Billable Hours

To pass the time while commuting, I like to listen to podcasts. If ATL had a podcast I would add that to my listening rotation (especially if Lat is able to pull in sitting judges to guest host or as interview subjects). But this is not a column about podcasts. Though the idea for this contest came from a podcast I was listening to, the B.S. Report with Bill Simmons. The host was interviewing a former ESPN colleague, and they were discussing how certain statistics in baseball are misleading.

An example? Wins for pitchers. Apparently there is a movement to abolish that statistic. Why? Because a pitcher can pitch a terrible game, and still come away with the win, assuming his lineup bails him out. Conversely, a pitcher can pitch a beautiful game, and lose just because his hitters decide to approach their at-bats like the pudgy partner from bankruptcy at the annual intra-firm softball game. To prove the limited utility of using wins as a proxy for determining who is the best pitcher, consider the following. By nearly all accounts, Clayton Kershaw of the L.A. Dodgers is the single most dominant pitcher in baseball today. Unsurprisingly, he is reportedly in line for the richest (around $30 million a year or so) contract extension for a pitcher — ever. But he has fewer wins this season (so far) than Bartolo Colon, a 40-year-old journeyman pitcher (on his sixth team, and nearly a decade removed from his last All-Star game appearance), who is making non-equity service partner money ($3 million) by baseball standards. Wins simply do not tell the whole story.

Biglaw has its share of statistical shortcomings….

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We don’t do enough reporting about the struggles of contract attorneys. We should do more, because that’s where the jobs are. Biglaw firms have been able to keep traditional associate hiring down thanks to an explosion in the use of contract attorneys. Getting one of these hourly wage jobs actually represents success in a market saturated with underemployed attorneys.

Now I remember why I don’t do a lot of reporting on contract attorneys: acknowledging that these, and not high-paying traditional associate salaried positions, are the jobs coming back in the “recovery” is terribly, terribly sad.

This might come as a shock to you, but being a document monkey on an hourly wage is not all that it’s cracked up to be. These hard-working people generally want to work as much as possible (kind of the opposite of traditional associates) for obvious reasons. But they are often frustrated by all sorts of bureaucracy and poor treatment in their quest to wring some value out of their J.D. degrees.

We have some emails detailing the struggles of one group of contractors working on projects in D.C. Hopefully, this will inspire other contract attorneys to share their experiences with “the new normal”….

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Last week, I wrote about face time considerations for associates. In Biglaw, face time is important for partners as well, albeit in a different way, with a significant exception for “pure” service partners.

Service partners are like associates when it comes to face time, with one major difference. In contrast to the often large constituency that associates need to please, your typical service partner needs to focus more exclusively on the specific rainmakers who provide them their work. That is why you will frequently find a service partner who is dependent on a particular rainmaker trailing that rainmaker around the office like a faithful Lab trailing a treat-bearing little kid. Or never leaving until the rainmaker leaves for the day. Vacations? Either timed to the rainmaker’s vacation, or planned with the idea that one would be perfectly accessible should the rainmaker call. Most of the time, this behavior by service partners happens naturally. When you have limited sources of work, it is folly not to stay close by those sources on a constant basis.

As important as face time is for senior and mid-level partners, it is even more important for junior partners….

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Regular readers of Above the Law know about the class action lawsuits brought against some law schools accused of fraudulently inducing students to enroll. For example, ATL covered the great legal work evident in the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against New York Law School, and the affirmation of that dismissal on appeal.

What you might not know, however, is that cooking schools, including the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, were defendants in similar litigation long before law schools were. I knew Ray Gallo, the attorney prosecuting some of those landmark cases, so I followed them closely. Those lawsuits established a kind of model for proceeding against law schools. Unfortunately for the cooking schools, their litigation results were significantly worse than those obtained to date by the law schools.

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Shave, get dressed, grab your gadgets (firm-issued Blackberry, personal phone, tablet, etc.,) and head out the door. Car, train, ferry, subway — whatever it takes to get you to the office. Log into your computer, connect your phone for a charge, and head down the hall for a cup of coffee from the pantry. Throw out “good morning” as you pass people along the way. Grab your coffee, sneak a look at the vending machine, decide against starting your day with an 800-calorie cinnamon-glazed “bun,” and head back to your office. Dive into your morning inbox triage, and hope no one bothers you until your first conference call in 30 minutes. Congratulations on making it in for your next day in Biglaw’s Class A splendor.

Eight to fourteen hours later (depending on your seniority, amount of work, and level of domestic tranquility), it is time to pack up. To do it again the next day. You may not be happy with how things are going for you career-wise, and you may get jealous when your tech-sector friends brag about their 5:30 p.m. “after-work” pedicure and pastis-tasting session, but at least you were present at work for the day.

Face time is a concept that has gotten more media attention than it probably deserves. But let’s give it a little more….

