The week before Labor Day is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Has been for a long time. Even during my decade-plus in Biglaw, a fact that may be shocking to those who believe that the Biglaw experience ranges from the tolerable to the miserable — and never enjoyable. But even for those who feel trapped in the ravenous clutches of the insatiable Biglaw billable hours beast, the end of August almost always offers a welcome, if brief, respite. Because late August is prime Biglaw vacation season, and offices nationwide are running on a skeleton staff.
Partners, and even some associates, are trying to squeeze in some family time before the start of school. The younger set is off for a final round of beach weekends, or just enjoying lazy days in the office, relishing the chance to kick out at a normal hour. With time to hit the gym, before a meal in a real restaurant, rather than a Seamless-delivered dinner in a takeout tray. During my Biglaw years, the end of August meant the last few days of commuting down to the Jersey Shore by ferry from Manhattan, with twilight views of the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Bridge. Moments of serenity, even in a city of perpetual motion.
The end of summer can be wonderful, and the temptation to milk the most relaxation out of the waning days of the season great. But it would be a mistake to view this period as only one of enjoyment….
Law firm swag. Ubiquitous and occasionally useful. Years later I still use a slim thermos that fits in my bike bottle holder, though the firm’s logo has long since worn off. But, I mean, who wants law firm branded stuff anyway? Maybe a Wachtell tie might be nice, or a Slaughter & May pencil sharpener, but really, the market outside then-current employees is virtually non-existent. Meaning swag is usually a relatively harmless exercise in self-indulgent corporate team building. Usually….
When a firm starts losing partners to its rivals and slowing down their hiring (or even conducting layoffs), it’s usually a bad sign. But one Biglaw firm that’s lost a number of high-profile partners over the last year is touting its new, streamlined approach. You see, they meant to suffer all those defections and lose some of their biggest clients. It’s all part of reinventing the firm for the modern business climate.
Is this just good public relations, or are they on to something?
For months, we talked to counsel about our prospects in the case. He was sanguine:
“There’s nothing to worry about here. The plaintiff put a huge number in its prayer for relief, but you can’t possibly lose that much. Plaintiff’s liability case is thin, and the damages are inflated. You’ll probably win. If you lose, you’d lose no more than $1 million on an average day. On the worst day known to man, you can’t even theoretically lose more than $5 million. I wouldn’t offer more than a couple hundred grand to settle.”
A few months before trial, we ask counsel to put some skin in the game: “It’ll be expensive to try this case, and you feel good about our prospects. We’d like you to propose an alternative fee agreement that aligns your interests with ours. We’d like to pay you less than your ordinary hourly rates in the months leading up to trial, but we’ll give you a success fee if we win. Please think about it, and let us know if you have any ideas.”
A couple of weeks pass, as counsel discusses the case with his firm’s “senior management.” When the alternative fee proposal arrives, the goalposts have miraculously moved! In the course of just two uneventful weeks, our prospects for success have changed entirely!
