My client — a second year corporate associate working in a foreign office — compared remaining at her Biglaw firm to eating cockroaches.
“You know, on one of those reality game shows where they dare you to eat a bucket of cockroaches and they’ll pay you a million bucks if you do.”
I requested she elaborate.
“My point is, at some juncture you stop and think — and this is probably a rational part of your brain: Hell, for a million bucks, I’ll do it. I mean, for a million bucks, you’ll do anything, so long as you can get it over with in a minute or two. The plan is to keep repeating in your head a million dollars a million dollars a million dollars until — bingo! — all done, and you’re rich.”
On September 4, Bill Simmons wrote a column for Grantland regarding the National Football League, titled “The League That Never Sleeps.” Since then, the NFL has remained in the headlines on a daily basis, scarred by a near-constant stream of negative news concerning off-field incidents involving current players. Apart from the escalation of unseemly episodes we have seen recently, the NFL is also struggling with potentially existence-threatening legal issues relating to the harm suffered by players due to the inherent violence of the sport. At the same time, the NFL remains the biggest show (especially from a TV ratings standpoint) in town, and the league has never been more profitable.
Do I need to spell out the parallels with Biglaw? Record profitability, coupled with record instability. It is a wonder that we don’t see Biglaw behemoths sponsoring the halftime clash between two local Pee-Wee teams at NFL stadiums….
Many people who go to Harvard Law School are going to end up in a Biglaw job at some point. The debt is too high, the money is too good, and the path into Biglaw is too easy for most HLS grads to resist, at least for a time.
Everybody has their price, and everybody deals with the reality of selling out for their price in their own way. Most people promise themselves that it’s “only temporary,” as if there is going to be some magical point in their future where making as much money as possible will not be that important. Others drown the better angels of their nature in substances or consumerism. Some people actually love their Biglaw jobs, God bless ‘em. They work hard and are fairly compensated for their efforts.
But then there are the people who rationalize their choices as somehow contributing to the the greater social good. These are the people who tout their pro bono work, as if spending five hours looking at contracts for Habitat for Humanity negates the 70 hours they spent helping real estate moguls build luxury condos. These people aren’t concerned with “doing good” as much as they’re concerned with being judged by do-gooders. You’d think that they could use some of that money and stick it in their ears and say, “La la la, I can’t hear you over the drone of my eight-cylinder HEMI iSprocketdoodle, which you can’t even afford to Google.”
When backed into a moral corner, some people admit defeat and buy an expensive wine, other people fight back with ridiculously self-serving logic. And Harvard Law School excels at self-serving logic…
For lawyers who enjoy thinking and writing, but don’t have much taste for the hand-to-hand combat of discovery, appellate practices are pure joy. Appellate advocates bask in the intelligence and majesty of the law, without having to do daily battle with psychopaths.
For big firms, appellate practices are the crown jewels of the litigation side of the shop: “We’ve argued cases in the Supreme Court!” “We participated (either on the merits or as amici) in ten percent of the Supreme Court’s docket last year!” Shout it to the heavens! What’s the implicit message?
“We’re doing these cases for free!”
Oh, Herrmann, you’re such a cynic. Surely the implicit message is: “We’re God’s gift to advocacy!”
It’s a marketer’s dream.
But one leading appellate lawyer recently told me that the Great Recession has hurt his practice in ways you wouldn’t expect. And I’m here to tell you that, although appellate practices done right can help a firm, appellate practices done wrong are dangerous things . . . .
* Politics and Biglaw just don’t mix: House Republicans hired Quinn Emanuel to handle their suit against President Barack Obama after Baker Hostetler withdrew from the representation due to “political pressure” the firm was facing. [Politico]
* “This is a tale with no shortage of knaves or villains.” If you’re interested in learning about Chevron’s legal wranglings in Ecuador and with plaintiffs attorney Steven Donziger, there are a bunch of interesting new readings for you to peruse. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Crisis in legal education be damned! They may have bad timing, but these law schools are focusing on building bigger and better facilities for students they’re unable to put in their seats. [National Law Journal]
* Ohio law schools have taken a bruising in terms of decreased enrollment, but the University of Toledo has faced the worst of it. With a 25.9% reduction in 1Ls, tuition cuts can only do so much. [Toledo Blade]
September is shaping up to be a busy month for law firm merger news. On the heels of the Locke Lord / Edwards Wildman deal, we’re getting word that Bingham McCutchen and Morgan Lewis have reached an agreement to merge.
The news doesn’t come as a shock. Rumors of a Bingham/Morgan combination have been circulating for months. There was talk that such a deal could trigger some partner departures, and those departures have already come to pass (presumably removing from the picture some potential objectors to a merger).
Let’s have a look at what a Morgan Bingham — or Bingham Morgan, or maybe just a bigger Morgan Lewis, if no name change takes place — might look like….
In case you haven’t noticed, Freshfields has been on a U.S. hiring spree lately. The Magic Circle firm has been making partners disappear from other firms left and right. It recently lured Peter Lyons away from Shearman & Sterling, his longtime professional home. That came on the heels of Freshfields picking up former Wachtell Lipton partner Mitchell Presser and former Skadden Arps partner James Douglas.
Today brings word of more high-profile hires. We’ve learned that three Fried Frank partners — former co-chair Valerie Ford Jacob and two other capital-markets partners, Paul Tropp and Michael Levitt — are decamping for Freshfields. Their bios are all gone from the Fried Frank website. One source of ours called it “a major loss for the firm.”
Is something going on at Fried Frank? It seems the firm has lost a lot of partners lately….
(Please note the UPDATES added to this post, including comment from Fried Frank.)
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