* Awesome event last night in Houston. Met tons of great readers and am looking forward to another trip to visit you all. Thanks to Hearsay Gastro Lounge for hosting us! [Hearsay Gastro Lounge]
* And for those who weren’t there, we introduced our new sibling blog, Breaking Energy. So check it out if you’re interested in coverage of the energy sector. If you’re not following the energy sector, you are missing the future. [Breaking Energy]
* By the way, “Accidental Racist” was TOTALLY ON PURPOSE RACIST. [Thought Catalog]
* Should you take a document review job? My quibble with this post is the stance that some people don’t love contracting for document review. I know TONS of folks who have opted for these gigs so they can travel, raise a family, etc. [Constitutional Daily]
* “Vagueness in legal threats is the hallmark of meritless thuggery.” Y U Hate Biglaw? [Popehat]
* Really interesting follow-up on Reinvent Law. I have no joke here. It’s just interesting, so get off my back. [Adam Smith, Esq.]
* The fastest way to my heart is a compliment. And the best part of this job is that I can’t get a big head because the commenters keep me grounded by hurling invective at least two to one for each compliment. [Law and More]
It is common knowledge around ATL that I am a huge proponent of the Association of Corporate Counsel (“ACC”). I have served on their boards, presented at their seminars and annual meetings, and generally participated as much as my time allows. Now, truthfully, this amount of participation has gotten me to Orlando, Los Angeles and New Orleans; all absolutely necessary trips, I swear. But there is another side to ACC than just fantastically run and organized events and parties, and that other side is advocacy on the part of business, and specifically in-house business.
Lat sent me a press release this week focused on an amicus letter that ACC sent to the S.D.N.Y. regarding the plaintiffs’ attorney fees request in In re Citigroup Securities Litigation, Case No. 1:07-cv-09901-SHS. After reading the letter and doing some research on my own, I came to the conclusion (yet again) that I have missed the boat by not practicing plaintiff-side law. These folks are asking with straight faces for what seem to be exorbitant and outrageous fees. Specific to this post and the ACC letter, they argue that contract attorney time (such attorneys normally make modest hourly wages) should be calculated at Biglaw associate hourly rates in order for the judge to arrive at a fee award. To put on my elite intellectual vocabulary hat for a moment, this is crazy talk…
* Celebrated litigator David Boies thinks the Supreme Court is going to rule in favor of gay marriage in a united front — which is helpful, since in March he’s arguing in favor of gay marriage in the Prop 8 case. [USA Today]
* “What we had to do was do more with less.” Archer & Greiner had to lay off 14 attorneys and 27 staffers thanks to the firm’s rapid overexpansion via mergers. This is why we can’t have nice things. [New Jersey Law Journal]
* In New York / Concrete jungle where dreams are made of / There’s nothing you can’t do / Now you’re in New York / Law deans will try to inspire you / But rankings will ruin you / Hear it for New York! [New York Law Journal]
* If you’d like to save the world by working a public-interest job, you’d better consider Penn Law. Its LRAP now covers all IBR loan payments over 10 years for a total savings of up to $140,000. [National Law Journal]
* But then again, if you’re not interested in public-interest work, you can always get a temp job, where you’ll allegedly make as much as “a mid-level associate at a small or medium firm.” [U.S. News & World Report]
* Because Lindsay Lohan’s lawyer was called out by a judge for a performance that was almost as piss poor in his client’s in Liz & Dick, he contacted a local firm to step in and assist him. [L.A. Now / Los Angeles Times]
I think everybody who has ever sat in a windowless conference room while staring at a screen and clicking through millions of documents has thought to themselves: “I wish I were dead.” “Somebody, please help me, it hurts.” “Zihuatanejo.” “I am not doing legal work.”
Whether you find yourself contracting after three years of law school or you were fired from a real legal job and are now contracting in lieu of moving back home with your parents, you don’t actually need a law degree to know that trained chimpanzees could be doing contract attorney work. In fact, the only reason they don’t use trained chimpanzees is that it’s much, much cheaper to train human beings to do it. And after a while, the chimps might revolt and kill their document room overseer while the humans will sit there in docile and vain hopes that one day they might get a real lawyer job.
Which brings us to the subject of today’s lawsuit challenging the Biglaw system of hiring contract attorneys to do menial, low-level, thoughtless work, and then not paying them overtime. Attorney Willian Henig has sued Quinn Emanuel alleging that contract attorneys should not be exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act rules about overtime pay.
We’ve seen suits like this before, but this one is coming at one of the biggest and most well-known firms in all of Biglaw….
The Internet naturally devolves to Hitler references. Call it Godwin’s Law. Call it reductio ad hitlerum if you’re into the whole unnecessary use of Latin thing (and you’re lawyers, so you totally are). But with the advent of the Internet, Downfall video became inevitable.
