Biglaw

pacino plays biglaw associate.JPGBack in the eighties, the popular myth was that all Manhattan attorneys had a leather briefcase, a good blue pen, and a Scarface-sized bowl of cocaine on their desk. Sadly, by the time I got to Biglaw the briefcase had been replaced by a canvas bag with a gaudy firm emblem emblazoned on the side like the mark of the beast. The nice pen was replaced with a desktop computer designed to block The Onion. And the coke was replaced by the marvelous ephedrine they used to put into Red Bull.

But perhaps London attorneys are poised to relive the NYC glory days. A new study reports that hard drug use is on the rise in the U.K.:

One partner claims he knows “people who just make a phone call from their office and nip down to reception to pick up their delivery” — something that happens in every big law firm, he claims.

The survey, by the magazine Legal Business, also says that there is evidence of “cocaine clubs” in law firms’ basements and of partner-led games of poker and taking cocaine with clients. But it also finds that law firms are ignorant or indifferent to the problem. One lawyer is quoted: “I spanked £100,000 on cocaine in one year and no one noticed.

If a partner ever invited me to a coke and poker party I would still be in rehab a practicing attorney today.

The key similarity between Britain today and the America of yesterday seems to be the total professional indifference to drug use:

The legal profession, unlike other classic professions such as medicine and teaching, does not give a damn, as long as you are profitable.

Well, nobody wants a coked-up doctor trying to save you from a cocaine overdose. And nobody wants a coke-head teaching your kids. But if a little nose candy is going to make you work longer, why would partners particularly care what you do on the side?

Because you could die? Because partners care about your health? Right. You could be the last unicorn and you’d still bill 100 hours a week if there was work to be done.

Substance abuse problems that span the ocean after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “I Hear That ‘Magic Circle’ Powder Is Killer”

cia-logo.jpgBased on popular demand, it is time to take a look at which firms may be struggling heading into bonus season. Would you like to share speculative information about stealth layoffs, declining profits, or an “everybody here is freaking out” environment? This thread’s for you.

Let’s get the ball rolling with a panicked message we received about Cahill Gordon:

I work at Cahill Gordon and we’re so f**ked. This junk bond market has collapsed … and representing underwriters of junk bonds makes up at least 75% of the revenues of our firm. Simply put, there’s not any work going on and no sign that it’s coming back. We’ve recently tried to diversify by adding a few litigation partners and a partner that focuses on representing telecom companies in regulatory matters, but, so far, these efforts aren’t coming close to replacing the revenue we’ve lost. I wouldn’t be surprised to see our profits per partner drop by 40%-50% this year – -there’s just no work. Now I understand why Roger Meltzer and his band of associates left [for DLA Piper].

Cahill declined to comment on this rumor, probably because a 50% drop in PPP is, frankly, “the sort of thing that Miggs would say.” But the junk bond market has collapsed, and we do know that Cahill did a lot of work in that area.

More speculation, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Rumor Agency: Which Firms Are In Trouble?”

map pretty.JPGWith all the doom and gloom about the economy, it’s easy to forget that some law firms are doing really, really well.

American Lawyer has come out with their Global 100 rankings (subscription) report. Am Law reports that most stable global firms are based across the pond:

After madly shedding partners, doubling-down their bets on foreign offices, and tightening their management controls, the global Magic Circle practices–Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Linklaters–look a little better-dressed than many of their rivals in the United States. The irony is that the English firms have succeeded by following the lesson of their American peers: They’ve hedged their bets. For U.S. firms, in the past that has meant a healthy dose of litigation and bankruptcy work to balance a corporate shortfall. For the British, the strategy has been geographic: spreading their risk across several continents.

Whatever. Maybe someday you’ll be able to buy back an undesirable position in Yorktown.

The U.S.A. is still well represented when it comes to profits per partner:

amlaw ppp.JPG

Cadwalader’s inclusion on this list is … offensive (the list is based on 2007 numbers), but how about Quinn Emanuel! One of five firms worldwide with PPP over $3,000,000.

The firms with the most revenue after the jump

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Global 100 Rankings: Some Firms Are Doing Just Fine”


soma.JPGWe know a lot of our readers come here via a desperate attempt to put off billing hours. We encourage so-called “procrastination” on the “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” theory.

But we must ever be vigilant against those who would intrude on our precious zoning-out time with false promises of increased productivity and happier living. Stanford philosophy professor John Perry is one such individual. He has a website devoted to making the most of your procrastination time. The Wall Street Journal reports Perry’s core message:

[S]tructured procrastination involves doing small, low-priority tasks to build a sense of accomplishment and the energy to tackle more important jobs. Mr. Perry, a chronic procrastinator, suggests followers choose an important task, but defer work on it while tackling others. “Don’t be ashamed of self-manipulation,” he says.

