Biglaw

Forget Queer Eye and the Biggest Loser. When it comes to makeovers, we’re far more entertained when Biglaw firms overhaul their websites. Especially when they involve mind games (MoFo), body shots (Ballard Spahr and Cox Smith), or hotties (Davis Polk).

Cravath previously had an Internet 1.0-type website. It was extremely basic; its sole function seemed to be to list email addresses. The dull site failed to capture the arrogance prestige of this elite law firm.

The new site, on the other hand, does capture this aspect of Cravath. The Biglaw way is not to be the biggest, but to be the best, according to Cravath’s philosophy page:

At Cravath, we hire only the top students from the nation’s finest law schools, we train those associates through rigorous rotation of practice, we elevate partners exclusively from within and we compensate partners on a lockstep model throughout their careers. The Cravath model has been adopted by many prominent law firms and consulting firms. While some firms have abandoned the model over time to promote lateral growth and global expansion, we have not. We do not seek to be the largest firm by number of offices, lawyers or specialty groups. We promote excellence in client service, at the expense of short-term profit. We believe that maintaining a true partnership of the finest educated and trained lawyers is the single, best manner of handling our clients’ most challenging legal issues, most significant business transactions and most critical disputes.

The new site also has a newsy feel about it. Check out the front page — it looks like The Cravath Swaine Journal.

And Cravath has learned to embrace photos. At least for its partners and senior associates. Though Cravath attracts the best and the brightest young lawyers, as noted above, it doesn’t want to show them off on its website. If you’re a junior associate, no bio or photo for you on the site!

What’s up with that?

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Why do people try to scam law firms? Is it because people know firms are flush with cash, or out of some deep-seated hatred of lawyers, or because they think law firm bookkeepers are stupid (since sometimes they are)?

Earlier this month, the FBI issued a warning to law firms about overseas scammers sending e-mails to lawyers asking for help collecting delinquent payments. Beware.

That one is a little complicated. A scam being run closer to home is simpler and stupider. The New York office of a Biglaw firm sent out a memo to its associates this week to beware of the “taxi scam.”

How does it work?

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Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are examples of female lawyers who have it all: success in both their personal and professional lives. They both reached the pinnacle of the legal profession — a seat on the Supreme Court — but also raised families, blessing the world with judicial opinions galore, children, and grandchildren. They had time for dicta and… Well, you get the picture.

What about the most recent two females anointed with the holy SCOTUS water: Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor? They both have incredible résumés, which helped get them to One First Street, but neither one had a family to move down to D.C. with them.

On the other hand, the most recent male nominees to the Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, are both married with children. They did not have to sacrifice family for profession. (Of course, that’s assuming you see “no children or significant other” as a “sacrifice.”)

Some studies have shown marriage is advantageous for men, but disadvantageous for women. Single women often make more than single men. An old article from Forbes points out:

Without husbands, women have to focus on earning more. They work longer hours, they’re willing to relocate and they’re more likely to choose higher-paying fields like technology. Without children, men have more liberty to earn less–that is, they are free to pursue more fulfilling and less lucrative careers, like writing or art or teaching social studies.

Andrews Kurth partner Kathleen Wu recently offered career advice in the Texas Lawyer. As Ashby Jones points out at the WSJ Law Blog, the most valuable piece is to “get real about balance.” Wu wrote:

It is next to impossible to balance a full-time legal career with marriage, children and regular trips to the gym. It’s no coincidence that the two women most recently nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court — now-Justice Sonia Sotomayor and nominee/U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan — are unmarried and childless.

Can women not have it all? Elie — married and male — and Kash — single and female — opine and offer a poll, after the jump.

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There’s a reason why our weekly column by Law Shucks has been retitled from “This Week in Layoffs” to “This Week in Biglaw.” The pace of law firm layoffs has slowed dramatically. They haven’t stopped completely, and we suspect that many firms are still conducting “stealth layoffs” (which we welcome tips about — just email us). But many firms have stopped cutting, and some are even hiring again. Last month the legal sector added 300 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In terms of the bigger picture, we’re not out of the economic woods just yet — Europe’s economic troubles have led to increased chatter about a possible double-dip recession — but things are definitely improving. Here’s one sign, reported earlier this week by the Associated Press:

One sign of better economic times is when more people start finding jobs. Another is when they feel confident enough to quit them. More people quit their jobs in the past three months than were laid off — a sharp reversal after 15 straight months in which layoffs exceeded voluntary departures, suggesting the job market is finally thawing.

In addition to the strengthening job market, there’s another reason for increased voluntary movement: overwork and discontent among those who managed to hang on to their jobs in the recession….

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Here at Above the Law, we like to provide a service to our readers. Sometimes things happen at a law firm that you just can’t talk about to your colleagues. But you can always tell us.

Last week, we corresponded with a frustrated attorney. Despite the fact that he’s quite senior and has changed firms looking for a better situation, he’s still dealing with the kind of casual disrespect most associates all across the land must suffer:

I sit here today at my new law firm, still disgruntled, I find myself writing a fictitious response to a real email sent to me on Monday by my boss. I actually sent the fictitious email to my brother, for pleasure reading, and not to my boss of course. I thought I would share it with you.

The very real email he received from the partner in question seems innocuous enough:

From: [Redacted]
Sent: Monday
To: [Redacted]
Subject:

Please let me know if you are licensed in Kansas. I have some work that needs to be done over there.

It’s a harmless enough request, until you learn a little bit more of the backstory that this associate just wishes he could explain to the partner…

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It’s been a while since we checked in with the coming junior associate apocalypse that is legal outsourcing. Rest assured, LPOs around the globe are working hard to make sure that the Biglaw junior associate becomes extinct — at least as we know it.

There’s a fascinating article on Law21 that discusses the evolution of legal process outsourcing — and what LPOs need to do next:

Still in its relative infancy, legal process outsourcing has already had a huge impact on the legal services marketplace: scoring major deals with the likes of Microsoft and Rio Tinto, garnering the attention of private-equity investors, and helping to expose the degree to which law firms have overcharged for the simplest legal work, among other accomplishments. But this impact has set off two important chains of events.

The first affects LPOs themselves: they now need to move their value proposition beyond cost savings in a market they helped to make more sophisticated. The second affects everyone: the legal profession’s response to LPO is having an unexpected effect on how legal work is distributed and how legal resources are allocated.

Some law firms still seem to be fighting the last war and are committed to fending off outsourcing until the bitter end. But other firms are preparing themselves for the next war: remaining the primary legal advisor to their clients in a world where the clients themselves can go to a number of providers to get the work done…

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It’s summer time! A lucky few are being paid to warm seats in law firms across the land. (Very few — thanks to the minimal numbers of offers extended to law students in Recession Land.)

Some firms are very excited about their summer associates, to the point of issuing press releases about them. Firms are planning fun events. Hopefully, Williams & Connolly offers cooking classes at a culinary institute again this summer (for those who don’t get offers and may not be able to afford to eat out one day). We’ve got a round-up of our favorite summer “happenings,” after the jump.

But one thing firms may not plan to do this year is bill for summer associates’ time. Nate Raymond reports in the New York Law Journal that Citigroup Inc. has told its outside counsel that it will not pay for law students’ time. Citi does not stand alone:

J. William Dantzler Jr., a tax partner at White & Case who oversees hiring in New York, said with regard to billing clients for summer associates, it has been “a slide for 10 years.”

“More and more clients don’t want summer associates to bill to them,” he said. “When I started almost all clients would accept it. And it’s evolved to where a lot of clients don’t.”

Ironically, because of the huge decline in the number of summers brought in, they’re more likely to actually do substantive work this year. One Biglaw firm, for example, instituted a requirement last year that every summer associate produce at least one piece of seriously impressive legal writing. Which firm is it?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Welcome, Summer Associates! We’re Glad You’re Here, But Clients Aren’t.”

I take the 4/5/6 to work every morning. Usually the trip is uneventful by New York City standards  — just a collection of mariachi bands and homeless people who loudly state their intention not to bother me. Occasionally, people break the cardinal rule of subway etiquette and make direct eye contact: but I can’t tell if that’s because people recognize me from Above the Law or if they’re hoping to get to know me, in the biblical sense.

Rarely do people actually talk to me. The other day a man came up to me just after I boarded the 6 train:

RANDOM DUDE: Aren’t you the Above the Law guy?
ELIE: Yes, one of them.
RANDOM DUDE: I’m a paralegal and you’re going to love this story.
ELIE [the only thing I want to love right now is a cup of coffee]: Do you want to email me?
RANDOM DUDE: Nah. But you see that right there? [Points to clothes hanging up on one of the bars.] That is my boss’s dry cleaning.
ELIE: SHUT UP!
RANDOM DUDE: He sent me uptown to deliver some documents, and he asked me to pick up his dry cleaning on the way back.

It sounds like an urban Biglaw legend, but I snapped a quick picture to capture the moment…

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If the professional world were a zoo, Biglaw attorneys and in-house counsel would be kept in separate cages. They live in distinct environments and, according to a group of general counsel at the InsideCounsel SuperConference, have very different characteristics.

GCs from Kaplan Higher Education, Navistar, and Johnson Controls got together for a panel about building great in-house teams. It started with some general advice: Ask for writing samples from applicants, don’t hire applicants who use “I” during their interviews, and help to develop your workforce.

“Attorneys don’t tend to be precise and concise when they talk,” said Janice Block of Kaplan Higher Education. She has training sessions to help new hires improve their communication skills, so they can explain what they do for the company if they get stuck in the elevator with the CEO, for example.

Not surprisingly, companies are getting tons of applications for in-house positions these days. “In a market like now, we have lots and lots of people interested in joining the company,” said Jerry Okarma of Johnson Controls, a technology company based in Wisconsin. Attention, diverse candidates: “We have a hard time finding African–Americans in Milwaukee,” said Okarma.

People at the conference told me they’re seeing some amazing résumés cross their desks. People with 20 years of experience are applying for the lowest-level in-house jobs, said one in-houser.

But note well, law firm types: your experience might be a strike against you. The GCs in this session said they look at candidates with in-house experience first, and then to those with law-firm experience. One GC referred to law firms as the “outhouse.” The session included a fair amount of harping about how the animals are trained in the Biglaw outhouse…

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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 summer programs have kicked off by now, but ATL pointed out a problem waiting in the wings. While law students are taking a sabbatical from studying, former associates are returning from their actual sabbaticals. As we’ve been saying forever, deferral programs like Dewey & LeBoeuf’s DL Pursuits program just delayed a problem. The inevitable conflict between fêting summers, hiring new graduates, and making space for returning associates is finally coming to a head. In some cases, returnees aren’t finding the welcome as warm as they expected.

It’s all well and good to insist that firms keep their promises to all the affected individuals, but what are they supposed to do with an excess of junior associates at a time when clients are actively looking to move the work formerly done by new lawyers to lower-cost alternatives? And it’s not just junior associates under the gun; clients are seeking to reduce outside counsel’s hours across the board, which means firms are going to have to respond somehow.

Firms in Texas and New Jersey have cut back their summer programs, and hiring has been at a glacial pace for more than two cycles already. Bryan Cave is sticking with the wait-and-see approach. Class of 2010 offerees are getting the same year-and-a-half delay the class of 2009 got.

More about the firms and their reactions, plus the deals, suits and other events of the week, after the jump.

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