I’m not a meteorologist, or a groundhog, but it looks like D.C. and Philadelphia are totally screwed today. A D.C. tipster called it a “snowpocalypse.” (Judge for yourself – the image above links to Weather.com’s live radar map.)
Our own Kashmir Hill — who has lived in D.C. and, inexplicably, liked it — claims that the blizzard will shut the city down.
So, which firms are closing, and how are people planning to spend their day?
Earlier this week, at the PLI Law Firm Leadership and Management Institute — which was excellent, by the way (and not just because we presented there) — Dean David Van Zandt, of Northwestern University School of Law, offered some reflections on the future of legal education. (We used one of his comments as a recent quote of the day.)
Dean Van Zandt’s presentation was thoughtful and thought-provoking. He analyzed a number of recent reforms made by leading law schools. He also explained the changes that Northwestern Law School has made to its academic program.
One of his most interesting tidbits was the starting salary that would constitute a “break-even point” for going to law school. In other words, what salary would you have to earn upon graduation in order to make going to law school an economically rational decision?
It’s still early in 2010, but the runaway leader in the clubhouse for feelgood Biglaw story of the year is coming out of Haynes and Boone. It was widely reported last week that Matthew Deffebach, a partner at Haynes and Boone, donated a kidney to the son of a staffer at the firm.
Deffebach didn’t know the staffer personally, but when another partner asked for volunteers to help this child, a number of Haynes and Boone partners were tested. Deffebach was a match. Texas Lawyer has this amazing quote from Deffebach:
Deffebach says he’s going through the surgery because he couldn’t stand the thought of the man’s son growing up without a father. “I met him the day after I found out how bad his situation was,” Deffebach recalls.
The reports say that the surgery went smoothly.
I can’t get enough of this good news story shining through in the middle of this bad news recession. After the jump, we’ve got some comments from the staffer, and a note from Matthew Deffebach.
This week brought good news from WilmerHale. The firm’s profits per partner climbed by approximately 7 percent last year, from $1.08 million in 2008 to $1.16 million in 2009, according to the National Law Journal.
The increase in PPP was driven, in part, by a dip in partner headcount (from about 330 in 2008 to 318 in 2009). Sometimes a decline in the number of partners is a bad thing, but not for WilmerHale. As co-managing partner William Perlstein explained to the NLJ, it was due in part to “at least a dozen” partners being recruited away by the Obama administration — a testament to the talents and connectedness of Wilmer lawyers.
WilmerHale has a long and distinguished history of sending its lawyers to top government jobs and then taking them back afterward, so the firm’s clients can benefit from expertise and connections developed while in the public sector. The firm boasts such all-stars as former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick and former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, who served in the Clinton Administration.
Due in large part to folks like Gorelick and Waxman, WilmerHale has long been recognized as a liberal legal powerhouse. This reputation was further burnished when numerous Wilmer lawyers took prominent positions in the White House Counsel’s office and the Department of Justice last January, after Barack Obama took office.
Despite its reputation as a left-leaning law firm, WilmerHale has also been assembling an impressive team of conservative legal talent, including notable alums of the Bush Administration. Some of these hires are quite recent. They include Carl Nichols, who joined the firm earlier this month after serving in high-ranking Justice Department positions, and Dan Gallagher, a former aide to Chris Cox at the SEC.
That’s right — conservative (or libertarian) lawyers, located squarely to the right of center, many of them card-carrying members of the Federalist Society and/or the Republican Party. At WilmerHale. We kid you not.
Last night, Marin liveblogged ABC’s new legal series, The Deep End. Over 2,000 ATL readers joined her for the series premiere. From the sound of it, doing doc review would have been a more enjoyable way to spend a Thursday evening. Marin declared:
this is why I only watch reality tv…. too painful to see how our nation’s brightest script writers can’t approximate real dialogue and human experience
The show was created by Biglaw refugee David Hemingson, a ’90 Columbia law grad who summered at Milbank and worked for a few years at Loeb & Loeb in LA before turning to script-writing. Hemingson told the WSJ Law Blog:
How’d you go about making it real? Did you visit law firms?
