It’s one of the few things still shrouded in secrecy at most firms: which partners have equity in the firm and which don’t. Actual partners, of course, get a share in the firm’s profits, and are part of the PPP calculations reported by Am Law. Non-equity partners get the partner honorific, but in actuality they’re often just glorified senior associates, at least when it comes to matters like salary and major firm decisions. (Of course, this varies from firm to firm.)
Being a non-equity partner can be nice. You generally don’t have to toil on management committees or get caught up in partnership politics, and you may be less personally exposed to financial fallout should the firm’s fortunes sour (assuming the equity partners made personal guarantees on loans). But being a non-equity partner is also like being a stepparent that the children don’t respect. You don’t have any real power and don’t get to reap the full rewards from your investment and care.
Women and minority groups have tried to put pressure on firms to reveal partners’ equity or non-equity status when it comes to diversity reporting. But firms have resisted, saying that they don’t want to stigmatize non-equity partners. Angela Onwuachi-Willig sums it up on Concurring Opinions:
Over the past two years, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) has tried to obtain information regarding the breakdown of equity and non-equity partners by gender and race at law firms. The majority of NALP’s law firm members refused to hand over the information, and NALP eventually gave in on February 12.
The Executive Director of NALP, [James] Leipold, indicated that most firms cited privacy concerns for not divulging the details of their equity and non-equity partnership breakdowns. According to Leipold, small firms especially worried that providing such information would allow non-equity partners to be easily identified and stigmatized.
Well, Delaware firm Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor has revealed who its non-equity partners are, though it did so by accident. The firm’s controller needs a little lesson on the use of “bcc”…
Apparently, people who summered at Mayer Brown in 2009 and received an offer are still waiting to hear whether they will be able to start work in a timely manner.
Two former MB summer associates and current NYU Law students decided to take matters into their own hands. They sent out an email to everybody in Mayer Brown’s 2009 summer class. The students hoped to put grassroots pressure on Mayer Brown. I’ve redacted the students’ real names.
Hello Mayer Brown Class of 2010,
You know [Rosencrantz] if you were in New York, and [Guildenstern] if you were in Chicago. We are writing because Mayer Brown has kept us all in the dark about our futures. Their delay in formally announcing any of the plans for our class is unique among top law firms — in their total lack of official communication regarding our start dates, stipend, and health insurance over the coming year, they truly stand alone.
This letter is a call to concerted action in order to require Mayer Brown to make formal announcements regarding our future. We urge that each Mayer Brown 2009 Summer Associate ask their Law School’s Office of Career Services to call Mayer Brown and request the immediate formal announcement of the terms of our offers.
Have you had the privilege of voluntarily leaving your Biglaw job? I have, and let me tell you, the last day is a special kind of awesome. You kind of walk around, taking a survey of things you no longer have to deal with. Many of your friends and colleagues look at you with envy in their eyes. Friends of mine outside of the law have told me that leaving a job is bittersweet; but most associates who have left Biglaw on their own terms describe the sensation as “delicious.”
Now, when I left, I said all the right things, said goodbye to all the appropriate people, and wrote a standard, passionless departure memo. No gloating from me, I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could. But looking back on it, I wish I had done something notable. Nothing outrageous: boiling the managing partner’s pet rabbit sounds appropriate but is ultimately unsatisfying. I just wish I had taken advantage of my last day in some mildly humorous way.
An associate who left Akin Gump last week will have no such longstanding regrets. Here’s the “seeking contacts” email that was sent to the entire firm once the associate had both feet out of the door:
Sent: Friday, February 26, 2010 11:59 AM
To: FW ALL
Subject: Seeking contacts
Pardon the interruption. Please respond to sender only if you can recommend a reasonably priced plaintiffs’ attorney in Costa Rica. A friend of the firm has a handful of potential plaintiffs who believe there is a connection between their testicle cancer and a chemical used to make tea bags. They are looking for an attorney in Costa Rica to advise and represent them in this matter.
You know, the lives of Biglaw attorneys are such that on first blush one might think that this message was intended seriously.
But we spoke with the associate who sent out the message. Thankfully, the message was a product of a last day dare.
For one glorious moment, prospective law students thinking of going to Wake Forest Law School learned that they had received the Melanie Nutt Scholarship from the school. Then, in an instant, the scholarship was recalled. Apparently the offer of free money was a technical error:
About ten minutes ago I received an e-mail from them telling me I had been offered a $30k/year scholarship. Obviously I was thrilled, as Wake was (keyword: was) at the top of my list. Before I could gloat to my friends, I received a follow-up e-mail …
That follow up email had “ERROR” in the headline, so students knew it couldn’t be good. Apparently there was a technical glitch and a number of students were accidently promised scholarship money.
And the mistake wasn’t limited to just one poor soul.
To add major insult to injury — especially after Sidley Austin’s announcement [of a raise] this afternoon — the Managing Partner of Winston just accidentally emailed a memo to ALL ATTORNEYS (including all associates) which he meant to send only to ALL PARTNERS, bragging about FY2010 collections. He talks about how work in process and accounts receivable were the same on Jan. 31, 2009 as they were on Jan. 31, 2010, how they accomplished a revenue increase without reducing overall assets, and how work in process added in January 2010 exceeded budget.
A moment later, he tried to recall the message with that Outlook “recall” function that doesn’t really work. Amazing.
