Biglaw

‘Tis the season of summer program cancellations. Just don’t call them cancellations. Today we’ve learned that Dewey & LeBoeuf has “paused” its 2011 summer program in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston.

You can really see the difficulty of the situation faced by Biglaw firms. Here we are in July of 2010, and firms are supposed to make a decision about what their hiring needs will be like in the fall of 2012. It’s a little bit ridiculous to expect firms to be able to do that. But at least now it seems like firms are trying to be more cautious. While it makes things harder for rising 2Ls, the cautious approach should mean that people who are lucky enough to get jobs should be able to keep them — and avoid the career annihilation of losing a job as a first-year associate.

At Dewey, the scale of the programs in these three offices was never really that big to begin with…

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As the Baby Boomers continue to age, we’ve been documenting their reluctance to gracefully leave the Biglaw stage. One would think that all these lingering old people would at least be a good mentoring resource for the younger generation. Kash suggested as much when we debated the topic earlier this year.

But an article up on American Lawyer this morning suggests that aging Americans don’t view “mentoring” the young as part of their job description. A former Kirkland & Ellis partner, Steven Harper, writes about the mentoring gap in Biglaw. His starting point is an interesting article from former Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan:

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Peggy Noonan, writing recently in The Wall Street Journal, hit on an important truth that law firm leaders should heed. In lamenting what she called the national need for “adult supervision,” Noonan wrote, “there’s kind of an emerging mentoring gap going on in America right now … a generalized absence of the wise old politician/lawyer/leader/editor who helps the young along, who teaches them the ropes and ways and traditions of a craft.”

Dear Baby Boomers, please look to your own house before you criticize Gen Y for its Twitter-aided navel gazing…

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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.

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.

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On-campus interviewing for 2011 summer associate positions is getting underway, or about to get underway, at many law schools. And this OCI process will give us some insight into what different firms are up to and how they are doing.

The OCI schedules can shed light on several questions. Which firms are ramping up hiring — even to the extent of interviewing 3Ls — and which firms are canceling their summer associate programs? Within a firm, which offices are growing their summer programs, and which offices are shrinking them?

If you have news about a 2011 summer program cancellation, please email us.

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The prior reports of additional payments to some associates at Hogan Lovells, designed to reward these associates for making their billable-hours targets, were accurate — at least with respect to the New York office. And it turns out that these payments constitute what in ATL-speak we call “true-up payments” — i.e., payments designed to give associates the pay they would have received had a salary freeze never occurred and they had received the customary annual raise for seniority.

This may sound confusing, but it’s really not. Let’s take a look at the memo from Hogan Lovells….

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The real utility of the Vault law firm rankings isn’t the opportunity they give to prestige whores who want to lord their status over others. The rankings — conveniently released just before the start of on-campus recruiting — allow law students to get an inside peek at the firms that will soon be coming to campus to vie for their attentions. The firms know a lot about you, but what do you really know about the firms? The Vault rankings are an opportunity to close the informational gap.

Okay, sure, I ripped that opening from something somebody probably wrote in 2005. In a recession economy, law students are probably more concerned with which firms won’t abort their legal careers, instead of which firms have the best cookies.

But still, the rankings give us an opportunity to discuss each firm. And readers of Above the Law are always full of opinions when it comes to the best Biglaw firms.

So sit back, register your Disqus account, and join us as we romp through the Vault 100. We’ll start at the very top — because prestige whoring doesn’t have to be useful in order to be fun…

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In today’s post, we are highlighting how the summers at this week’s five most popular firms feel about their summer programs. We are also still collecting responses for our 2010 Summer Associate Survey and encourage current summer associates to please take our short survey.

