But enough of that. Let’s hear from the managing partner of our law firm:
Ah! Orlando in March! What a fine time and place for our annual firmwide retreat.
I want to welcome everyone to this magnificent resort, and I want to take this opportunity to say a few words about a subject that’s dear to our hearts: Billing time.
To paraphrase Sir Thomas More in “A Man For All Seasons“: “When a man [fills out his timesheets,] he is holding his own soul in his hands like water; and if he should open his fingers then — he needn’t ever hope to find himself again.”
For the junior associates in the crowd, consider this: You will, at some point, have a slow month. You’ll get nervous that the firm will punish you for not having billed enough hours. To protect yourself, you’ll be tempted to borrow from the future. You’ll think that, if you add just four hours to this month’s time, you’ll have hit your billing target. If you charge those four hours to your largest client, no one will notice that you’ve slightly padded the bill. And you’ll figure that you’ll make this up to the client in some future month; you’ll work four hours some Saturday morning that you won’t write down, so the client will come out even in the long run. “That’s not really fraud,” you’ll think, so you’ll have eased your conscience. . . .
After much reflection and consideration, I am pleased to report that I have decide to leave this miserable in-house gig and return to glorious law firm life. I’ve recently accepted an offer to slave away work at the Big City office of the prestigious Biglaw, Biggerlaw & Biggestlaw LLP.
Last year, I complained that the complicated compensation system at Vinson & Elkins was giving me a headache. What’s wrong with a Cravath-style system of lockstep salaries and bonuses? Or a Kirkland- or Latham-style system of lockstep salaries and individualized bonuses? Is it really necessary, for purposes of paying associates, to utilize a system involving deferred compensation?
Luckily for me and my limited quantitative-reasoning ability, V&E has decided to streamline their system. Let’s learn about what they’re doing, which they revealed in the course of announcing their bonuses.
* Billable hours in Biglaw are down 1.5 percent, and 15 percent of U.S. firms are planning to reduce their partnership ranks in early 2013. Thanks to Wells Fargo for bringing us the news of all this holiday cheer! [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* Hostess may be winding down its business and liquidating its assets, but Biglaw will always be there to clean up the crumbs. Jones Day, Venable, and Stinson Morrison Hecker obviously think money tastes better than Twinkies. [Am Law Daily]
* How’s that “don’t be evil” thing working out for you? Google’s $22.5M proposed privacy settlement with the FTC over tracking cookies planted on Safari browsers was accepted by a federal judge. [Bloomberg]
* Perhaps the third time will be the charm: ex-Mayer Brown partner Joseph Collins was convicted, again, for helping Refco steal more than $2B from investors by concealing the company’s fraud. [New York Law Journal]
* H. Warren Knight, founder of alternative dispute resolution company JAMS, RIP. [National Law Journal]
So far, no firm has stepped up and paid out bonuses early to help people struggling with Hurricane Sandy. Given the Nor’easter, associates might just burn the money to stay warm.
But at least one firm is being proactive about adjusting expectations because of the crazy weather patterns. Sandy essentially took a week away from billables, and so the firm is knocking a week off the minimum hour requirement….
During the decades that I worked in Biglaw, I occasionally felt put upon by clients.
“You won’t pay for travel time? Why not? I’m not flying to Philadelphia for my health. And I’m sure not on vacation. If you want me to travel to Philadelphia, then you pay for the time I kill making the trip.”
But many clients felt very differently about it.
“If you’re doing productive work on my matter, then I’ll pay. If you’re flying around the country reading a novel, then I won’t pay. You surely don’t expect us to pay for time that you choose to make unproductive?”
[Or, in some situations: "If you want to handle a matter that's based in Philadelphia, then you eat the time (and travel costs) of getting there. If that's not acceptable to you, then we'll hire a Philadelphia firm. Do you want the matter?"]
These discussions strike me as fair fights. There are things that law firms plainly should not charge clients for, things they plainly should, and the middle ground, where fights are arguably fair. Today, I’m walking the middle ground . . . .
My friend Pablo told me that when Monica, a partner, called his home at 9:00 p.m., he knew it couldn’t be good. Why not email? For an instant, he considered letting the call go to voicemail. Taking a deep breath, he answered.
Monica wanted to know “where he was” with the brief Pablo had been working on. She had not given him any particular deadline, so he explained that he expected to circulate the draft for review the following evening. The brief was a motion to dismiss, and he knew the deadline to file was still two weeks away. He was allowing the partner one week to review before she had to send to the client, who in turn would have another week to review.
The partner, however, had a different idea. “I want it on my desk tomorrow by 8 a.m.,” she told Pablo.” “Not a moment later.”
* “You’re paying a partner $800 to $1,000 an hour and they’re charging you because they ordered sushi.” In-house counsel are paying more attention to their bills, and they’re refusing to pay for things like photocopies and food. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* According to litigators, who are the ten most notable federal district court judges to watch? Three come from S.D.N.Y., but one from N.D. Cal. captured our hearts this summer when she asked counsel for Apple if he was “smoking crack.” [American Lawyer]
* A guide for law students with disabilities says: “If you are thinking that you’re a shoe-in for LSAT accommodations since you had accommodations in undergrad, think again.” But thanks to these suits, LSAC’s policies may soon be changing. [National Law Journal]
* Seeing as there are only nine law schools in Illinois, and given the abysmal job market for new law grads, it’s clear the state needs a tenth school. Say hello to Bradley University College of Law. [Peoria Journal Star]
* Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow trademarked “Tebowing.” Yes, seriously. But don’t worry, he didn’t do it to make money, he just wants to “control how it’s used, make sure it’s used in the right way.” [Washington Post]
The maglia nera, or black jersey, is a “prize” that was awarded to a cyclist in the Giro d’Italia from 1946 to 1951. The “winner” of the black jersey was the cyclist who finished last. The first man to “win” the black jersey was Luigi Malabrocca, who managed to double the amount of time it took him to finish the race when he won/lost his second black jersey.
“Especially noted are the struggles between Sante Carollo and Luigi Malabrocca, to see who could waste the most time,” according to the Wikipedia entry for the maglia nera. “Each tried to lose more time than the other by hiding in bars, barns, and behind hedges, or even by puncturing their own wheels.”
This is just great. The wiki entry also notes that one winner was lauded for finishing the race despite suffering a broken hand and having to push his bike uphill during mountain stages. The jersey, you see, was not just won by clowns, but also by sad clowns. The entirety of our pointless struggle seems to have been contained in this maglia nera.
And by our pointless struggle, I mean the legal profession….
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@example.com.
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When you talk to a prospective lateral about your firm during their first meeting, the conversation can go deep, sideways, and in circles. There is so much to share and discuss. What path of a dialogue can you follow to get better odds of a favorable conclusion?
Consider this template as a model you can use to discuss your firm’s opportunity. This simplifies the conversation and gives you a mental framework so the discussion is meaningful, relevant and moves things forward.
The Four P’s
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