Biglaw

Bruce Stachenfeld

Of all the regrets I have in life, one of my greatest is that I never had the chance to meet Peter Drucker before he died.

Drucker is one of my intellectual heroes. He was able to look at the same world that everyone else was looking at but see things that others couldn’t see. He literally invented a science. And like all science, it is around you from the start but you just can’t see it till someone shows you the way.

The science he invented was the science of “management.” Before Drucker, people just ran things and sometimes good things happened and sometimes bad things — no one really delved too deeply into the “why” of it all. But then along came Drucker, who made order out of chaos and realized that there were principles that, if followed, would increase the likelihood a business would be successful.

All those leadership books you sometimes read, all those “how to” books you sometimes read, all of that thinking evolved from his groundbreaking analysis into the science of “management.” Drucker’s books are utter masterpieces. Indeed, there was an epiphany for me on every single page of his amazing book Management (affiliate link). I think I learned more about how to run my law firm successfully from Drucker than from any other source.

Here are two thoughts from Drucker that hit me like a bolt of lightning when I read them. Honestly, my business — and even my whole life — was never the same again.

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It pains me to say this, given my own predilection for prestige worship, but here’s a question: does prestige matter as much as it used to? In an era of greater access to information, a law firm’s overall prestige arguably matters less than it once did.

If a client is looking for an excellent firm in a particular practice area, it can now easily access information about which firms, and even which individual lawyers, excel in which niches. It no longer has to rely on a firm’s brand name as a proxy for a specific strength. And other factors matter to the public as well. Is a firm a good place to work? How stable is its partnership, in this era of increased lateral movement? Is the firm growing or declining?

But make no mistake: prestige is still hugely important. Which is why the Vault law firm rankings are so eagerly anticipated each year.

The latest rankings from Vault of the country’s 100 most prestigious law firms just came out. How do they look?

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A happy paralegal.

* The latest Vault 100 rankings are out, and it’s time to find out which Biglaw firm is the most prestigious in all the land. Is it Wachtell? Is it Cravath? We’ll have the answer for you, and much more analysis, later today. [Vault]

* A former office manager at Vedder Price has been accused in a $7M embezzlement scandal. She allegedly used the money to buy “lavish homes, numerous vacations” — it’s as if she were trying to live like a partner. [ABA Journal]

* Since the Redskins’ trademark was canceled by the Patent and Trademark Office, sports fans are wondering whose offensive team name is next. The Cleveland Indians might get scalped. [WSJ Law Blog]

* According to ALM Legal Intelligence, paralegal pay is on the rise, and it’s almost $80/hr in top roles. Why should new attorneys care about this? Because they’ll probably have to work as paralegals. [ALM]

* Double the deanships, double the fun: Penn State Law’s campuses have been approved by the ABA to become separately accredited locations. We’ll take bets on which one closes first. [StateCollege.com]

It has been three months since I re-entered the race so I thought now would be a good time to give a progress report. During this time, I figured out what I wanted to do, got back in touch with my career development office to find leads and even made a few contacts at a conference. I also reached out to recruiters, law firms and the legal departments of mid-size and large companies.

The results were encouraging. I met many supportive people who introduced me to others, provided useful advice and inside job information. I am beginning to think that the legal community is not as gloomy and cutthroat as I was led to believe.

After the jump, I will share how many interviews I received and the job offers I am currently considering.

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Minnesota is beautiful this time of year.

Is having your back-office functions handled on-site — i.e., in the same location as the lawyers being serviced — now a luxury? More and more law firms are adopting the model of sending their administrative support functions to lower-cost locations.

Thanks to advances in technology, it’s no longer necessary to have your back office in the same pricey place as your lawyers. And it’s not surprising that firms are going in this direction when you consider the cost savings involved.

Which law firm expects to save millions of dollars a year by sending support staffers to the land o’ lakes?