If Perry really is “a chronic procrastinator” then how the hell did he motivate to publish his own website? Sounds like Perry needs to do a little more work, and a little less butting into other people’s free time.

Unfortunately, Perry is not alone. After the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Anti-Procrastination Movement Needs Some Actual Work To Do”

funny-pictures-cat-hopes-you-kept-the-receipt-for-the-baby.jpgWe have some bad news for this year’s incoming associates. Based on last Wednesday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, attorneys at your new firm like you even less than they liked summer associates.

We received 765 responses, and the number of practicing attorneys who said “First-year associates, hate ‘em” beat the number of practicing attorneys who said “First-year associates, love ‘em,” by a margin of 25.55% to 21.88%. In comparison, summer associates had managed a more even 25.06% to 24.82% love-hate response in an earlier survey.

Like ‘em or not, respondents sure did think there were a lot of ‘em.

  • Overall, 58% of practicing respondents said that their firms had hired too many new associates, with 29% saying “way too many.”

  • Only 10% thought their firms had hired too few.
  • And just under a third of respondents, 32%, thought their firms had hired just the right number.

In comparison, about 53% of practicing attorneys thought that their firms’ summer programs were too big this year, with 21% calling them “way too big.”

Alarmingly, the people most likely to think there are too many first-years were also the people most likely to be making hire-and-fire decisions. While 57% of second-year associates thought their firms had hired too many new associates, that number exploded to 74% among attorneys who had been practicing since before 2000.

So, if you think that partner you’re working with right now might really want to fire you, you’re probably right. Have fun at work today!

Similarly, the more seasoned the respondents, the more likely they were to actually dislike their newest colleagues. 30% of second-year associates actually said “love ‘em” to the new first-years, and only 15% said “hate ‘em.” But among attorneys who had been practicing since before 2000, only 11% said they liked first-years, while a whopping 48% declared, “hate ‘em.”

So, if you think that partner you’re working with right now might really want to fire you, you’re probably right. Seriously, have fun at work today!

Read more, below the fold.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Life Survey: Welcome To The Firm! Or Not.”

recession california associate pay raises.jpgIt is still way too early to get hard numbers on what Biglaw bonuses will look like for 2008. But because of the economic downturn, we expect it will be a rocky bonus season.

As readers of The Shock Doctrine will note, it is important to be aware of fundamental changes to the way bonuses are paid out. You don’t want something to slip in under the guise of a (massive) market correction.

Yesterday, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati announced that 50% of their bonuses would be paid out based on performance evaluations. According to the firm, the change was made in response to associates’ concerns:

To: All Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Associates, Of Counsel, Special Counsel, and Staff Attorneys
From: John Roos
Date: September 25, 2008
Re: FY09 Associate Bonus Program

As always, the firm is committed to providing a competitive compensation package to our associates. We also are committed to listening to feedback from our associates and making adjustments to our approach to compensation as appropriate. Recently, the firm’s associates have voiced concerns about the bonus program’s heavy emphasis on billable hours. In response to those concerns and after a long and careful review of the associate bonus program, we’re pleased to announce a new component to the bonus program focused on qualitative performance factors.

[Redacted] will be sending out a memo shortly with more details on the changes, but I’d like to give you a brief rundown on the changes, as well as the process that led to them. In essence, the total bonus opportunity will consist of three independent components:

— a basic level of bonus paid at 1,900 hours;

— an adder paid at 2,100 hours; and

— a variable bonus based on work quality and overall contribution to the firm.

You’ll note that the new bonus program allows us to continue to reward high-billing associates for their hard work–a factor that many associates pressed us to maintain–but it also allows us to reward those who are exceptional performers in other ways.

More from the memo, including explanation of the qualitative bonus component, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Wilson Sonsini To Adopt Performance-Based Bonuses”

apprentice apprenticeship lawyer baker.jpgClients want associates to remember who pays their salary. As we have previously reported, the authors of What About Clients are trying to start a “Value Movement” which, among other things, asks whether associates should pay their firm for the privilege of working.

Unfortunately, this idea just won’t die. And Holden Oliver thinks that the market meltdown is a perfect opportunity to reexamine the structure of the business of law:

Hopefully, there’s this silver lining in the Down Economy: a renewal of the notion that workplaces exist to serve and give value to Customers and Clients, and the companies organized to help them. Not to serve and cater to Employees. As we see it — and most states have traditionally seen it–it’s a privilege to work. Not a right. And it’s a special honor to learn and practice the law.

