After a bit of explanation last week, we’re back to live action. As you’ve likely concluded from the title, this is the second installment in a series. Last week we discussed hours spent in the office, with the lesson for future small law practitioners being this (based on your comments and emails): small law practice doesn’t necessarily mean fewer hours.
On the heels of that conversation, I thought we should delve into the reason young associates so often spend those long hours in the office becoming fatter, more pale versions of their pre-law selves. It’s likely the bane of your existence regardless of the size of your firm or the size of the city in which you find yourself…
I graduated law school in 2006 at the same time as a close friend. We’ll call him Brian, since that’s his name. Brian went to a top five law school; I went to a… well, not a T-5. He took a Biglaw job in Manhattan; I moved home to Georgia, where I ended up in Small Law. Having used each other as sounding boards throughout law school, it only made sense that we’d continue to do so as we transitioned into our respective practices. We shared many of the same fears and growing pains. For example: Did I pass the bar exam? Am I handling this issue correctly? What work am I allowed to, or even supposed to, hand off to a paralegal/secretary?
Beyond those general issues, I was surprised at how different our worlds really were on both a macro and micro level. Most of you have heard or been a part of discussions on the general differences that Small Law is supposed to provide: better hours, less pay, more freedom, etc. I want to move past broad generalities and share some of my actual experiences as compared with Brian’s, as a means to jump start a discussion. There have been some very thoughtful comments attached to the first twoposts, and I hope that trend continues here.
This will be the first of several posts dedicated to a deeper dive into the world of Small Law and how it measures up to its Biglaw counterpart. Let’s start with…
If you are a client looking for a lawyer, what will be the biggest influence on how much you pay that lawyer per hour? The excellence of the lawyer you hire? Please; pull yourself up off the ground and get back on your turnip truck.
Doesn’t it make more sense to pay more for lawyers at bigger firms? After all, size is what your looking for, not great legal work — right?
A new report, called the Real Rate Report, illustrates that firm size and city have more to do with price than the experience of the attorneys charging you money…
People are talking about an interesting Slate article entitled “Leaving Big Law Behind: The many frustrations that cause well-paid lawyers to hang out their own shingles.” It’s currently the most-read piece on the site. But it’s actually quite similar, even down to some of the sources, to an article that appeared a few days earlier in Crain’s New York Business:
A lawyer’s hourly billing rate used to be a badge of pride — the higher the number, the more valuable (and supposedly brilliant) the lawyer. But over the past 18 months, a strange phenomenon has been sweeping the legal arena: Partners at major law firms are quitting because they want to be able to charge less for their services.
This is, of course, not a new development. Kash and I wrote about it in a December 2009 cover story for Washingtonian magazine, in which we interviewed a former member of the $1,000-an-hour club who left a large law firm and started his own shop so he could offer clients better value. But all the recent coverage — in Crain’s, Slate, and elsewhere — suggests that the trend is picking up steam.
Which kinds of lawyers are leaving Biglaw to hang up their own shingles? Why are they doing it? And how’s it going for them?
Have you ever heard of a “chief value officer”? Let’s assume your answer is “no,” because you don’t spend your free time reading synergistic white papers produced by McKinsey & Co. But that’s something the good people at Drinker Biddle would like to change. The Legal Intelligencer reports that Drinker Biddle is creating a new position to help the firm focus on client value:
If in a push for efficiency law firms are changing the way they offer their services, it’s only logical that how they market those services needs to change as well.
That’s a concept not lost on Drinker Biddle & Reath, which, after scaling back what it calls its client relations department over the last four years, is ready to grow it in a different way after widely restructuring the department’s functions.
The restructuring is highlighted by the appointment of Chicago-based Kristin Sudholz as the firm’s first-ever chief value officer.
You gotta ask yourself: What kind of economy are we living in where a professional services firm needs to create an executive position to make sure clients receive value for the services they purchase? It’s almost like a automobile manufacturer needing to create a “chief driving officer” to oversee consumers’ ability to actually drive the product.
The thing is, I’m almost positive GM does have an executive in charge of “drivability” or something. So maybe this Drinker Biddle idea isn’t totally off the wall…
Nixon Peabody was awinner in Signature Flight Support Corp. v. Landow Aviation, a dispute between two aviation companies at the Washington Dulles airport. Nixon landed a victory for Signature Flight, and filed a motion for Landow to pay attorneys’ fees in the case.
Landow thought Nixon’s fees were sky-high and opposed the motion, resulting in a review of Nixon’s bills by Judge James Cacheris (E.D. Va.). Judge Cacheris buzzed Nixon’s bills. From the National Law Journal:
U.S. District Judge James Cacheris of the Eastern District of Virginia determined that Nixon Peabody’s $1.57 million in fees was too high and slashed about $440,000 off that amount, awarding $1.13 million….
