Biglaw

stratego law firm strategy.jpgLast week, at the PLI Law Firm Leadership and Management Institute, three prominent law firm leaders opined on this question: “Why must law firms be strategic?” Each leader described his own firm’s approach to issues of strategy.

The panel, moderated by Mark Shapiro of Blaqwell, Inc., featured an all-star cast:

What these gents had to say, after the jump.

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Insights from WilmerHale, Cravath, and McDermott.

US News logo.JPGBack in July 2009, U.S. News & World Report announced that it would pimp out its prestige whores to the law firm audience.
For years U.S. News has dominated the thoughts of prospective law students and the actions of law school administrators. For years the ABA has stood idly by while a magazine has distorted the incentives of legal educators.
But now, now that U.S. News is poised to talk directly to law firm clients — large corporate clients, who might want to tell their boards that the #1 law firm in the country is working on their matters — the ABA suddenly gives a crap.
The ABA passed a resolution to “study” the new U.S. News rankings methodology. The National Law Journal reports:

“[The U.S. News] rankings have a profound impact on the law schools. The deans hate it,” said past New York bar President Vincent Buzard, citing reports that law school leaders juice administrative data to boost their schools’ rankings. “It seemed to us that the ABA should look into the methodology of these rankings and ensure that they are reliable and aren’t based on inadequate data.”
While numerous publications and Web sites offer attorney ratings, sitting New York bar President Michael Getnicks worried that the magazine’s plan to numerically rank firms could prove problematic and misleading.
“What considerations do you take into account when you go out and say somebody is No. 1 and somebody is No. 10?” he said.

Haha. Welcome to the suck, ABA.
More details, after the jump.

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Bingham McCutchen new logo Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgMaybe Toyota should take a lesson from Bingham McCutchen: don’t try to cut corners when producing a hybrid.

Back in October, Bingham announced that it would be adopting a new “merit-lockstep” hybrid approach to associate compensation. The plan came with the stamp of approval from Bingham partners and associates. And a majority of Above the Law readers also approved of Bingham’s hybrid approach.

Today, Bingham rolled out its hybrid system. The firm is providing true-up, lockstep raises for people who hit 1900 hours. The double bump extends nationally, across all of Bingham’s offices. People who hit 1500 hours will only be getting a single class bump in salary. We understand that only a small percentage of Bingham associates were low enough on hours to be affected by this stratification.

At the low end, people who billed fewer than 1500 hours will have their salaries frozen again.

On the bright side, all of the people who are frozen will have their hours reevaluated in June. If they’re on pace, they’ll get their money.

The Bingham McCutchen lockstep base pay structure is clear and straightforward (see chart after the jump). For bonuses, welcome to the black box that is merit-based compensation.

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What Women Want What General Counsels Want What GCs Want.jpgLast week, we dropped by NY LegalTech to find out What’s on the Mind of the General Counsel.

Three GCs were on the panel: Seth Krauss of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.; Dawson Horn III of Tyco International; and Jonathan Broder of Conrail. Conrail is, of course, the railroad company. Take-Two is a software and video game company, of Grand Theft Auto fame. Tyco is a well-known manufacturing company, of shower curtain scandal fame.

They provided some insight into the in-house world and what they look for when they hire outside counsel. “”We’re instruction-rich and cash-poor,” said one.

They offered advice to partners and lawyers who want their business. “Know something about me,” said Horn. In other words, Google him. And: “Believe in the cause,” he added.

That’s rather vague. More specific instructions for getting hired by a general counsel, and some advice for fellow GCs, after the jump.
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Jenner Block logo.JPGWe’ve been having some fun documenting the curious game of chicken happening in Chicago. The top firms in the city seem to be waiting for each other to set the associate salary market — even though that market has already been set.

Kirkland set the market by never freezing associate salaries in the first place. Mayer Brown finally blinked and raised salaries. Sidley is still waiting — we’re not sure why, but they are waiting.

At Jenner & Block, “merit-based” salary increases are in effect. But the raise — at least for some people — is nowhere near market salary. One tipster reports:

The situation is bad at Jenner Block. You should write about how cheap the firm is. A title should be something like: “PPP up 33%, Associate Bonuses 33% of Last Years.” Well that is the truth. For the past two years associates who made hours have gotten 5k raises and all others have gotten zero. So, the salary scale, for those that have consistently made hours (worse if you slip a year or have a slow department), is effectively: 160k, 165k, 170k, 180k…. the more senior you get the more the gap between Jenner and the market.

And for bonuses, this year they start at 2k, even for 3rd years.

Well, $5,000 here, $5,000 there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money. I’m sure if our Jenner friends just hang in there for another decade, they will be very happy with their compensation.

According to spokespersons for Jenner & Block, our tipsters are incorrectly reporting their salaries. But the firm isn’t very clear on what salaries Jenner folks are actually receiving.

Details and a statement from the firm, after the jump.

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Winter storm DC Philly.jpg
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?

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northwestern law school.gifEarlier 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?

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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.

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WilmerHale Wilmer Hale Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale Dorr AboveTheLaw Above the Law blog.jpgThis 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.

We name names, and interview WilmerHale partner Reginald Brown, after the jump.

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It has been a month since our last caption contest, so it’s high time for another. Here’s the pic:
rainbow office view somewhere over the rainbow.JPG
Same rules as always: Submit possible captions for this photo in the comments. We’ll choose our favorites — with preference given to those with a legal bent — and then let you vote for the best one.
Please submit your entries by TUESDAY, JANUARY 26, at 11:59 PM. Thanks!
UPDATE: The time for submitting entries has passed. Check back later to vote on the finalists.

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