Biglaw

Above the law march madness.jpgLast week, we brought you our NCAA-tournament style March Madness for Law Firms. We took the top 32 firms from the Vault prestige ratings and asked you to vote on which firms were the “safest” — the places where you’re least likely to get laid off.

After Round One, we’re down to the Sweet (Safe) Sixteen.

The higher-ranked teams firms won in all of last week’s contests but one: Magic Circle firm Linklaters (V26) upset 2008 March Madness tournament champ Latham (V7). Sadly, Latham’s bench was not as deep this year. Apparently, voters disagreed with this line of reasoning.

There were two particularly close matches. As predicted by one commenter:

Gibson v Wilmer in the first round is gonna be a close race.

Gibson Dunn won out, but barely, while Kirkland eked out a victory over Jones Day.

The most popular match with 6226 votes was Ropes & Gray vs Davis Polk & Wardwell. Check out which firms advanced, and vote on the first four match-ups of the Sweet Sixteen round, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL March Madness for Law Firms, Round 2 (Part 1): The Sweet Sixteen”

NALP logo.JPGThere’s a pretty interesting glitch happening right now over at NALP (here at ATL, we know something about “technical difficulties” — we’re working on ours). Even though the new numbers haven’t been made public yet, if you know what you’re doing you can get a sneak peak at the 2009 NALP numbers.

We’re not going to tell you how to do it, but we’ve done it and we’ve obtained some pretty interesting numbers to report about the New York summer programs at the top 20 firms as ranked by Vault. We’ll give you some numbers about the V10 today. Tomorrow we’ll expand our look to the Vault 20.

Getting an offer at one of the top nine firms in the land (the NALP glitch didn’t work for S&C) was considerably more difficult this year than last year. We compares the number of summer associate offers extended to 2Ls in 2007, with the expected numbers for that same group in 2008. Overall 2Ls offers were down a whopping 20% at the top 10 firms. And you have to wonder what percentage of those summer jobs are going to turn into full-time offers for employment.

For 1Ls, it gets even worse. We explain that and some other highlights, after the jump.

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Above the law march madness.jpg[Ed. note: To catch up on the latest round of the tournament, check out the March Madness 2009 category thread.]

The NCAA basketball tournament starts up this week. If your team is already out, or you’re only half-heartedly rooting for your team (Sigh. Go Duke.), we are offering you a different contest to take part in. And this is better than the NCAA tournament, because you’re not just a sixth man watching from the sidelines; you get to determine the course of the tournament through voting.

We’ve held March Madness NCAA-tournament style competitions before. UVA won the 2007 competition for coolest law school, and last year Latham eked out a victory over Cleary for coolest law firm.

Since Latham recently, um, cut a number of players from its team, we don’t think we can let it keep its crown, so we’re revisiting Biglaw firms with the 2009 ATL March Madness tournament. But rather than comparing “cool,” in a nod to the current climate, we are comparing “safe.” We bring you….

ATL MARCH MADNESS FOR LAW FIRMS!!!
WHICH FIRM IS THE SAFEST???

We’ve set up brackets based on Vault seeds. Thirty-two firms are entering the tournament. We invite you to vote on which firms are better at lay-ups than layoffs. At which firm are you least likely to lose your job?

After the jump, we give you the brackets, and the first eight match-ups. Look out for the next eight match-ups on Thursday. The polls close Sunday at midnight.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL March Madness for Law Firms, Round 1 (Part 1): Which Biglaw Firm is Safest?”

Emperor Ends associate lockstep.JPGThere is a report in Bloomberg today, about the attempts some firms are making to end lockstep associate salaries:

The firms are responding to the plunge in corporate, real estate and finance work by overhauling compensation for associates, who often total as many as two-thirds of a firm’s lawyers. Some, like Orrick, are beginning to reward lawyers based on performance rather than seniority. Others plan to cut salaries for starting associates, just two years after top firms raised pay to compete for talent.

It looks like associates are dispirited, disorganized, and desperate to hang on to their jobs. If I was a professional business consultant, I’d think now is the perfect time to start stomping on dirty “workers” while they are down:

“In the current economic crisis, we see the final demise of the Medieval guild in the American legal profession,” said Joel Henning, a law firm consultant at Hildebrandt International Inc.

I am unarmed. Strike me down! Give in to your anger! With each passing moment, you make yourself more my slave.

Law firms have operated for decades with associate pay structures that don’t reward performance, Henning said…. “One of the best things firms are doing is breaking the ridiculous lockstep structure of associate compensation,” Henning said. “There is no other profession that operates that way.”

Young fool … Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side. You have paid the price for your lack of vision!

But isn’t there something missing from this story? More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Ending Lockstep Salaries, But What About Billing?”

