Biglaw

Chicago skyline.JPGThe National Law Journal reports that some firms are hiring lawyers — including associates — in Chicago. The ABA Journal summarizes the good news:

Three law firms are moving into new offices in Chicago and seeking to fill the space with new lawyers.
The firms getting new digs are Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Nixon Peabody; and Cozen O’Connor, the National Law Journal reports.

Happy Friday indeed.
According to the NLJ, despite all the hits the Chicago legal market has taken during this recession, the city is in an expansionary mood:

While law firm expansion has slowed in Chicago during the recession, particularly compared to the accelerated growth in the prior five years, many national firms that set up shop in the city since 2000 are still looking to add lawyers. Efforts to recruit partners with business has been a constant, but firms in the past month have started to look for associates in certain practice areas, including finance, banking, litigation and bankruptcy, said Amy McCormack, who leads the Chicago recruiting firm McCormack Schreiber.

Does that include Kirkland & Ellis? Let’s take a look inside (its new offices), after the jump.

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Some of you have probably seen this already. It went up on YouTube in 2007. But we came across this today, and it made us terribly nostalgic. And not just because Cyndi Lauper always had a better voice than Madonna.

Remember when billing hours was cause for a somber ballad about the difficulties of being a lawyer? Now, hours are like a Hazmat suit in the middle of nuclear winter.
Keep your heads up. This too shall pass.

New York City Bar logo.jpgWe regularly receive tips about educational or charitable events that might interest our readers. Because we don’t have the ability to give shout-outs to all, and to ensure equal treatment, we direct everyone with events of a non-commercial nature to mention them in our Community section (which, by the way, is overflowing with openings for deferred associates right now).
(The Community section is for non-profit events or opportunities. If what you’re trying to promote is commercial in nature, please advertise. Commercial postings will be pulled from the Community.)
Our rule against event promotion admits of exceptions. We will mention events featuring significant participation by Above the Law editors — like this one, taking place this coming Tuesday, July 16:

Breaking Back into a Large Law Firm: How to Make Your Way Back into a Top Law Firm

Moderator: BRIAN DALTON, Managing Editor, Vault.com and Editor Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms

Speakers: DAVID LAT, Founding Editor, AboveTheLaw.com; T.J. DUANE, Principal, Lateral Link; HELEN LONG, Director Legal Recruiting at Ropes & Gray LLP; JOHN J. CANNON III, Hiring Partner, Shearman & Sterling LLP.

The panel is part of an a day-long conference, co-sponsored by the New York City Bar and Vault, with the following mission:

Affected by the current financial crisis, many lawyers are finding themselves looking for employment. This program is designed to assist job-seeking attorneys in learning how best to market themselves whether they are looking to go to a firm, start their own practice or are considering an alternative legal career.

For details and registration, click here. Hope to see you there!
Getting Back in the Game: How to Restart Your Career in a Down Economy [The Association of the Bar of the City of New York]

Work life balance battles.jpgRemember the days when junior associates thought that work-life balance was important? Remember when people thought that law firms could be forced to change to accommodate associates who wanted to be lawyers and have personal lives?
Those days are seemingly over. An interesting post on Law21 suggests that the quest for work-life balance (WLB) is pretty much dead:

[T]he market has changed just a little. After 10,000 lawyer and staff layoffs at large US and UK firms, even the most active WLB boosters have toned down talk that might earn them the dreaded “entitlement” label. Articles and posts that reference the term “work-life balance” now do so in an environment of cold pragmatism: Ashby Jones at the WSJ Law Blog and Dawn Wagenaar at The Complete Lawyer provide good recent examples. Realist observers like Dan Hull and Scott Greenfield have gained the upper hand in the WLB discussion — check out this slam-bang debate at Legal OnRamp about “work-life balance” generational expectations.

We have mentioned before that law students and junior associates have lost any kind of leverage over law firms. People are desperate for jobs, and firms feel they can pretty much do what they want. But some people think that the work-life balance attempt was doomed to fail:

Where proponents of “work-life balance” went off-track, to my mind, was that they argued the duty to ensure a satisfactory proportion between a lawyer’s work and the rest of her life was an institutional responsibility — that it was up to the law firm, basically. The firms disagreed, and all they had to do was wait for the marketplace to turn their way to make that clear.
Law firms aren’t going to unilaterally change their business models for the sake of WLB. No law firm ever budged an inch on its billable quotas or offered associates more money and perks because its partners genuinely felt they should be nicer employers — appeals to conscience at partners’ meetings don’t have a roaring record of success. Firms change their working conditions as the talent market dictates. In a seller’s market like the one we’ve just had, they play nice; in a buyer’s market like this, they don’t.