I’d really stayed on the periphery of the legal world, and checked in with a lot of former colleagues and friends who are partners now. In addition I got in touch with a lot of people in their 20s and 30s. Everyone seemed to say the same thing about life as a young associate: you’re overworked and underfed in terms of guidance. You’re constantly overmatched and outgunned. You love the life and career, but constantly feel a bit in over your head.
Apparently, he stayed very far on the periphery. Says Marin:
Folks, I don’t even know what to say. This show is worse that I thought. It’s too ridiculous for words.
But lots of words have been written about it. Reviews from around the Web suggest that this group of fake lawyers can expect layoffs in the near future.
What do you say to a recent law-school graduate? “A skinny double-shot latte to go, please.”
What do you say to a recent law-school graduate?
“A skinny double-shot latte to go, please.”
Legal blogs and trade publications have been writing about “The Death of Big Law” for months. But now it’s official. The patient has been pronounced dead by no less an authority than the New York Times. Who needs the fat lady to sing when the Gray Lady has spoken?
First, a quick caveat. Obviously Biglaw hasn’t “died”; large law firms continue to exist, and they continue to be very profitable. They may have to evolve with changing times, but they are still with us, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. What has died, rather, is a certain version of Biglaw, full of fabulosity, fun and frothiness — think Biglaw, circa 2007. May it rest in peace.
So, on to the article. It appeared in print in yesterday’s Sunday Styles — yes, the Style section, normally the home of wedding announcements and trendspotting pieces (sometimes of questionable validity). Despite its location in a guilty pleasure of a section, however, it’s a solid and hard-hitting piece.
The reporter, Alex Williams, begins by discussing The Deep End, the new ABC show set in a law firm (and previously mocked by Elie). It features associates having tons o’ fun — which makes it ridiculously outdated (assuming it ever was accurate). Williams writes:
“The Deep End” was conceived in 2007, that halcyon era of $160,000 starting salaries and full employment even for law grads who had scored in the 150s on their LSAT’s.
Those days are over. As the profession lurches through its worst slump in decades, with jobs and bonuses cut and internal pressures to perform rising, associates do not just feel as if they are diving into the deep end, but rather, drowning.
As you can tell from this excerpt, the article is stylishly written and fun to read. Although it might not tell regular ATL readers much that will surprise them, it’s a well-reported wrap-up of where things stand now, sure to be appreciated by a general audience. (It’s also much better than the Times’s last major effort to tackle Biglaw as a topic.)
The piece has been at or near the top of the NYT’s “Most E-Mailed” list for a few days now (since it first appeared online well before it showed up yesterday in print). Help it stay on the list by emailing the article to your parents or friends. Or do a good deed, and email it to that cousin of yours who is thinking about going to law school. She’ll thank you later.
Okay, that was a cheap shot — there are legitimate reasons to go to law school. But there are also things about the law, as a profession and as a business, that potential law students ought to know.
Let’s dig deeper into the piece….
Great news for Biglaw partners and the associates who love them. Early returns suggest that despite the global economic meltdown that wrecked multiple American industries, profits per partner remained relatively stable in 2009.
Biglaw partners made out okay. They survived. And they’re looking forward to even more profit in 2010. The WSJ Law Blog reports:
Here’s one thing that’s not in dispute: 2009 was awful for firms. A survey by Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group of 50 of the country’s 100 largest firms, as measured by revenue, found last year’s revenue at the firms was down an average 4% from 2008. These same firms, according to Citi, averaged 7% revenue growth in 2008, and 12% growth from 2001 to 2007. And the profit picture would have been worse had firms not aggressively cut expenses, by an average of 7% in 2009, says Dan DiPietro, the Citi’s Law Firm Group advisory head.
I think a four percent haircut, in the middle of the worst recession anybody can remember, is actually strikingly good for Biglaw partners. A lot of associates saw salary cuts of 10% or greater — to say nothing of all the people who saw salary cuts of 100%, i.e., who lost their jobs. Relatively speaking, I think a four percent drop in revenue — with the possibility that PPP won’t even fall by that much — is good news.
Of course, some firms beat the curve….