Small Law interview tips.JPG[Ed. Note: There are a lot of associates out there who have been recently laid off from Biglaw jobs. Many of them are trying to get jobs at small to medium sized firms. But the mechanics of getting one of those precious jobs are a lot different from what people experienced during on-campus interviewing season. Therefore, Above the Law asked somebody who knows the game for ten tips on going from Biglaw to small law. Check out part I here.]

I work for a small law firm in a major metropolitan area that is in the enviable position of hiring right now. We are getting a flood of BigLaw resumes. I get to hear all of you pedigreed, ambitious, driven, hard-working and talented attorneys crash and burn without even knowing you’re doing it. Here is my advice on how to actually get the job, especially if it’s with a smaller, scrappier law firm than you’re used to. In no particular order:

6. Know Your Audience. My law firm is small, old, and is known for specific practice areas. The smarter applicants come into the interview already knowing what these practice areas are, but an excellent way to set yourself apart is to make yourself aware of what cases the firm is involved in right now and to mention how your particular skills will assist in those cases. Fire up Google, look up the law firm, look for pending cases, look up those cases on the courthouse website, see what’s going on.

7. A Multi-Stage Interview Does Not Mean You’re Doing Well. Many people seem to assume that the longer an interview takes, the better they must be doing. Not necessarily so. The hiring attorneys may have scheduling problems and might have to come in late or leave early. They also might do this to see if you answer one way in the first hour and a different way in the third hour, depending upon whom is doing the asking. The smaller the law firm, the more likely they will have a “consensus” decision-making process, and believe me, after the interview is over, they all compare notes.

Some additional notes on respect, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Interview Tips: Biglaw to Small Law (Part II)”

Small Law interview tips.JPG[Ed. Note: There are a lot of associates out there who have been recently laid off from Biglaw jobs. Many of them are trying to get jobs at small to medium sized firms. But the mechanics of getting one of those precious jobs are a lot different from what people experienced during on-campus interviewing season. Therefore, Above the Law asked somebody who knows the game for ten tips on going from Biglaw to small law. We'll do the first five tips today, and give the "intermediate" level class tomorrow.]

I work for a small law firm in a major metropolitan area that is in the enviable position of hiring right now. We are getting a flood of BigLaw resumes. I get to hear all of you pedigreed, ambitious, driven, hard-working and talented attorneys crash and burn without even knowing you’re doing it. Here is my advice on how to actually get the job, especially if it’s with a smaller, scrappier law firm than you’re used to. In no particular order:

1. Nobody Cares. Your resume speaks for itself, and the attorneys who are interviewing you are well aware that you come from BigLaw stock, have an Ivy League degree, fancy clerkships or once worked for Famous Attorney. Keep in mind that right now, you’re sitting across the table from attorneys who once did not get the job with BigLaw, probably because of you. They have not forgotten this, and Schadenfreude is still alive and well. Bragging about your BigLaw experience will make them loathe you. If they ask you about BigLaw, answer the questions but don’t go on and on about how much you loved that high salary and perks that kept you tethered to your desk. Your interviewers absolutely do not want to hear it. Conversely, avoid denigrating your BigLaw experience because…

2. Nobody Likes A Whiner. Don’t bitch about how you’re secretly grateful you’re out of that hellhole because you hated the BigLaw experience and the high salary and perks that kept you tethered to your desk. Your interviewers might believe you, but if you’re denigrating your prior firm, you’re most likely going to also bad-mouth ours. Keep in mind that your interviewers might once have had, or still have, BigLaw connections. Their spouses might still work for BigLaw. Their parents, siblings or children might work for BigLaw. This law firm might have once poached a chunk of attorneys from BigLaw. You never know.

Some notes about fitting in, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Interview Tips: Biglaw to Small Law (Part I)”

Aukse Rimas.JPGIt goes without saying that the recession is forcing all sorts of Americans to confront the prospect of financial ruin. But lawyers have a particular cross to bear, one that involves a crushing amount of educational debt that was supposed to be serviced by the income from lucrative, highly secure law firm jobs. Now that job security is a thing of a past, there are a lot of lawyers who need a financial makeover. Sunday’s Chicago Tribune provided advice for struggling attorneys:

Aukse Rimas of Chicago is a trial attorney with a big new raise and a promising career. But she is losing sleep over what the recession-wracked economy could do to her.

The 29-year-old is juggling $225,547 in education loans and credit card debt–about three years’ worth of her $75,000 annual salary. She has a modest retirement nest egg and virtually no savings.

Something tells me that the financial experts are going to tell Aukse to spend less money. I haven’t read the full article or anything, but every financial planner I’ve ever talked to essentially tells me “your intelligence profile indicates that you’re too stupid to follow a budget.”