Ah yes, Microsoft Outlook’s useless “recall” feature — which just draws attention to the gaffe. If it doesn’t work for federal judges or for DLA Piper partners, why should it work for Winston?
(Misaddressing an email is like passing gas, or making an unwanted advance towards a colleague. Sometimes it’s best to just pretend it didn’t happen.)
Check out the Winston & Strawn memo — intended for “all partners,” but now going out to all the world — after the jump.
Times are difficult for 3Ls. The legal economy is in shambles. Their debts are about to come due, and they have no reasonable opportunities for legal employment. Many third years have resorted to cold, unsolicited résumé dumps, hoping against hope that they’ll get lucky.
There is a lot of pressure on 3Ls. But handling enormous pressure is an important skill for would-be attorneys. One 3L who faced this employment pressure totally collapsed. Unfortunately for the 3L, that collapse is preserved over email.
The situation started innocently enough. The unidentified 3L sent in a résumé and cover letter to Webster & Associates LLC, looking for legal work. The letter was inartfully addressed to “Esteemed Mr. Webster, Partner:”
I know, you’re thinking that this 3L thought he was addressing Partner Emeritus instead of a regular person. But that’s not really the problem here.
The problem is that Webster & Associates is not a law firm; it’s a company run by a man named Bruce Webster that specializes in IT consulting. Two seconds on the Webster & Associates website would have revealed this fact.
Webster sent the job seeker back an — admittedly curt — response. And then things got out of hand.
We’ve told you before, and we’ll tell you again: be nice to your secretary. They do important work for you. And during their down time — when they’re not playing solitaire — they may be thinking about ways they can screw you over should you cross them.
An attorney in North Carolina apparently does not read our site and did not get this crucial PSA. Justice H. Campbell is a solo practitioner in Charlotte who helps out those who suffer from slips and falls, who commit the occasional DUI, or who need to file for worker’s compensation. According to our tipster, he’s been through several legal assistants in his career.
His last legal assistant went out with a bang. Or at least with a very loud click of the mouse.
She set up an out-of-office response to let correspondents know that she was no longer with the firm. When a court official emailed her to confirm a mediation date for Mr. Campbell, he got a blunt automatic response…
If you attend or graduated from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, you most likely knew this post was coming. For the rest of you, let me bring you up to speed.
Cardozo Law is trying to connect students who want extra tutoring with students who are willing to help. Cardozo’s office of student services asked willing tutors to submit the following information.
1) Your name and class year
2) What course(s) you are interested in tutoring
3) What semester you took the course(s) in
4) What professor you had for the course(s)
5) What grade you received for the course(s)
6) How you wish to be contacted by other students
Hey, from the administration’s perspective, they’re all in the “employed upon graduation” hunt together. If some of the high-achieving students are willing to help some of the stragglers avoid a life of poverty and sadness, why not?
The information requested is appropriate for the position sought. You can’t offer yourself up as a tutor with crappy grades. In fact, the only way there would really be a “story” here is if some amazingly careless gunner submitted his qualifications and accidentally hit “reply all” to the school-wide email.
And really, who’d be stupid enough to do that?
On Friday, we told you that the Northwestern Law School Student Bar Association wanted people to watch their language come exam time. In a letter to all students, the SBA told the student body about the kind of language that would not be tolerated:
Therefore, to be clear, saying things like “that’s so gay”, “that exam raped me”, or any racial or sexual epithet, are inappropriate and unacceptable. Accordingly, we ask that every student be cognizant of the critical role you play in maintaining NUSL’s vibrant diverse, collegial and supportive student culture and refrain from using such language.
The response to the SBA’s email has been overwhelming. Over the weekend, Above the Law readers offered every version of “This [protected class] exam [violated me sexually] in my [orifice of choice]” known to man. If the SBA’s letter was meant to inspire civility and tolerance, it was an epic fail.
Which Northwestern SBA members have taken responsibility for the letter? Which students want to stand by the opinions the board disseminated school-wide?
So far, none of the Northwestern SBA members claim responsibility for the message. In fact, finding a Northwestern student representative is more difficult than finding a job in this depressed economy. Above the Law reached out to the SBA president, but he has not responded to our request for comment.
It’s a bit surprising that after so publicly asking the student body to keep it clean, the SBA is suddenly keeping very quiet. Shouldn’t they use this as an opportunity to disseminate their message to a larger audience?
Others at Northwestern are talking, however. And tipsters tell us that this isn’t the first time that the current SBA has sent around a plea for civility in speech. Details after the jump.
It’s nice to see a firm maintaining its commitment to diversity despite tough economic times. Changing the culture of Biglaw is a hard thing to do, but it starts at the top.
It looks like the partners at McGuireWoods understand that. But a McGuireWoods tipster reports that you can’t just force terrified and busy associates to embrace every diversity initiative the firm has to offer:
I am an associate at McGuire Woods and we got this email this morning from the managing partner of the Chicago office and a lot of us are disgusted. He sent it to all attorneys in the Chicago office.
Is this really the way to get us interested in diversity? Maybe they should question their commitment to associates in this time of financial distress. This was an optional event where they sent an invitation once to remind us of its occurrence.
A managing partner calling out his office for a lack of commitment to diversity? That is just not something you see everyday.
Let’s take a look a the pro-diversity email that angered a bunch of Chicago associates, after the jump.
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.