This is a continuation of the past two articles that I published in ATL over the past month. My first article gave my view that the profitability metric of Profits Per Partner is a good servant but a bad master and, as a master, it is a root cause of serious problems for Biglaw. In my second article, I put forth a Profits Per Partner Emancipation Plan as a different way of doing business that I hope will eventually be adopted. Now, here I am giving my theory on what I think is a higher level of law firm profitability analysis, which is to “Embrace Volatility.”
Let me start by asking you: what is it that we all crave in our hearts? I mean, we all want money and power and fame and to be cool and good-looking and talented at sports or music or acting — but in addition to that — I think it is one of the basest human emotions to crave:
* Another one bites the dust over at Main Justice: David O’Neil, the head of the criminal division, is stepping down in the wake of the BNP Paribas case, and will likely have many white-shoe law firm suitors. [DealBook / New York Times]
* Fox Rothschild picked up a 18-lawyer boutique firm in Texas, which will serve as the home of its first outpost in the Lone Star State. Energy law, surprisingly, wasn’t the driving factor. [Legal Intelligencer]
* “I have a heart and I have two kids.” That’s a pretty damn good reason for Biglaw attorneys to take a break from their corporate billable hours to represent undocumented children pro bono. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Scott Greenfield reviews Lat’s forthcoming novel, Supreme Ambitions (affiliate link). Of course, in SHG style, it contains a spoiler. Try to skip that clearly marked paragraph. [Simple Justice]
* Weil Gotshal is tired of winnowing its workers, so this time around, the firm is relinquishing some of its real estate. The firm will have the same address as usual, but its space will be smaller — 20 percent smaller. [WSJ Law Blog]
* It’s not just leaders of Biglaw firms who are looking to downsize. Leaders of midsize firms are trying to do the same thing, but with their management responsibilities instead of their people. Charming. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
* Lawyers are typically stereotyped by the uninformed as being some of the richest people in America. As luck would have it, some lawyers are the richest people in America. Which ones? We’ll have more on this later. [Am Law Daily]
* “If I could redo a year ago, I would still go. Just because I know that [law school] still opens doors.” We’ve got a correction: Silly 2L, Columbia Law — not law school in general — still opens doors. [USA Today]
* Tracy Morgan has spoken out for the first time since his tragic accident this summer, but only after Wal-Mart blamed him for getting hurt in the first place. It’s a rollback on pure class. [New York Daily News]
Ed. note: This is the latest post by Above the Law’s guest conversationalist, Zach Abramowitz, of blogcasting platform ReplyAll. You can see some of his other conversations and musings here.
I never wanted to be a corporate lawyer. After three mind-numbing years of law school, I barely wanted to be a lawyer, but at least being a litigator seemed mildly bearable. So when I got the call two weeks before starting that I was getting placed in the firm’s M&A department, I didn’t know the first thing about due diligence. I had done zero corporate work during my summer internship, and I didn’t have any idea what corporate lawyers did on a daily basis. Smash cut to me sitting in a dimly lit office in December aimlessly plugging provisions into a chart while being mentally and verbally abused by the midlevel associate above me in the deal. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or why any of this was important. Throughout my two years as an associate, I tried convincing myself that diligence was interesting — it was a way to learn about a company from the inside out.
The real truth is that I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t give this work to a paralegal or, better yet, a robot. Both could have done my job better and cheaper. Well, wouldn’t you know it, savvy former Weil Gotshal associate Noah Waisberg has built DiligenceEngine, a piece of software that will find key provisions in documents for you, put them into charts, and save your clients time and money on due diligence. And if I know Biglaw partners, they LOVE to save their clients money and shave hours off the bill.
This week, I’ll speak with Noah about why diligence sucks, why human lawyers suck at it, and how he left law to make your life as a reviewing attorney easier and a little less miserable…
Sometimes, the internet seems to exist largely in order to rate things. User-generated and unverified reviews of everything from movies to cars abound. The thing with this proliferation of ratings, be they on Yelp, or Amazon, or whatever, is that we usually don’t have any idea whether or not the reviewer has any basis for his rating. (In fact, the spoof product review has become its own literary micro-genre.)