In his July 30 decision, Cacheris found that the number of hours Nixon Peabody expended on the case demonstrated a “lack of billing judgment exercised by plaintiff’s counsel” and “overall excessiveness of plaintiff’s fee request.”
Less than half a million slashed? Pocket change — though that was on top of $205,102.50 that Nixon says it had already excluded from the bill.
Reading the opinion offers lots of fun Skaddenfreude, perhaps particularly for attorneys laid off by Nixon Peabody early last year. Partner Louis Dolan got knocked by the court for spending hundreds of billable hours at the end of 2008 doing work better suited for a junior associate…
Welcome to the next in our series on the results of the 2010 ATL/Career Center Associate Satisfaction survey. We’ve used the survey results to revamp the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link, with completely updated profiles. Each week, we are highlighting insider information that Members shared about their firms in the eight key areas of associate satisfaction covered by the Career Center.
Today, we look at how your firm and others measure up in one very important aspect: Billable Hours.
This Texas-based firm, with one of the world’s leading energy practices, does not have a billable hours requirement, although bonus amounts are contingent upon meeting certain hours thresholds.
While this "top-notch" New York-based firm has no official billable hours requirement, Lateral Link Members report that the unofficial expectation is between 2,100 and 2,400 hours.
This California-based firm, which focuses on intellectual property, has an unusual billing system based on "billed, not billable, hours," and although the billable minimum is only 1,700 hours, hours "recorded but not billed out to the client are disregarded."
First-year associates at this East Coast firm are required to bill 1,900 hours per year, while other associates are required to bill 1,950 hours, a requirement that Members concur is “attainable and reasonable.”
More highlights — check to see if your firm is featured — after the jump.
People are always telling laid off or unemployed lawyer to “hang out a shingle” and start their own firm. They say this like it is comparatively easy for young lawyers to just go out there and drum up enough business to support themselves. It’s not, but some people are at least trying.
Today, the Washington Post profiles (gavel bang: ABA Journal) a group of lawyers that aren’t just trying to start their own firm, they’re also trying to kill the billable hour while they do it:
When clients call Washington attorney Sue Wang, the clock doesn’t start ticking.
Phone calls aren’t billed in six-minute intervals and each hour of work won’t cost several hundred dollars.
Wang and the four other lawyers in Clarity Law Group aim to reconfigure the billable-hour business model at law firms that she said tends to shut out small and start-up companies with shallow pockets.
Yeah, yeah, nobody likes the billable hour — Clarity Law Group purportedly has a “timeshare” business model. Does this mean that potential clients will get a free meal while the lawyers lock them in a room and try to sell themselves?
In April and May of this year, the Altman Weil consulting firm surveyed the leaders of 787 law firms with 50 or more lawyers about the state of the legal industry. After receiving responses from 218 of them (a 28% response rate), Altman Weil crunched the data and compiled it in a big law firm survey, which it published earlier this week.
The survey came out a few days ago and has been covered extensively in variouslegalnewsoutlets. But we weren’t in any great rush to write about it, since it doesn’t contain much to get excited about: many of the findings are (1) gloomy and (2) unsurprising.
To turn the Nixon Peabodytheme song on its head, these days it seems that “everyone’s a loser” in the world of Biglaw….
Earlier this week, we ran an open thread how people are doing on their hours. We also had a survey asking people to tell us how many hours they are on track for. We received strong reader participation in the poll, but there was a flaw in the survey. According to commenters:
elie. you need to leave an option to “view results” w/o checking. Law students and others will be interested in this, but will have to choose a selection to view results….
Well, I assumed that law students would just wait until the today’s follow up post since I clearly stated I would do one:
I just checked the category that includes 0 hours to view the results, so the stats are skewed. FAIL!!!
Have you ever heard of a little thing called patience? Can we please act like adults?
GOD. Fine. I screwed up. Sorry for expecting readers to exhibit a modicum of restraint and not click on a poll to which they didn’t have an answer.
With the caveat that the numbers for the “less than 1600″ category are skewed by people who couldn’t wait two days for the follow up, the results of the survey appear below…
So you spent a considerable amount of time courting, selling and maybe even doing some friendly stalking of that attractive lateral partner candidate with a sizable book. After he or she ignored your emails and didn’t return your calls, a few weeks go by and you read a press release in the legal media announcing the recent move to a competing firm.
Rats. Another one got away from you. You cringe when you consider how much time was spent in meetings that did not bear fruit. Your heart aches when recall how you were led to believe this was a marriage made in heaven.
You have been rejected.
The sting of rejection is painful, even for fancy law firms. But you need to find a way that you can turn this disappointment into a legitimate learning experience.
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
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 six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months (Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong again March 15 to 23), and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
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