Lawyers

As was vividly demonstrated by our recent infographic, Biglaw’s summer associate classes have undergone a major and seemingly permanent contraction. For the most part, large — arguably bloated — summer associate classes are a thing of the past. Among the Am Law 50, only eight firms are bucking this downward trend, with actual increases in the size of their summer classes since 2007. These firms are a collection of Wall Street’s oldest and most elite white shoe mainstays: Sullivan & Cromwell, Cravath, Davis Polk, and their ilk. On average, these firms were founded 112 years ago (i.e., during the McKinley Administration). The outlier here is the relative upstart litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel, founded only back in 1987.

Besides the durability and strength that comes with such a refined pedigree, what other trends are apparent in this great downsizing of Biglaw’s summer associate classes?

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Washington, D.C. has the most densely concentrated population of lawyers in the nation. The capital has an astounding 1,356 percent more lawyers per capita than New York. One in 12 District residents is an attorney. The nation’s capital is home to just one-fifth of one percent of the national population but accounts for one in every 25 of its lawyers. Could there be some correlation between this total saturation of D.C. with J.D.s and the seeming contempt that the rest of the country holds for the place? Washington’s negative perception problem is such that Slate’s political gabfest felt compelled to devote this week’s podcast to explore the proposition “Washington Is Really Not That Bad.” Examples of this not-badness included the fact that people don’t have to bribe officials to get their social security benefits. So it was kind of a low bar.

In any event, D.C.’s lawyers work in myriad capacities in Congress, government regulatory agencies, non-profits, and lobbying firms. But obviously Washington is very much a Biglaw town as well. The frustration and malaise brought on by the sequester and partisan gridlock seem to be affecting the business of Biglaw. As Lat noted yesterday, large firms there are struggling: revenue, demand and productivity are all lagging at D.C.-based law firms when compared to firms nationwide. So this might not be the ideal time to check in on how lawyers at large D.C.-based firms perceive their professional experiences. But we’ll do it anyway.

Our ATL Insider Survey (13,500+ responses and counting) asks attorneys at firms to evaluate their employers in terms of compensation, hours, training, morale, and culture. After the jump, we’ll look at how firms in Washington stack up in these categories — and how they compare to the national averages…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Liz Brown, author of Life After Law: Finding Work You Love With the J.D. You Have (affiliate link), offers suggestions for at least appearing engaged at the office while contemplating leaving the law behind.

Someone asked me a great question the other day. “I’m having a hard time staying engaged at the office,” she explained. “I want to leave, but I’m not sure what to do next. How do I keep up the appearance that I’m still interested in practicing law while I figure out my next move?”

This in-between stage is hard in so many ways. It can be hard to force yourself to work on cases when you no longer care about the outcome. It can be hard to make yourself meet your billable hour minimum when you find the work dull and unrewarding. It can be hard to act happy, or at least not to growl at people, when you desperately want to do something else. Here are seven strategies for the summer of your discontent.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

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 in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Kristina Tsamis shares some career advice for JD/MBAs from a panel discussion hosted by Duke Law in conjunction with other peer law schools.

We spend a lot of time discussing the dismal employment outcomes for JD grads. Things aren’t so rosy for MBA graduates either. To talk about a dual JD/MBA degree in this context seems like a double fail — a one-two punch of more work and potentially more debt in exchange for the same sad outcome.

Enter the panelists of How to Use the JD/MBA Degree in Business and Entrepreneurship: all JD/MBA graduates who touted the usefulness of a dual degree during a discussion hosted by Duke Law in conjunction with other peer law schools. The panelists centered their advice on four main areas: what to focus on while pursuing the dual degree, how to select a good mentor, how to interview well, and how to stop being risk-averse.

1. Maintain the Right Focus as a JD/MBA student

That class in early English case law will leave you painfully ill-equipped for the modern practice of law. But there are some courses you should be paying attention to, both on the JD and MBA side.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

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 helps new associates face their own unrealistic expectations about life in Biglaw.

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” — Bruce Lee

If you read Above the Law, you know that law school, the legal profession, and Biglaw especially are not like the movies, not like the grand old days, and certainly not like partners pitch it to you at on-campus interviews. Still, a main source of junior associate misery is false expectations. Some examples…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Mansfield J. Park weighs in on whether law students should stay in the game or quit while they’re ahead.

Sorry for the tease, but I want to start with Silicon Valley, then get to the sex change. I promise this will all vaguely make sense, in a “isn’t life complex but interconnected, but not in a vapid Crash kind of way?”

In Silicon Valley, I am told, there’s a saying: Fail fast.

Which really means: Fail fast, succeed faster.

The vast majority of startups there fail, so failing fast gets you on to the next project and, just maybe, closer to success. Your own country or whatever. Success is not inevitable in the startup world, but it’s more likely if you quit a failing venture to move on to something better.

Silicon Valley startup life is pretty different from law school. Law students are not known for their appetite for risk. Still, many of the 50,000 or so new law students could take the “fail fast” advice to heart.

Read more at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, in the fifth of five related articles, Casey Berman, founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law, discusses the fifth step attorneys can take to leave the law. Previous articles in this series can be found here, here, here, and here.

As we discussed in the first four articles of this series, through Leave Law Behind, I work with many intelligent attorneys who nonetheless are unhappy and want to leave the law behind and do something else. They want to change their life and their work and their focus with the goal to be more satisfied, more confident, and happier.

I tell them the first step in leaving the law behind involves getting a handle on their money situation; to become as confident and exact as possible in understanding (i) their expenses, as well as any (ii) safety net and other sources of financial support they can call upon if needed….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, in the fourth of five related articles, Casey Berman, founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law, discusses the fourth step attorneys can take to leave the law. Previous articles in this series can be found here, here, and here.

As we discussed in the first three articles of this series, through Leave Law Behind, I work with many intelligent attorneys who nonetheless are unhappy and want to leave the law behind and do something else. They want to change their life and their work and their focus with the goal to be more satisfied, more confident, and happier.

I tell them the first step in leaving the law behind involves getting a handle on their money situation; to become as confident and exact as possible in understanding (i) their expenses, as well as any (ii) safety net and other sources of financial support they can call upon if needed….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: The Fourth Step in Leaving Law Behind — Facing Your Fears”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Joshua Stein gives some practical advice to lawyers on how to manage their relationship with the press.

Reporters can embarrass you. But they can also help you and your clients get your message and name out into the world, if that’s what you want.

When a reporter calls, any lawyer’s first instinct is to say “No comment.” That’s a really good first instinct, particularly for anyone except the most senior member of a legal team representing a client. For that senior lawyer, though, “no comment” might not always be the right answer at the end of the day.

Lawyers aren’t supposed to be founts of information, particularly about their client’s affairs — unless that’s what the client wants. All of that is a matter of legal ethics and client relations, and represents the first and most important element of any lawyer’s strategy in dealing with the press. It’s outside the scope of this article.

Once you get past that “gating issue,” you will sometimes want or need to talk with the press. Here are a few suggestions for how to do that….

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