

Rising 2Ls have finished applying for law reviews and journals and are focused on prioritizing their bids for OCI. High offer rates are a definite plus in deciding which firms to try to get interviews with. As are the firms’ prestige rankings, especially if there’s a particular practice area of interest.

The rest of the denizens of Biglaw view offer rates as one measure of a firm’s health.

Of course, summer programs aren’t the only way into Biglaw — or at least television producers don’t think so. There’s a new drama in the works about a slacker who gets hired at a top Manhattan firm, despite not having a law degree.

After the jump, a roundup of summer-program news, billion-dollar deals, lateral moves, and other recent developments from around Biglaw.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 08.01.10″

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.

As August approaches, the recruiting process shifts from the summer programs, which are in full (relatively speaking) swing, to on-campus interviewing.

Summer-program sizes were down 44% this year, compared to the classes of 2009. That goes to show just how awkward the law-firm hiring process is. Last year’s summers were given offers in fall 2008 as the markets were already cratering, but firms didn’t know how bad things would get or how long it would last, so hiring was pretty close to the previous year’s levels.

Skip over all the layoffs, deferrals, and rescinded offers since then, and a full year later, in fall 2009, the firms were finally able to slash their pipeline by almost half.

Last year, almost 20 firms had summer programs with more than 100 participants. This year there were only two: the much-vilified Latham, and Gibson Dunn, both of which hosted 110. Summer legal employment is now at its lowest levels since 1991.

And that includes the two laid-off lawyers who are appearing on The Apprentice.

After the jump, more of what’s going on in BigLaw – including firm failings, layoffs, malpractice, and a few good things, too.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 07.25.10″

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.

One other note: Law Shucks is changing server hosts this weekend. Please forgive any intermittent downtime.

Private equity is one of the largest benefactors of BigLaw.

PE firms are massive consumers of all sorts of legal work, from fund formation, to investment transactions, to exits. Investment banks – and perhaps government (see, e.g., Davis Polk, Cleary Gottlieb, and Simpson Thacher slurping from the TARP firehose), thanks to recent events that have pumped that above traditional norms – are probably the only providers of more billable hours.

Even corporate clients that do a quarter-trillion dollars worth of deals with one lawyer can’t compete with the soup-to-nuts appetite of private equity.

In honor of all the billable hours they and their portfolio companies have generated, this week is All Private Equity….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 07.11.10″

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.

One of the many interesting features of BigLaw is the comings and goings of its denizens. Whether it’s looking for the bigger, better deal, jumping off a sinking ship, or departing for the greener pastures of inhouse or government life, every move has a story.

There has been plenty of speculation recently about which firm is wrapped up in an Inspector General investigation of the firm’s practice of hiring former SEC lawyers, who then turn around and advocate for clients at the agency they just left. The Senate Finance Committee is none too happy about the "revolving door," claiming that in at least one instance, the SEC was unduly lenient because of the firm’s close ties with the commission. Usually lateral hires aren’t contentious (examples like Jeremy Pitcock notwithstanding), so this could put a damper on hiring some of the most-coveted free agents.

So which law firm or lawyer(s) might be facing Senate scrutiny?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Biglaw: 06.27.10″

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