More people jump on the bandwagon, below the fold.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Clients Want Associates To Get To Work”

Back to the Future 2 DeLorean time machine.jpgWelcome to BACK TO THE FUTURE. In this occasional ATL feature, we’ll step into a time machine and take a look at what the legal profession looked like at some point in the past.

In a post about staff layoffs at Fried Frank, a commenter drew our attention to this fascinating 1990 article from the New York Times. It seems that the commenter was trying to challenge the recent claim by firm chair Valerie Ford Jacob that the firm has never laid off attorneys. The NYT piece — by David Margolick, former national legal correspondent for the Times, now at Portfolio (and also one of Kash’s journalism professors at NYU) — mentions Fried Frank as a firm that may have engaged in “stealth layoffs.”

Margolick’s article doesn’t use the term “stealth layoffs,” but the phenomenon it describes is essentially identical to what we’ve been reporting in the pages of ATL lately. The article begins:

They were the legal profession’s gilded generation, an army of lawyers without limits. As law students, they were wined and dined and wooed by the most prestigious law firms in New York. Once hired, they began settling into a frantic but fantastically lucrative life. It was a life of glamour, prestige and, they assumed, stability.

Now, only a few years later, dozens of these lawyers have had a crash course in the realities of modern Wall Street practice. For the first time in their lives – lives of success atop success – they find themselves in an unusual position. They have been fired.

As the sour corporate climate reaches large law firms in New York and to a lesser degree cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, a bubble has burst. With business down, particularly in corporate work, real estate, and mergers and acquisitions, several of the most famous law firms have dismissed substantial numbers of lawyers, particularly those in the early years of their careers.

This article could have been written yesterday. But it was actually written over 18 years ago; the dateline is August 12, 1990. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

More excerpts and discussion — including a brief comment from Margolick, plus information about what junior associates earned back in 1990 — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Back to the Future: Stealth Layoffs in 1990″

vacation memo from a turkey.jpgWe here at ATL are big believers in push-back. Tell the partners and your colleagues about your personal needs and desires, and try your best to take some control over your work schedule. The firm can survive without you.

But the theory behind successful push back is that you are not the most important person at the firm. It seems that one first-year associate didn’t learn that lesson. He sent out the following “vacation memo,” after just three days at the firm:

1. I will depart for vacation on Wednesday, November 26th (the Wednesday before thanksgiving). I plan to return to the office on Tuesday, December 2nd (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving).

2. In case of emergency, I will be staying at [redacted]. I can best be reached on my cell phone at [redacted]. I will be visiting my parents, and their house has a landline [redacted].

3. The secretaries in my pool will open my mail. These are [redacted].

4. I will be answering my own phone at the numbers listed above.

5. I currently have received no matters, though this will undoubtedly change by Thanksgiving.

6. I will send out an update and official vacation memorandum with this information a week before Thanksgiving.

Some helpful advice, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How Does A Turkey Write A Vacation Memo?”

All By Myself single alone lonely National Singles Week.jpgAre you still stuck at the office, settling in for a long evening of work, and thinking about what to order from SeamlessWeb? Maybe you goofed off all day because you have nobody to go home to at night.
(We know what that’s like. It’s why we’ve been covering the ATL night shift lately.)
Fellow single people, we wish you a Happy National Singles Week (September 21-28). From the San Francisco Chronicle:

There are 92 million unmarried Americans, and this is their week.

Since the 1980s, the third full week of September has been National Singles Week. Started by Ohio’s Buckeye Singles Council as a way to recognize the role singles play in society, it is now known as National Unmarried and Single Americans Week. According to the U.S. census, the adjusted name acknowledges that many unmarried Americans do not identify with the word “single” because they have partners or are widowed.

Many of them are also rejecting the stereotyped notion that they’re living in hope of the perfect spouse appearing, a Disneylike vision in a reality-show world. They’re creating a grassroots effort to obtain equal rights in health care access, taxation and other areas while demanding that they be seen as living their lives in full.

And equal rights in law offices, too. Single lawyers: How many times have you had to pick up the slack or hold down the fort for a colleague who left work early for an anniversary dinner, daughter’s ballet recital, or Valentine’s Day celebration?
Read more — plus take a reader poll, concerning whether single people or married people make better Biglaw employees — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Happy National Singles Week!
(And: Do single people or married people make better law firm employees?)”

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