But just because the movement towards better working conditions has been stalled, it doesn’t mean that many young lawyers don’t still need better working conditions.
Let’s remember how this all got started, after the jump.

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We want you here as long as it makes sense. — Fictional Firm Chairman
What does that mean? — Fictional Junior Partner
It means you’re here until you’re not. — Fictional Firm Chairman

Those are lines from a bit of YouTube fantasy porn for BigLaw attorneys frustrated by the way their firms are treating them during the economic downturn. The video ends with the junior partner telling the chairman that he feels unappreciated and that he’s leaving.
If you can’t play with the BigLaw boys, then move along.
A legal marketer in New Jersey was hired by an unnamed mid-size firm to create a video to help with the firm’s lateral recruitment. It features a young BigLaw real estate partner, named Steve, meeting with his firm’s chairman to seek guidance. The chairman, who calls the partner Gary throughout the meeting, is not especially sympathetic to the younger lawyer’s recession-induced crisis:

JUNIOR PARTNER, STEVE: I’ve worked so hard to build something here. You wiped the floor with me for eight years as an associate. I am a partner now. I have a book of business, and yet I feel… lost.
BIGLAW CHAIRMAN: Do you have any idea how much billable time we wasted during this conversation? How long were you outside my office lurking like a wolverine of sorts?

According to the marketer Micah Buchdahl, the firm wasn’t a fan and declined to use the video. Check it out after the jump.

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JP Morgan street logo.jpgIn this weekend’s piece about the White & Case business model, the New York Times noted the law firm, cash-on-hand business model. Yesterday, Kash wrote:

Law firm dons partners generally get loans from banks at the beginning of the year to pay overhead — rent, associate salaries, etc. As the year goes on, they (hopefully) collect massive fees from clients, paying off the loans (and paying themselves out). Apparently, this is how your local ice cream truck driver — or maybe cupcake truck driver — operates his business as well.

Obviously, the model doesn’t work when banks aren’t willing to lend. But today Am Law reports that JPMorgan is poised to step up its law firm lending practice. The move could result in additional lines of credit open to law firms:

JPMorgan Chase is beefing up its profile in lending to the legal industry. The bank has hired the former head of Citigroup’s law firm group.
Lester Pataki, who led the legal industry specialty group in Citi’s private bank arm, is joining JPMorgan as the national practice leader and chairman of its law firm group, the bank announced Monday. JPMorgan says it hopes to capitalize on Pataki’s strategic skills to help it boost its presence in the area.

Isn’t JPMorgan one of the banks that is doing relatively okay? You can almost hear management committees all across the law firm landscape saying “Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie.”
More details after the jump.

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Wilmer Hale logo.JPGHere on Above the Law, we have extensively covered layoffs caused by the shrinking economy. We’ve also covered stealth layoffs. And we’ve covered performance review layoffs that have been done out in the open.

But at WilmerHale it looks like we are seeing an example of this: economically induced performance reviews resulting in stealth messages that require people to openly leave the firm.

Say that ten times fast. A tipster reports:

I know of [several] associates and counsel that have been laid off at Wilmer in the past week. Many of the associates are 2-4 years, but the lay-offs reach up to the 6 year level. All of them were let go for “performance” reasons – but everyone that I’ve talked to has had nearly perfect evaluations….

The not so subtle indication we are getting from the firm is to tread lightly — find something else and leave quietly, and if [people] do that, they will get help, resources, support and references. I imagine the flipside of that is [squeaky wheels] will get a performance-based dismissal to hang over their heads….

People are just too scared to say anything in this economy. Of course, there is always the shame of thinking you’ve been let go for “performance” reasons that will keep people quiet as well.

As we understand it, these cuts have taken place in Washington D.C. and Boston.

After the jump, WilmerHale tells us that there have been no “layoffs.”