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Amanda Bynes

* Dewey know which Biglaw firms and ex-partners were sued by the failed firm’s bankruptcy estate? Sadly, they must all be asking, “Howrey going to survive now that Allan Diamond is on the case?” [Am Law Daily]

* You’d probably love to work as an associate on a 9-5 schedule with billable requirements so low you’d get canned anywhere else. There’s just one catch: You’d have a “proportionately lower salary.” [Daily Report]

* “Law professors and law deans are paid too much,” so the ABA is reducing tenure requirements for law school accreditation, which will make it easier for them to be laid off. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* The ABA also decided to cut law schools some slack in terms of graduates’ employment data, and it’s likely due to the U.S. News rankings reckoning. Say hello to the 10-months-after graduation jobs statistic. [National Law Journal]

* Following the Windsor ruling, the Social Security Administration is paying claims for married gay couples living in states where same-sex marriage is recognized. As for the rest, better luck next time. [BuzzFeed]

* Would-be senator Cory Booker has taken annual payouts from his former firm, Trenk DiPasquale, since he left. You may remember that firm’s name from the C&D letter seen around the world. [New York Post]

* Author John Grisham was so pissed his books were banned at Guantánamo Bay that he took up the cause of prisoners wrongfully accused, detained for years, and released without apology. [New York Times]

* Almost as if to add insult to injury, Bernie Madoff was allegedly involved in a love triangle with one of his employees who’s about to go to trial. Apparently having dirty money is a desirable trait in a man. [Reuters]

* Amanda Bynes is still in the psych ward on a 5150, and her mother was granted a temporary conservatorship over her cray cray kid’s financial affairs. Way to follow in Britney Spears’s footsteps. [CNN]

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Sarah Powell, author of Biglaw: How to Survive the First Two Years of Practice in a Mega-Firm (affiliate link), helps new associates face their own unrealistic expectations about life in Biglaw.

My last post focused on how much it can suck to be a junior associate in Biglaw today. In fact, much of what I say about Biglaw could be construed as a tad critical by the cynical and jaded (or sane).

So let me begin with a caveat: what I write is never aimed at my former firm, or any firm in particular. In fact, if you choose Biglaw, I have no doubt that my firm is one of the best places to practice. My crucial point, which is not controversial, is that Biglaw’s pathologies cannot be isolated to one or two crazy partners here or there. The problems of Biglaw are endemic.

So before we get too far down that Biglaw-bashing road, and especially for the folks gearing up for OCI, let’s look at what you can get from Biglaw if you decide to say “damn the torpedoes” and push ahead despite all warnings.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Jeffrey E. Stone is Co-Chair of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and Chair of the Firm’s Management Committee. In addition to his management roles, Jeffrey is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He concentrates his practice in the areas of white-collar criminal defense, complex commercial litigation, internal investigations and RICO. He represents corporations, boards of directors, senior executives and other individuals in a variety of complex civil litigation and criminal prosecutions, involving a broad range of industries, including health care, manufacturing and financial services. He has tried more than 40 cases to verdict before juries in federal and state court.

Jeffrey has served as National Chairman of the Stanford Fund (responsible for all annual giving to Stanford University), as a National Trustee for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as outside counsel to the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, as a board member of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and as president of the Jewish Family and Community Services agency. He currently serves as a member of the national Board of Governors for the American Jewish Committee.

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?

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George Zimmerman: Not Guilty

* Size matters when it comes to hourly rates. Because when you work in Biglaw, it’ll be all the more odious for your poor clients when you “churn that bill, baby.” [Corporate Counsel]

* Would you want this Cadwalader cad, a former mailroom supervisor, at your “erotic disposal”? The object of his affections didn’t want him either, and she’s suing. [New York Daily News]

* In the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, the NAACP is pressing for federal charges and a civil suit may be in the works. This trial isn’t over in the court of public opinion. [Bloomberg]

* This experience inspired George Zimmerman, fresh off his acquittal, to go to law school to help the wrongfully accused. If it makes you feel better, when he graduates, he’ll be unemployed. [Reuters]

* Here’s the lesson learned by Prop 8 proponents: If at first you don’t succeed at the Supreme Court, try, try again at the state level and base your arguments on technicalities. [Los Angeles Times]

* You do not want this patent troll — one of the most notorious in the country — to “go thug” on you. Apparently this is just another danger of alleged infringement in the modern world. [New York Times]

* Asiana Airlines is considering suing the NTSB and a California television station over the airing of “inaccurate and offensive” information (read: wildly racist) about the pilots of Flight 214. [CNN]

* Ariel Castro was slapped with an additional 648 counts in the kidnapping case against him, bringing the total to 977. Prosecutors are not yet seeking the death penalty. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

I recently heard the managing partner of a regional law firm say that alternative fee arrangements are like teenage sex: “More of it is being talked about than is actually being done, and the little that’s being done is being done poorly.”

My corporation now uses alternative fee agreements for a large percentage of its work. All of those arrangements have worked out acceptably, and one (which I’ll discuss after the jump) has played out spectacularly. The harder question is this: How does one convince tens of thousands of readers to click through the jump (and “continue reading”) a column about alternative fee arrangements (because clicks through the jump are, after all, the relevant metric to the Above the Law gang)?

I’ve got it! Gin up a riddle, and put the question before the jump and the punch line after. What reader could resist?

So — riddle me this:

What’s the similarity between discussions about alternative fee agreements and elephantine mating?

Both take place on a high level, involve much trumpeting, . . .

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