This isn’t the first time Above the Law has delved into the world of small law firms, but now we’re going to attack it regularly and with passion. This column will appear on Mondays (appearing today due to the holiday) and Thursdays, as a catalyst for discussion of life in Small Law – the commonalities, the salaries, the benefits, the pitfalls, etc.
I believe that, like Biglaw, there is a certain shared culture in Small Law, one that’s part of a growing but still-fragmented dialogue in the blogosphere. It’s our hope that, in time, this column becomes a lighting rod for those who are working in Small Law — and those who want to work in Small Law. And, of course, Biglaw attorneys are welcome to stop by and express their obvious jealousy in the comments.
So who am I, and what are my qualifications? Let the judging begin…
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?
The financial services boutique of BuckleySandler, which launched just a little over a year ago, is expanding at a rapid clip. At the time of launch, it had about 50 attorneys (most of them from the firm formerly known as BuckleyKolar); now it’s approaching 100.
The two latest hires are noteworthy. From the BLT:
BuckleySandler is continuing its push to recruit top-level lateral partners. Today, the firm brought on David Krakoff, who previously co-chaired Mayer Brown’s white collar litigation practice, and Christopher Regan, also a former Mayer Brown partner.
Back in February, we reported that Marc Zwillinger and Christian Genetski, who previously headed up the internet practice group at Sonnenschein, were leaving to start their own firm, Zwillinger Genetski LLP. The firm is only a few months old, but it’s already at seven lawyers — and growing.
New Internet law boutique Zwillinger Genetski is bulking up with the addition of three attorneys, including Yahoo! Inc. associate general counsel Elizabeth Banker. The new hires nearly double the size of the three-month old Washington-based firm, bringing its headcount to seven.
The usual migration is from a law firm to an in-house job (often for lifestyle reasons). But sometimes we see moves in the reverse direction. E.g., Daniel Cooperman, who went from Apple back to Bingham McCutchen; Bear Stearns refugees, who wound up at various firms.
Elizabeth Banker is just one of the three new hires at Zwillinger Genetski….
Unusual, you say? Well, when you click on that link, aren’t you expecting something really outside the box? Maybe they picked a CEO with no private sector experience? Maybe they picked a CEO who used to be in the CIA? Maybe they picked Triumph the Insult Comic Dog? You know, something “unusual.”
But no, here’s the interesting twist to this story:
Detroit-based firm Lewis & Munday, which was founded in 1972 by David Baker Lewis and two African-American partners, named partner Blair Person as its new president and CEO this month… some might find it curious to learn that Person is white.
That’s it? A law firm elected a white guy to be CEO. That’s news? That’s unusual?
Wait, let me back up a second. Aside from the fact that black people founded the place, what the hell makes this an “African-American” law firm? I don’t think you’d see a headline in 2010 calling Wachtell a “Jewish” law firm. And what in God’s name is unusual about black owners selecting a white person to run their business? In short, what the hell is going here?
In yesterday’s post about the departure of D.C. power broker Lanny Davis from McDermott Will & Emery, a firm he joined a little over six months ago, we put out a request for more information. That request was promptly answered — by none other than Lanny Davis himself.
The drama lover in us was hoping for an epic tale of office intrigue and power struggle at McDermott Will (and commenters were happy to speculate). As it turns out, however, the parting of Davis and MWE is quite amicable — and far from total. As Davis explained to us, he’s setting up his own shop, but he will continue to work closely with McDermott lawyers, serving McDermott clients. In fact, Davis isn’t even leaving the building (so no office exorcism necessary).
What’s going on here? Information from our chat with Lanny Davis, plus the complete press release mentioned previously by the Washington Post, after the jump.
Here at Above the Law, we’re used to seeing funny and fiery departure memos. But the one we were forwarded last night is truly a special treat.
Here’s the set up. The memo comes out of a small firm in the Atlanta area. It was written by a paralegal — we’ll call her “Blaze of Glory.” She had some very pointed things to say about one of the associates, who we’ll call “Attila.” A partner at the firm, “My Name is Pitt,” is also referenced in the memo. All the rest of the backstory comes from a tipster:
I am told that the ENTIRE firm was blind copied when this email was sent. Now there’s only about 20 or so attorneys at this firm, however, the firm also includes about [a much larger number of] paralegals/legal assistants. A few words cannot describe this email; you just have to read the email to believe it.
Today is the last day at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal for Marc Zwillinger and Christian Genetski — the chair and vice-chair, respectively, of SNR’s internet practice group. Their bios have already been removed from the Sonnenschein website (our links go to cached versions), and if you email them — as we did, to confirm the news — you receive an out-of-office auto-reply announcing their departure (and providing contact info for their new firm).
They’re leaving to start a boutique law firm, Zwillinger Genetski LLP, which opens for business on March 1. Zwillinger and Genetski will be joined by several associates and staffers who are currently at Sonnenschein.
“We are very excited about our new firm,” Marc Zwillinger told ATL. “As for our departure, it couldn’t be more amicable.”
In December we announced a contest for ATL readers. We called upon you to play Do I Have A Right?, one of the educational video games launched by Our Courts. Today we’re pleased to announce the winners.
In case you’re not familiar with it, Our Courts is “a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy.” It was the brainchild of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (who spoke with us about Our Courts for this Washington Post piece).
Above the Law’s “Do I Have A Right?” tournament was a huge success, with 8,650 plays from nearly 7,500 unique players. People logged games in 49 states — c’mon, North Dakota, where’s the love? — and the average play time was 7:55 minutes.
Justice O’Connor was very pleased:
I want to congratulate the winners of the Our Courts – Above the Law Tournament. I was thrilled by the participation and interest in our game. It just goes to show that even trained lawyers can always use a refresher course in middle school civics.
And who were the winners? There were two, tied with a high score of 13,653. The first was David Cohen, a sports lawyer in Southern California. The second was “Anonymous,” who chose to remain nameless “so that people he knows don’t think he spends all his time [in the office] playing DIHAR.”
These winners will be featured as characters in a future Our Courts game. Speaking of Our Courts, they have a new game out, Argument Wars, which allows players to argue landmark Supreme Court cases. The preview case allows readers to argue Brown v. Board of Education; two more cases will launch next Monday, and two more by mid-February.
The full list of high scorers in the DIHAR challenge — perhaps you know some of them? — appears after the jump.
Hey, have you read Above the Law for like one single minute in the past month? If so, you probably know that we’re having this big blogger conference on March 14th at the Yale Club. Yeah, the Yale Club. You’ll be able to recognize me: I’ll be the only big… blogger guy surreptitiously holding a can of crimson spray-paint.
Speaking of coming, you should come. We’ve got CLE and all that. Click here to buy tickets to get CLE credit for listening to bloggers scream about stuff on the internet.
To refresh your memory, details on the panel that I’m moderating — almost entirely sober, mind you — follow.
My panel is called Blogs as Agents of Change, and we’re going to talk about whether all of these spilled pixels are actually making a difference. You know my view… just ask Lawrence Mitchell, but here are the panelists:
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.
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