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Chambers Associate Chambers and Partners.jpgLast month, we mentioned the plans of Chambers and Partners, the U.K.-based publisher of law firm guides, to launch an online guide to U.S. law firms called Chambers Associate. Already well-known for its rankings of top firms in different practice areas — which firms love to tout in their PR materials, since they’re always good news — Chambers now seeks to supplement its coverage with a resource for law students and laterals.
The Chambers Associate site is now live. Enter a firm’s name in the search box to find its profile, or use the advanced search feature to find firms by region, practice area, or some other criterion.
How does Chambers Associate compare to other resources in the market? The field is already crowded, with players such as Vault and the new ATL / Lateral Link Career Center. Editor Michael Lovatt, whom we met at the NALP conference, explained Chambers Associate:

The emphasis we have gone for is away from the Vault prestige ranking model, and toward the notion that there isn’t a ‘best’ firm, rather that an individual’s specific interests and ambitions make different firms — with their various cultures, policies, practice strengths and identities — the right fit.

Getting law students and lawyers to look beyond prestige, in a profession as status-obsessed as the law, may be a challenge. But at least Chambers has done its homework:

For each firm, we write an overview based on the detailed practice area rankings from Chambers USA, then write 10 sections of editorial based on anonymous telephone interviews with a random, representative sample of junior associates at that firm. It’s an in-depth, substantive approach that we think gets under the skin of law firms in more detail than any other publication.

Present company excluded, of course; here at ATL, we pride ourselves on the ability to “get[] under the skin of law firms.” We checked out a few of the Chambers Associate profiles, and they struck us as comprehensive, if a bit tilted towards the positive.
Press release, after the jump.

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AmLaw 100 2009.JPGCongratulations Am Law 200 firms. You have weathered all the disparaging comments about your cities, your practice, the quality of lawyers that work at your firms. And now, as we stare into the sewage drain of the American legal economy, the Am Law 200 firms are coming out smelling like roses:

Reports of their demise, it turns out, were premature. For years, the regional firms that constitute much of the Second Hundred were told that they were exactly the wrong size: too big to compete with the narrow focus of boutiques and too small to match The Am Law 100′s national footprints and marquee names. But last year, as the financial sector began its meltdown, the Second Hundred’s slow-growth strategies were vindicated.
While average revenue per lawyer at The Am Law 100 decreased by 1.2 percent in 2008 (the first decline since 1991), Second Hundred firms were essentially flat. And when the Second Hundred’s national firms, as well as those in the nation’s biggest money centers–Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.–are left out of the calculations, average RPL growth was 1 percent. In all, 49 Second Hundred firms posted increases in RPL, compared to 42 Am Law 100 firms.

As Bob Sugar might say: “This is a nice moment for you, I’m going to let you have it.”
After the jump, more ego-shattering news for coastal, prestige conscious associates and partners.

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Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to advice@abovethelaw.com.

pls hndle copy 2.jpgDear ATL –
I’ve been unemployed for almost a year. I have good academic credentials, but lost my job as a junior-associate in Biglaw before I could develop a highly valuable set of skills. At first, finding interviews for available positions was easy; I just wasn’t able to close. But about five months ago, interviews stopped altogether. I haven’t even been able to find contract work.
The economic recession is obviously a big part of my problem. But I also feel that part of the problem now is my extended term of unemployment. So my question is: How long is too long? When do I have to accept that I simply will not be a lawyer?
He Who Longs to Measure Time in 6 Minute Increments

Dear He Who Longs to Measure Time in 6 Minute Increments,
The fairy tale that you’ve concocted for yourself — that you will never again be a lawyer after T-minus one year of unemployment — is an homage to the Beast, who despairs of turning back into a prince. From the Beauty and the Beast prologue:

Ashamed of his monstrous form, the Beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his 21st year. If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return, by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a Beast for all time.
As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a Beast?

You have one year to receive True Love’s Kiss and clinch that “awesome” associate job before the enchanted rose’s last petal fell and seals your fate. After one year, you are to remain a Beast forever, hideous to law firms and vile to any employers other than traveling circuses and minstrel side shows. The End.
If really believe that you’ve been out of the law firm game for “too long,” what are your other options? Living as a hermit by the sea? If you have another dream career, by all means pursue it, but if you really want to be a lawyer, you can be one again, even if you’ve been out for a year. This economy is like the Mayer Brown swine flu outbreak — if you make it out alive, you’re expected back at the office. Law firms will have a hard time rejecting applicants based on gaps in their resume alone, when talented and bright laid-off attorneys will comprise a huge chunk of the applicant pool. Patience, Iago. The last petal has not fallen and Elizabeth Halverson has not sung.
Your friend,
Marin
Some advice from Le Fou, after the jump.

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