Am I right? After the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Financial Makeover in Chicago”

Legal recession 2009.jpgToday’s National Law Journal takes an interesting look a the mental and emotional health of recently laid off attorneys. Quite obviously, people lose a lot more than a paycheck when they lose their job:

For the first time in their lives, many of these lawyers are struggling with a profound feeling of failure. And while they acknowledge that their troubles are just a part of the jobless scene nationwide, such perspective provides little comfort for these high achievers who are grappling with a loss of purpose and direction.

It’s important to keep perspective during these tough times. We are talking about temporary setbacks, not ultimate failures. But even “temporary” depression is difficult to deal with:

In October, [Scott] Chait was let go from New York’s Wagner Davis, where his work focused on real estate transactions. A 2006 graduate of Brooklyn Law School, he is collecting unemployment and has moved in with his parents in New Jersey. Without providing specific numbers, Chait, 31, said he is burdened with “a full debt load.” Rigorous workouts help keep his spirits up, he said. “It feeds the need inside me.”

He describes himself as competitive, with a “Type A” personality, and said that critical to his daily routine is not sleeping in. He spends much of his day looking for jobs on employment Web sites. He also goes to his synagogue every morning. “I get a lot of positive enforcement,” he said.

Are there good coping mechanisms out there unemployed attorneys should be looking at? A psychologist weighs in after the jump.

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omelveny logo.JPGFirst Latham, then Orrick, now O’Melveny.

Yesterday, we mentioned that layoffs could be coming to O’Melveny & Myers. Today, the rains came.

A firm-wide email just went out announcing that 200 people would be let go. The cuts amount to about ten percent of attorneys and ten percent of staff:

It is against this backdrop that I am writing to inform you about some very difficult and unprecedented decisions we have made affecting lawyers and staff. We will be reducing approximately 90 legal and 110 staff positions from our Firm. The majority of the positions are in the US, with some in Asia and a smaller number in London. Altogether the reduction will impact roughly 10% of our lawyer workforce and roughly 10% of our staff workforce.

Is ten percent the magic number that firms are now trying to get rid of?

As we understand it, O’Melveny will be giving a three-month severance package. Latham wins the severance wars again. On the other hand, Latham laid off 440 people, which is just a little less than O’Melveny and Orrick combined.

While many of the O’Melveny people do not yet know if they will be part of the layoffs, the firm did send a message to all of its incoming summer associates. The future summers were informed of the bad news at the firm and told that summer program would be scaled back to a ten-week experience.

For those keeping score at home today, we’re looking at 60 people from Shearman & Sterling, 130 people from Dewey, and now 200 people from O’Melveny that are being let go today. Black Wednesday? Humped Day?

UPDATE (12:57): O’Melveny has released some additional news about its severance package to Above the Law. For some people, the package could be better than what is being offered by Latham. A firm spokesperson tells us:

Departing associates and counsel will receive a payment that is equal to 3 months as a minimum and 7 months as a maximum, based upon completed years of service, with two weeks for each full year of service, with no cap on the dollar amount. More importantly, our Firm provided meaningful bonuses in December of 2008, and significant salary increases in January of this year, which was not the case at all firms. We want to be fair and generous with those who remain, as well as those who depart.

These are both good points. As we’ve pointed out in the past, O’Melveny matched the Skadden bonus (except for NYC) for people who billed 1950 hours. And while Latham froze salaries, O’Melveny did not.

We’ll keep you posted. Read the full memo, after the jump.

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Latham Watkins LLP lw logo.jpgRecords are being set this morning at Latham & Watkins. At 8:00 a.m. Eastern time, managing partner Bob Dell sent out an email announcing that the firm is laying off 190 associates and 250 staff. These numbers are on top of any “stealth layoffs” that may have previously occurred at the firm in the past year.

Four hundred forty employees — 190 associates, 250 staff — is, as far as we know, more than any one law firm has ever laid off (not counting dissolutions). Latham is also the first Vault top ten firm to conduct major layoffs.

But Latham is also setting another record, of a more positive nature. Consistent with what we reported yesterday, the firm is offering “a comprehensive separation package, including payment of six months salary (up to total severance of $100,000) plus six months of continued medical coverage (through August 31, 2009).” This is the most generous severance package that any major law firm has given departing employees (see this table).

That will definitely soften the blow. But one LW source has a question:

No mention on any partner shifts — did they really grossly overshoot the number of associates and staff they needed for the economy we ended up with, but nail the number of partners needed just right?

According to Dell’s email, the cuts constitute approximately 12 percent of associates and 10 percent of paralegals and support staff. One LW tipster, however, tells us that in terms of U.S. associates being laid off, the number may be closer to 20 percent.

The full email from Robert Dell, plus more, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: Latham Cuts 440 (190 Associates, 250 Staff)”

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