And with bored lawyers seeking Internet-based distractions at their desks (or law library carrels), the legal Downfall video was even more inevitable.
Above the Law has linked to some of these before (for example here and here), but I figured I’d treat the readers to a collection of some of the finer videos here as part of my role as the editor covering the tech beat.
If you have others, link them in the comments. I’m sure someone out there in the middle of a two-week document review somewhere will appreciate it….
* Dewey know how much Stephen Horvath has made since D&L went belly up at the end of May? Thus far, he’s raked in $190K, and that just covers his pay through the end of June. That’s only $1.97M a year, no big deal. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* You might not be able to get a full-time job in this economy, but if you’re a contract attorney with foreign-language skills, you’ll probably be able to land some pretty sweet Biglaw firm gigs, even if you’re just doing doc review. [Wall Street Journal]
* Did the NCAA overstep its legal boundaries when sanctioning Penn State? At least one sports law professor thinks so, and he actually wishes that the school had challenged the scope of the sports organization’s authority. [CNN]
* Wait, female Senate aides in Minnesota can have affairs with their superiors and get away with it, while male aides get fired for doing the same exact thing? That’s blatant sexism, and you should totally sue. [ABC News]
* Rather than be “super boring,” this would-be Senator has dubbed herself “the diva of the district.” We know all about the Touro Law student who’s running for New York Senate. We’ll have more on this later. [POLITICO]
* Law school debtor Jason Bohn was arraigned on first-degree murder charges, and entered a not-guilty plea. According to his attorney, Bohn apparently suffers from “extreme emotional disturbance.” [New York Post]
* Know your rights? If you’re accused of hit-and-run and vehicular assault charges, it’s always a great idea to cry, repeatedly ask if you’re under arrest, and tell everyone that you’re a law student. [Spokesman-Review]
* Well, this is graphic: the trials and tribulations of a law student interning at a law firm and blogging about all of the hot lesbian action she’s getting, including encounters with a co-worker. [Daily Intel / New York Magazine]
I’ve written before about some of the challenges a small law firm faces when hiring employees. But more fundamental and difficult questions are why and when should a solo or small law shop expand by adding employees?
Like all businesses, most firms with excess demand for their services have a natural incentive to grow. A company is leaving money on the table if it is forced to turn away work because all of its lawyers are at full capacity with their billable work.
The incentive to grow might be tempered by concerns over preserving a valued culture. A small law firm might resist growth because it fears disrupting a favorable workplace environment. With each new associate hired, however, the reasons for not hiring the next associate get weaker.
The major disincentive to growth is the inability to predict future business. Litigation is especially fickle. A case might go to trial, and generate hundreds of hours of billable work, or suddenly be dismissed or settled. In litigation especially, sometimes the line between swamped and dead is razor thin.
This uncertainty makes hiring additional associates extremely risky — even if the immediate workload warrants it….
The conference was frenetic, to say the least. There was a lot going on, regarding a cornucopia of technological topics and tools to help lawyers. As expected, the biggest hype revolved around predictive coding and computer-assisted review.
The legal technology world has been buzzing about this stuff for a while now, and we have covered it on these pages several times before. (Here and here, for starters). At the conference, attendees got to hear from the naysayers, the enthusiasts, and everyone in between. Several panels helped explain exactly what the technology means on a practical level. And no, cyborgs will not be stealing all the contract attorney jobs any time soon.
One of this week’s highlights was a lunchtime panel featuring two prominent attorneys and a New York magistrate judge. The discussion helped clarify, demystify, and define the terms that have been making headlines (even in the New York Times) for a good part of the past year. Is computer-assisted review as scary as it seems? Of course not.
Let’s see what the panelists — and at least one irate audience member — had to say….
I’ve always wondered what kind of salary contract lawyers make these days. Okay, not really, I kind of already know, because a lot of my friends are contract lawyers. But for those of you who aren’t familiar with the wonderful world of contract lawyering, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting article yesterday, by Vanessa O’Connell, on the trials and tribulations of these lawyers-for-hire.
The Journal editors decided to give the piece a cutesy title by using a play on words: “Lawyers settle… for temp jobs.” Lawyers are supposed to be settling cases, and now they’re settling for temporary jobs. Oh, that’s so very witty.
What the WSJ folks might not have realized is that when you’re an unemployed new lawyer in this kind of economy, or even if you’re an older one, you don’t really have the option of “settling.” It’s depressing, but you kind of just accept the fact that this is the hand that you’ve been dealt.
But maybe there is a bright side to this situation after all. Maybe these contract attorneys are making serious bank in these temporary positions….
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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.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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