Biglaw

Uptown Charlotte before the fall.JPGOh Charlotte. Oh Queen City. My how global economic crisis denuded your legal industry.
Maybe it is time for a comeback? The Charlotte Observer reports that a legal services firm is poised to hire 100 Charlotte based attorneys:
Unfortunately, we’re talking about document review attorneys:

DiscoverReady, which analyzes e-mails and electronic documents for law firms and corporate legal departments, is opening the office on Trade Street uptown in mid-June. The company has already hired about two dozen workers and will hire others in waves throughout the year, said Jim Wagner Jr., DiscoverReady’s chief executive officer.
About a third of the positions will be full time; the others will be temporary and contract jobs, he said. Most of the company’s workers are attorneys, but company officials are also looking for project managers, office staff and other employees.

All and all, isn’t this good news for the Charlotte legal economy? More details after the jump.

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Confident Kid hasn't been laid off yet.JPGThe second quarter’s Managing Partner Confidence Index is a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that the managing partners at the nation’s law firms are more confident than they were last quarter. The bad news is that managing partners overall are still expressing “negative” confidence — and that could lead to fresh layoffs in over the next six months. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports the good news:

The good news: the overall confidence index was up 23 points to 91. We’re still in “negative” territory, but only slightly. Summarizes Citi’s Mark Costiglio: “Managing partners are much less pessimistic about the broader economy and the legal market, and there’s a sense that the worst is behind them.”

And the bad news:

The not-so-goods: Expenses. MPs continue, it seems, to fret over expenses, especially lawyer compensation. And that, LBers, could lead to a continuation of the parade of horribles: layoffs, hiring-freezes, salary-cuts and the like.

After the jump, the Managing Partner Confidence Index executive summary points out the ugly news.

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blind item AboveTheLaw legal blog.jpgHere’s an interesting rumor we’ve heard. We’re a little short on details, and we’re trying to chase down additional confirmation. We thought we’d toss it out as a blind item and solicit the missing information from you, our readers.
This is what we’re hearing. One large law firm is so hard up for work that it is starting to give some summer associates what we’d call “fake work.”
To be sure, much of the work given to summer associates, in any economy, is make-work — e.g., write a memo to file on a legal issue that will never actually arise in the litigation. But this isn’t mere make-work; it’s fake-work. Summers are being given assignments for projects that have already been completed. For example, summers are being asked to draft research memos for briefs that have already been filed. And, interestingly enough, multiple summer associates — but located in different offices of the firm, to reduce the likelihood of their comparing notes — are being given the same fake-work assignment.
What are the advantages of this approach? After the jump.

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pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgAt the beginning of 2009, we were tracking salary freezes as law firms across the country froze their salaries at 2008 levels, rather than instituting lockstep raises based on seniority. Our most recent salary freeze round-up was in February. (We also acknowledged those that had raises as normal.)
Since then though, the salary freeze watch has been replaced by the salary cut watch. Rather than keeping salaries at 2008 levels, some firms are cutting back to 1998 levels.
Okay, not really. Salaries aren’t quite in line with the days of Ally McBeal, but some pay stubs are starting to resemble those of 2005.
So what about those firms that instituted “slurpee freezes” back in January? These firms said they were keeping salaries at 2008 levels, but that they planned to revisit the decision later in the year. It was assumed at the time that they would be revisiting in order to raise salaries, but that has not been the case.
If your firm hasn’t “revisited” the decision, that might be a good thing. None of those with slurpee freezes decided to raise salaries, though quite a few cut them. Specifics after the jump.

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This isn’t going to come as a galloping shock to most people, but it turns out that the firms that are making the most profit aren’t feeling the need to defer their incoming first year associates. Am Law Daily reports:

The only top ten firm that is making deferrals mandatory this year is Schulte, Roth & Zabel, which is requiring all new associates to start in 2010.
But the rest of the top ten most profitable partnerships are taking a different path. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz; Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges; Boies, Schiller & Flexner; Sullivan & Cromwell; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Kirkland & Ellis; and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton are starting all of their associates next fall as originally scheduled.

Congratulations to the incoming first years lucky enough to be heading one of these firms in the fall.
But it’s time to learn an important lesson about the difference between “revenue” and “profit.”
More after the jump.

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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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