* First things first, she’s the realest: In light of the ongoing situation in Ferguson, Missouri, of course Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged that we have a “real racial problem” in America. [National Law Journal]
* Cooley Law has experienced legal troubles over its job stats for the past few years, and a great deal of it has been handled by Miller Canfield. It raked in almost $1M from the school from 2011 to 2012. [Am Law Daily]
* Yesterday, a federal judge in Florida struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional. The latest opinion is one of nineteen in favor of marriage equality. The decision was stayed, but yay for Flori-duh! [CNN]
* Half of Concordia Law’s third-year class will not be returning to school this fall because they’d rather wait to receive word on whether the school will be accredited than waste more of their time there. [Boise State Public Radio]
* Thanks to JudgmentMarketplace.com, a dentist was finally able to collect on a a years-old default judgment against Kim Kardashian — but only because a lawyer bought it from him. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Judge John D. Bates wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committee leadership “on behalf of the Judiciary” explaining why it’s important to keep FISA an opaque Star Chamber. Chief Judge Kozinsky, um, disagrees with that “on behalf” part, and calls out Judge Bates in this letter for mouthing off where he has absolutely no authority. [Just Security]
* The twisted, contradictory, desperate logic behind Halbig. In GIF form!!! [Buzzfeed]
* Two InfiLaw schools, Florida Coastal and our Twitter buddies at Charlotte, are offering refunds to students who perpetually fail the bar as well as a refund to students who don’t get clerkships or externships. That’s nice. A whole $10,000 for failing the bar twice and $2000 for not landing a position. Don’t bother comparing that too how much the students shelled out for their degrees because it’s too depressing. [JD Journal]
* Do you want to know how to survive Biglaw? [2Civility]
* Interesting advice on how to best take advantage of the more informal rules of mediation — let your clients build the narrative. [Katz Justice]
* Judge gives a speech and suggests a woman should become a phone sex operator. That’ll work out well for him. [Journal Gazette]
* Maybe we should be getting law degrees as undergrads? That way we might have minors that employers will care about. [Chronicle of Higher Education]
* Geez, lots of judges in trouble today — here’s an elected judge accused of lying about where she lived to get elected. She denies it, but her filings list three different addresses. Oops. [Times-Picayune]
We were facing increasing financial pressure. So we undertook a substantial restructuring, and that restructuring put us on a solid economic and financial footing, allowing us to do a combination to meet our strategic needs.
Many if not most of the U.S.-based law firms in the 350 to 600 or 700 lawyer-range are feeling a great deal of financial pressure. We felt it more than many because we had a number of very large cases—totaling, at the end of the day, nearly $80 million of a $330 million budget—settle and wind up through normal course. That dramatic decline in revenue exacerbated the pressure on us, but the financial pressure on all law firms today are very significant.
There – I always wanted to write an article that had such a strange title that people would look at it and wonder what I was talking about. So here goes….
Everyone just loves to beat up on the big law firms. I keep reading articles everywhere that say:
They are overpriced.
They are inefficient.
Their partnerships destroy innovation.
They are terrible places to work – sweatshops – associates are worked to death until they quit.
Their business model is broken.
There was even a book that came out a year or so ago with a great title, The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis (affiliate link). To me the book described the law business as part of a dying profession that is enmeshed in a conspiracy to ruin the lives of all in it — except the fat-cat senior partners at the top of the pyramid. I admit I read it a while ago and it is a bit hazy in my mind, but the author, a former Kirkland & Ellis partner, clearly is not a fan of the current state of Biglaw….
* Clearly we’ve got some problems, Cleary: Following Argentina’s default, the country is being advised to drop the law firm that said it was a good idea to default in the first place. [The Guardian]
* Lawyers have been flocking to Ferguson, Missouri, left and right to serve as “the eyes and ears of those who protect and guarantee civil rights.” That’s nice, but it’s kind of not working. [National Law Journal]
* “I really don’t know how the people who work there can keep a sense of sort of personal dignity.” American Law plunged in the rankings because of its “dubious employment prospects.” Ouch. [Washington City Paper]
* In case you’ve been wondering what the NFL’s response to all of the cheerleader wage-and-hour complaints are, here it is: “Labor law? LOL. The NFL is immune from state labor law.” [NBC Bay Area]
* Apparently there’s a national court-reporting championship that the world has been missing out on — until now. There was a major upset this year, and a new winner was crowned. Congrats! [WSJ Law Blog]
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things have changed recently in Korea – a few of our US and UK client firms are looking, very selectively, for a lateral US associate hire. Until just recently, there was not much hiring like this going on in Korea, since US and UK firms started opening offices there. We have already placed two US associates in Korea in the past month at top firms. Most of the hiring partners we work with in Korea do not actively work with other recruiters.
If you are a Korean fluent US associate in London, New York or another major US market, 2nd to 6th year, at a top 20 firm, with cap markets or M&A focus (or mix), or project finance background, and you are interested in lateraling to Korea to a top US or UK firm, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our head of Asia, Evan Jowers, was just in Korea recently, and Evan and Robert Kinney will be in Korea in a few weeks. We are in the process of helping several firms open new offices in Korea (a number of which are interviewing our partner level candidates) and also helping existing offices there fill openings.
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