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* In a “historic day for our judiciary,” the Senate confirmed the first openly gay black male judge, and the 112th female federal judge appointed by Obama — more than any other president. Congrats! [AP]

* “It looks like science fiction, but it’s real.” That’s probably what the good folks at Amazon are going to say after they take a look at Akin Gump’s bill for its drone delivery lobbying efforts. [Legal Times]

* A 90-year-old judge removed himself from Michael Jordan’s big-money case against a grocery store chain, but dropped the gavel on the basketball star’s lawyers before leaving the bench. [Chicago Tribune]

* This Ohio attorney was suspended after he sent some pretty dirty text messages to a 3L who was working in his office. He just wanted assistance on his pro boner representation. [National Law Journal]

* Give this man some money: Jonathan Fleming, the New York man who was wrongly imprisoned for almost 25 years for a murder he didn’t commit, has filed a $162 million lawsuit against the city. [Reuters]

Dr. N. Robert Riordan

Dr. N. Robert Riordan is a graduate of NYU School of Law and a former U.S. securities attorney for London- and Sydney-based Herbert Smith Freehills. After 10 years of practice in New York, London and Rome, he made the switch from corporate law to private practice as a clinical psychologist. Dr. Riordan now acts as a therapist to dozens of NYC attorneys. The following is the first of a two-part interview with Dr. Riordan.

ATL: The most obvious question first – why the switch from law to clinical psychology?

The short answer is: I grew up. I went to law school when I was 21 years old, and I went with the belief that a law degree would serve me well no matter what I ultimately opted to do in my professional life. I never intended to practice securities law for a decade, but the work was interesting and I was given the opportunity to live in some fascinating places. In time, and with the help of a therapist, I discovered my true professional interests.

ATL: Did you set out to work with attorneys when you started your private practice?

Throughout graduate school, because I was older and a former attorney, I was assigned to work with many professionals as clients. While I have a diverse array of clients, the majority are doctors, lawyers and bankers. We speak the same language.

ATL: Our readers will want to know why attorneys are seeking therapy. Can you discuss this topic?

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The current discussion regarding the decision by Dentons not to report its average profits per partner (“PPP”) to the American Lawyer is interesting. While I was at Greenberg Traurig, then-CEO Cesar Alvarez used to have a pithy statement on the whole PPP issue, along the lines of: The only thing partners really care about is “profits per me.” There is a lot of wisdom in that statement. In my experience it is true for existing Biglaw partners, potential laterals, and those (fool?) hardy associates aspiring to partnership.

At the same time, the popularity of the American Lawyer’s various charts and rankings can’t be denied. And PPP is one of the catchier columns on those charts. It is used as a proxy for determining everything from firm prestige, to strength of client relationships, to how well a firm is managed.

Savvy associates can and do use it to determine associate quality of life at a particular firm. Your firm has a blazing PPP and no big contingency windfalls feeding the flames? Good chance you are looking at a never-ending flow of “interesting work,” coupled with the partnership prospects of a diminutive drone buzzing around hoping to get noticed by the queen bee. In contrast, you might enjoy a better lifestyle if employed as associate #614 by a Biglaw 2.0 monolith, but you also run the distinct risk of making partner only to realize that the financial gulf between you and the “real” partners is a broad one….

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Sarah Jones

* Judges with daughters are seven percent more likely to support women’s rights than judges with only sons. Alas, Justices Scalia and Alito are impervious to human emotion. [New York Times]

* If you thought Supreme Court justices were “profoundly divided” over issues of law, wait until you see how they differ over the pronunciation of the word “certiorari.” [National Law Journal]

* This year’s summer associate programs sound pretty lame compared to the past: “The emphasis is certainly more on the work than it is on the social events.” All work and no play makes Jack an employed boy at graduation. [Boston Business Journal]

* “I saved the internet today. Your freedom continues.” Fair assessment. Sarah Jones’s win in her defamation case against Nik Richie and TheDirty.com was overturned by the Sixth Circuit. [Courier-Journal]

* If you’re choosing to go against the president’s wishes and apply to law school, here’s how you can leverage your major on all of your applications. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* This cowgirl is putting aside her rodeo accomplishments to go to law school. At least she’ll have the experience needed to ride the bucking bronco of the post-recession job market. [Casper Star-Tribune]

Zach Warren

Back in March, we wrote the following about Zachary Warren, the young lawyer hit with criminal charges arising out of his post-college, pre-law-school employment at Dewey & LeBoeuf: “we’ve heard rumors that in the coming weeks the DA’s office will show more of its hand — in ways that could materially affect our perception of Zach Warren. We reserve the right to change our opinion of him after additional facts emerge.”

Now some additional facts (or at least allegations) have emerged. As we noted in Morning Docket, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office just laid more of its cards on the table, in opposing Warren’s motion to have his trial severed from that of his more notorious co-defendants.

We have a copy of the government’s opposition. What revelations does it contain?

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