Spurious or baseless ratings are not a problem when it comes to ATL’s Insider Survey (17,300 responses and counting — thanks everyone!), in which practicing attorneys and current students evaluate their own schools or employers. Among other things, our survey asks attorneys to nominate firms with over- and underrated practices within the respondent’s own practice specialty. Litigators nominate litigation departments, etc.
Which firms do those in-the-know consider to be better (or weaker) than their reputations?
A time-sensitive matter comes in. An experienced hand is needed to help. Where to look for that help? In Biglaw, the answer is usually an easy one: call up Partner No. 37 in distinguished branch office No. 6, and keep the billable hours rolling — with a happy nod towards a successful “cross-sell,” and instant validation of the underlying “size is good” concept behind so many of today’s firms. But is Partner No. 37 really the best lawyer to help out? Hard to believe that the answer is “yes” more often than not. Because Biglaw firms are constructed the way they are, however, there is a premium on making sure that existing firm resources are utilized as much as possible.
At the same time, we know the legal industry is struggling to cope with demand fluctuations, or all too often a lack of demand for expensive legal services. In the current environment, it is not a surprise to see Biglaw firms contorting themselves to reach optimal size, whether through mergers, layoffs, or lateral growth. Despite their efforts, there are very few firms that are optimally size-calibrated in relation to the demand for their services. For those firms fortunate enough to experience the occasional demand spike, retaining the ability to be nimble on staffing can mean the difference between a satisfied client or one who looks elsewhere “next time there is a big need.” Firms want repeat business, and being able to incorporate experienced additional lawyers — within the budget for a particular matter — onto the legal team can make a real difference in whether or not that repeat business happens.
But where else can firms (of all sizes) go for experienced help on short notice?
* “[T]he ‘superstar’ model of Supreme Court advocacy marketing is prevailing”: recent Supreme Court litigation has been dominated by Biglaw and boutiques, and five of them handled about half of last term’s cases. [WSJ Law Blog]
* It’s not a “done deal” yet, but Albany Law School is in serious talks with the University at Albany to form an affiliation by the end of the year. There’s been no word on whether Albany Law would remain a stand-alone school under the yet-to-be inked arrangement. [Albany Business Review]
* The dismissal of lawsuits concerning allegedly deceptive employment statistics at several Chicago-area law schools was affirmed by an Illinois appeals court. ::insert sad trombone here:: [National Law Journal]
Hallelujah and rejoice, for there are new Biglaw rankings upon us. Today, the American Lawyer magazine announced its Global 100, a ranking of the world’s 100 largest law firms in terms of total revenue. As we learned from the 2014 Am Law 100, the super-rich among the world’s Biglaw firms are only getting richer, and the latest rankings serve only as confirmation of this fact.
Last year, there were some surprising moves among the top 10 global firms, with DLA Piper swooping in to steal Baker & McKenzie’s thunder as the top-grossing firm in the world. Did the global mega-firm manage to reclaim its glory in the Global 100?
Jiminy jillickers! ATL editors are going all over the place over the next month or so. Or at least all over the Eastern Seaboard. If we aren’t heading to your neck of the woods on these trips, never fear, we may hit you up on the next time around. We’ve already hit up Houston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in the past year.
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.
The JOBS Act created new tools for companies to publicly advertise securities deals online. As a result, thousands of new deals have hit the market and hundreds of millions in capital has been raised, spurring a wealth of new business development opportunities for attorneys.
Fund deals, startup capital raises, PIPE deals and loan syndicates are just a handful of the transactions benefiting from the JOBS Act. InvestorID FirmTM is a platform designed to help attorneys equip their clients with the workflow, marketing and compliance tools to publicly solicit a securities offering online. By providing clients with the tools to painlessly navigate the regulatory landscape of general solicitation, InvestorID FirmTM helps attorneys add value above just legal services.
The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) went into effect in 2013 and permits Regulation D offerings of securities to be advertised publicly. This means that funds and companies can now use social media, emails and web sites to market transactions to new “accredited” investors.
However, with these new powers come new pain points. InvestorID FirmTM provides a secure, fully hosted, cloud-based platform with a breadth of tools for your clients, including: