Incisive Media

It’s that time of the year again: American Lawyer magazine has just released its A-List for 2011. The Am Law rankings attempt to evaluate which law firms have got the right stuff to become elite:

The A-List was created in 2003 in an effort to assess (and rank) the nation’s largest and most prominent law firms in a holistic way. It takes into account financial performance, which is represented by the inclusion of firms’ revenue per lawyer, and other important measures of law firm performance, such as attorney diversity, pro bono work, and associate satisfaction. The latter is measured by a firm’s results on our Associates Survey. Pro bono and diversity scores are also a reflection of a firm’s showing on our annual Pro Bono Survey and Diversity Scorecard.

So, which firms made the grade this year? And which firms are the true elite of the elite?

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Summer associate job market depressed.JPGAmerican Lawyer has released its annual summer associate survey. Not surprisingly, summer associates were generally terrified:

“The economic times suck,” one clerk at New York’s Skadden, Arps, Meagher, Slate & Flom wrote bluntly in response to our most recent summer associates survey. “The firm can’t change that. But the times have made for a difficult summer.” A Bryan Cave intern put it this way: “It is a scary time to be a law student.”
One indication of just how scary: The number of summer clerks who said they expected to receive full-time job offers was down sharply, according to our survey, while anecdotal evidence culled from respondents’ answers to open-ended questions suggested that stress and anxiety levels were up.

I had thought that many summers were stuck in the anger stage of grief. But this report suggests that many summers have actually jumped all the way ahead to stage four: depression. I guess that is progress?
As we suspected, 2009 summers took more of an “every man for himself” approach to this year’s summer experience. Details after the jump.

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Incisive Media American Lawyer Media ALM.jpgGawker reports that Incisive Media — the legal media giant behind the American Lawyer magazine,, and many other excellent and influential print and online publications — is taking back its old name: American Lawyer Media (ALM).
ALM adopted the Incisive moniker back in 2007, after being acquired by Incisive Media for $630 million. Incisive itself was acquired in 2006 by Apax Partners, a private equity firm.
The full memo about the ALM rebranding appears after the jump. Here’s the most interesting part:

While we will continue to be majority-owned by funds advised by Apax Partners, our lender, Royal Bank of Scotland, will swap a portion of its existing ALM debt for a 49% equity stake in the company and become a minority owner of ALM.

Turning over almost half of the equity in the company to a lender — that doesn’t sound good, does it?
But there’s more to the story here.

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(Or: Which industry is more troubled, law or media?)”

Depressed Biglaw Associate.jpgYesterday, American Lawyer released the results of its annual survey of midlevel associates. Morale is about what you would expect from postal workers applying for a gun permit, not upwardly mobile white collar workers. But the results should surprise no one:

Associate morale plummeted to the lowest level in five years (since we started asking about it). It fell from a rating of 3.1 last year, on a scale of 1 to 5, to 2.7. The drop is clearly related to job insecurity. Eighty-three percent of our respondents reported medium or high anxiety about losing their jobs. The midlevels had good reason to be concerned. Sixty-one percent said that their firms had layoffs. And, for those who kept their jobs, there wasn’t enough to do. As early as last year, one-third of associates saw a drop-off in their workload, and this year 46 percent said it had decreased.

But it’s not just job security that is making Biglaw associates blue. The pay cuts don’t just hurt associates’ bottom line, they make associates feel less valuable:

Many survey respondents were also disappointed with their firms’ pay cuts, reduced or nonexistent bonuses, and decreased benefits. They were also troubled by what they saw as a lack of transparency on financial issues and layoffs.

After the jump, let’s look at the firms where midlevels are least miserable, and the firms that should consider adding Lexapro to the vending machines.

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A List American Lawyer Top Firms.jpgAmerican Lawyer has released its A-List for 2009. The rankings try to measure the qualities that make an elite law firm:

This list, which we launched in 2003, aims to measure and quantify the qualities that define an elite law firm, making an effort to look beyond profits. We examine four factors: revenue per lawyer, commitment to pro bono, diversity among lawyers, and associate training and satisfaction. Our formula gives more weight to the first two factors; we double a firm’s scores for revenue per lawyer and pro bono, and then add scores for diversity and associate satisfaction.

This year’s A-List? The elite of the elite? The top three firms are:
1. Munger, Tolles & Olson
2. Hughes Hubbard & Reed
3. Latham & Watkins
I’ll pause to give laid off Latham associates an opportunity to finish screaming. Please return after the jump.

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minority women partners not.JPGAmerican Lawyer has released another report that shows that while women make up a significant percentage of Biglaw associates, they are under-represented in law firm partnership ranks:

And while the ranks of female partners have grown steadily, women still account, on average, for fewer than one in five big-firm partners. The greatest numbers of female lawyers remain concentrated at the associate level.
At the same time, it’s worth pointing out the wide variation among firms when it comes to female head count. Despite the laggards, some firms–such as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; and Ropes & Gray–are nearing the 50 percent mark in their overall percentage of women lawyers. Even better, at a few other large firms–including Littler Mendelson, Ice Miller, Arent Fox, and Epstein Becker & Green–women make up at least a quarter of the partnership.

The disparity is most clearly seen when we talk about leverage:

Crunching the numbers further tells a more interesting story. Of the female lawyers we counted, what percentage are partners? In other words, are women reaching the senior levels of a firm in proportion to their overall numbers? To find out, we calculated the number of female partners as a percentage of all women lawyers. We found that at the firms surveyed, about 23 percent of female lawyers were in the partnership ranks. For every women who’s made partner, there are three women in the nonpartner ranks.
That 3:1 leverage among female lawyers is double the leverage among all lawyers–male and female–in the firms surveyed. Nationally, we found that 41 percent of all lawyers are partners: For each partner, there are about 1.5 nonpartners. If one looks just at male lawyers, the leverage essentially vanishes: There is about one male nonpartner for each male partner.

The report also exposes a somewhat obvious fact: firms that tend to be good for female attorneys don’t necessarily score highly on other diversity factors.
More details from the report after the jump.

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AmLaw 100 2009.JPGCongratulations Am Law 200 firms. You have weathered all the disparaging comments about your cities, your practice, the quality of lawyers that work at your firms. And now, as we stare into the sewage drain of the American legal economy, the Am Law 200 firms are coming out smelling like roses:

Reports of their demise, it turns out, were premature. For years, the regional firms that constitute much of the Second Hundred were told that they were exactly the wrong size: too big to compete with the narrow focus of boutiques and too small to match The Am Law 100’s national footprints and marquee names. But last year, as the financial sector began its meltdown, the Second Hundred’s slow-growth strategies were vindicated.
While average revenue per lawyer at The Am Law 100 decreased by 1.2 percent in 2008 (the first decline since 1991), Second Hundred firms were essentially flat. And when the Second Hundred’s national firms, as well as those in the nation’s biggest money centers–Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.–are left out of the calculations, average RPL growth was 1 percent. In all, 49 Second Hundred firms posted increases in RPL, compared to 42 Am Law 100 firms.

As Bob Sugar might say: “This is a nice moment for you, I’m going to let you have it.”
After the jump, more ego-shattering news for coastal, prestige conscious associates and partners.

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minority women partners not.JPGToday, the Minority Law Journal published its new Diversity Rankings. There was a big change in the publication’s methodology, and that resulted in significant upheaval in the rankings:

All this churn comes courtesy of a new ranking formula adopted after we found ourselves wondering whether our traditional approach to measuring diversity–calculating the overall percentage of minorities within a firm–ignored something significant. Did it really make sense to treat all lawyers of color as essentially equivalent in stature? Should a firm get the same kind of credit for a minority associate as it does for a minority partner? We decided that it was time to start giving more credit to firms that have increased the racial diversity of their partnership ranks. Under our revised formula, we add each responding firm’s percentage of minority lawyers to its percentage of minority partners to come up with a diversity score. This number is a truer gauge, we believe, of what kind of progress a firm is making in hiring lawyers of color at every level, with an emphasis on those at the most senior levels. (Click here for a fuller explanation of our methodology, and a list of firms that did not respond.)

The change knocked Cleary Gottlieb off its long standing perch in the top spot. In its place, Wilson Sonsini claims number one status.
After the jump, additional details from well known firms.

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AmLaw 100 2009.JPGIt’s time for another list! The AmLaw 100 is out and we finally get to see some financial numbers from the nation’s top law firms. The 2007 numbers have been totally obsolete since Lehman collapsed, so we’ve been waiting a long time for these numbers.

In terms of gross revenue, there is not much of a change within the top ten:

1. Skadden: $2,200,000,000
2. Baker & McKenzie: $2,188,000,000
3. Latham & Watkins: $1,923,000,000
4. Jones Day: $1,540,000,000
5. Sidley Austin: $1,489,500,000
6. White & Case: $1,467,000,000
7. Kirkland & Ellis: $1,400,000,000
8. Mayer Brown: $1,294,000,000
9. Weil: $1,231,000,000
10. Greenberg Traurig: $1,204,000,000

But we all know that gross revenue is a little uncivilized when it comes to prestige whoring among fellow practitioners. After the jump, let’s take a look at the top ten in terms of profits per partner.

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Alamo for cowards.JPGI wanted to circle back to a very interesting piece on AmLaw Daily yesterday. Their article on what Texas law firms are doing during this economic downturn confirms suspicions I’ve had for a little while:

At a time when law firms are more openly announcing and discussing layoff decisions, one group of firms is being particularly mum about job cuts — the Texans….

“It’s an interesting market where, unlike New York and the West Coast, not everybody’s being candid,” says Andrews Kurth managing partner Robert Jewell.

I’m not an expert on Texas culture, but I honestly can’t understand what benefit Texas firms get from hiding their layoffs in this manner. Why would they be more comfortable with the rumors and anonymous sourcing about the extent of their layoffs, as opposed to simply telling the truth?

Are they yella’? Because it seems to me that the forthright and honorable thing to do would involve standing up and admitting the extent to which they’ve had to cut back.

After the jump, AmLaw reports that there might be a little class warfare at play as well.

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