  • You won’t have to explain the impact that this well-known law firm has had on the legal employment market to your classmates. Don’t expect 5-star lunches everyday as a summer associate, but don’t be surprised if it happens a couple of times throughout the summer. 
  • All summer associates at this international law firm received full-time offers last year. Even more impressive, none of them were deferred. But be sure to have your passport handy, though; it is not uncommon for summer associates to work part of the summer in an overseas office or two.
  • Summer associates attend litigation or transactional training institutes and experience a free-market work environment at this Chicago-based law firm. Anticipate a lot of flexibility in your assignments, but don’t except any hand-holding.
  • Associates at this Texas-based law firm can afford to buy more than a 3500 sq ft house and a Lexus with its top-of-the-market salary levels. Summer associates will also have plenty of time to get a nice tan as folks here leave the office before 6 p.m., and weekend work is as rare as the steaks you’ll be eating at a firm-sponsored BBQ.
  • Southern hospitality and decent work hours will greet you at this Georgia big law firm. But there will be more to your summer experience here than buckets of sweet tea and peaches. Summer associates select a department rotation and will experience a very structured and substantive summer program.

Want to know more about the summer program at other Big Law firms, or see the feedback left by former summer associates at the firm you are currently summering at or hoping to interview with in fall recruiting? Please visit the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link, for the inside track on each leading law firm.

After CNN editor Octavia Nasr got the boot for an indiscreet tweet, Fast Company was inspired to do a series of stories on companies’ social media policies: “guidelines about how its employees (and freelancers and interns) should represent themselves on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media destinations.”

In the most recent piece in the series, Fast Company looked at Harvard Law’s guidelines for its bloggers. It approved of Harvard’s straightforward approach:

Think this one is going to be dense and chock-full of legalese? Though it’s not exactly written in plain English, the one page document titled “Terms of Use” is a straightforward take on how to blog under Harvard’s domain. Not surprisingly, the first point deals with copyrights, but goes on to include:

“As a general matter, you may post content freely to your blog and to those of others, so long as the content is not illegal, obscene, defamatory, threatening, infringing of intellectual property rights, invasive of privacy or otherwise injurious or objectionable.

Well, that takes all the fun out of it, doesn’t it?

You may not use the Harvard name to endorse or promote any product, opinion, cause or political candidate. Representation of your personal opinions as institutionally endorsed by Harvard University or any of its Schools or organizations is strictly prohibited.”

So no endorsement of Elena Kagan allowed over there?

There’s a burgeoning awareness of social media in the law firm world. When we were in Chicago for an in-house counsel conference, we met a lawyer who had chucked the practice of law to advise law firms on how to use social media. We asked him about guidelines for law firms and lawyers when it comes to Facebooking, blogging, and celebrity endorsements via Twitter…

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Ed. note: This post is written by Will Meyerhofer, a Biglaw attorney turned psychotherapist, whom we profiled. A former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney, he holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work. He blogs at The People’s Therapist.

As some of you have noticed, his weekly Wednesday column has been on hiatus. He offers this memo to explain his summer vacation from Above the Law.

What is it about lawyers and vacations? Like the old saying about long-horn cattle and a Texas fence — they just don’t get along so good. It’s like a physical aversion.

I worked with a client recently who was planning, in utter frustration, to quit his medium-size firm in a medium-size American city. The partner was lecturing him about his billable hours, but business was dead slow so there was nothing to bill for. The lawyer found out later that all his peers were simply billing for work that hadn’t been done yet, on the theory that they’d be laid off by the time the proverbial cow-patty and the fan were joined in unison.

He couldn’t bring himself to fake his time records to that degree, so he was stomping mad, announcing in stentorian tones that this was it, he was quitting. I urged him to stick around and see if he couldn’t get laid off with everyone else, so he could at least receive unemployment. No, he insisted – he needed out now.

Well, I reasoned, then why not take some vacation, so you can cool off and kill time simultaneously?

That was unthinkable….

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Back in May, we reported on merger rumors involving Kilpatrick Stockton and Townsend and Townsend and Crew. As it turns out, the firms were in talks — but now those talks have fallen apart.

As the two firms told the Daily Journal, the talks were called off because of a familiar reason: potential client conflicts. According to a statement issued by Kilpatrick’s co-managing partner, William Dorris, “We explored merger discussions with our friends at Townsend, but clients always come first. When client-related conflicts could not be resolved, we could not proceed further.”

What made the merger alluring initially?

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