Ed. note: Frank H. Wu is the Chancellor and Dean of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. He’s currently sharing some of his thoughts about legal education and other topics here on Above the Law.
In the modern economy, we are trying to achieve with people what we have done with machines. We want individual workers to be “plug and play.” The term refers to computer equipment that can function immediately, without the need for elaborate set-up; you merely plug it into a power supply and it starts to play what it’s supposed to.
I have thought about, and startups are implementing, the delivery of legal services equivalent to ride-sharing services. Imagine a database that offered a list of lawyers whom you could meet in your area (if you even wanted to see them face to face), during a specific time period, with searchable specializations. If they were pre-cleared for conflicts and had set prices for particular tasks, the user would click to reserve an appointment and be all set.
Call it “Ziplawyer.” Apologies to Zipcar.
Maybe combine it with a ratings service. Behold: a new structure for the profession.
The model is great for consumers. It gives them information and options. The access to the marketplace fosters competition.
But the model also is advantageous for members of the bar. It allows solo practitioners who are tech-savvy to punch above their weight, as the saying goes. They can reach many more people than they could by traditional means, who need exactly what they have to offer.
Yet I am enthusiastic about these possibilities only to a point. I am reminded of Robocop 2….
Ed. note: The Aspiring Lateral, a new series from Levenfeld Pearlstein, will analyze a variety of issues surrounding lateral moves, drawing on the firm’s experience in the lateral market as well as the individual experiences of LP attorneys. Today’s post is written by Laura Friedel, a partner in the firm’s Labor & Employment group.
In the legal profession, the view from the top is pretty good. If you’ve been lucky enough to snag a position at one of the 100 or so firms loosely defined as “Biglaw,” you’re probably looking out a window near the top of a shiny skyscraper. You probably have a nice cafeteria down the hall. Who knows: at your glam partner retreats, you may even take chartered boats down the Thames.
The point is, while that view from Biglaw is a good one, it’s not the easiest vantage point to assess your career options. I’ve been there. And when I began to think about alternatives to a Biglaw practice, I admit I did not fully realize that mid-sized firms even existed. In my mind, there were Biglaw firms, boutiques, and that’s about it. I was something like the native New Yorker who is only dimly aware that a mass of states lies between herself and the only other meaningful part of the country, California.
Thankfully, just as flyover states do in fact exist, so too do mid-sized firms that provide sophisticated, full-service capabilities to their clients. For the Biglaw practitioner facing rate pressure from clients, frustrations with the anonymity that goes with mega-firm practice, or perhaps nosebleeds from the trip up the elevator, they are worth considering along with obvious alternatives such as in-house positions.
And as Biglaw lawyers investigate mid-sized firms, they will likely find more misperceptions falling away. I’ll share a few here that opened my eyes further, and that make the mid-sized firm alternative an attractive one…
The American Bar Association is out there, fighting for the rights of law students to labor without pay. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. Maybe that sentence should go, “The American Bar Association is out there, fighting for the rights of legal employers to not pay their laborers.” Yes, that makes much more sense.
The Department of Labor sent a letter to the ABA, assuring the organization that hiring unpaid law students to do pro bono work is totally fine. This news makes the ABA happy for some reason. The ABA applauds the Labor Department declaration because of something about “service” and “experience” and other things that sound really nice when you can already pay your bills…
About a month ago, I read an article about a new position available for experienced attorneys at a certain Biglaw firm. The firm? Kilpatrick Townsend. The position? Something called a “department attorney.”
Before we get into what that is, and some of the implications for Biglaw if this new kind of position takes hold, let’s take a look at the listing of open positions on Kilpatrick’s website. Currently, the firm is advertising for nine associate positions, six of which are in the patent area (including two for patent “prosection” (sic) associates, who hopefully will be better at including all the letters in a word than the firm’s recruiting staff).
Want to be a department attorney? Well, for you there are ten open positions. The breakdown? Eight in trademarks, two in patent prosecution. The common denominator of those disciplines? Shrinking margins for Biglaw, in the face of competition from IP boutiques specializing in volume work, and bulked-up in-house departments doing more on their own. In light of those shrinking margins, the firm’s desire to hire more department attorneys than full-bore associates is understandable. At least they are hiring….
There’s just something about riding on crowded Amtrak trains that causes Biglaw attorneys to lose all of their inhibitions. From fondling one another to making $300,000 partnership offers to casually discussing future layoffs, their indiscretion knows no bounds. Perhaps they choose to throw caution to the wind because they think no one cares about the business of law, or that no one is really listening to what they’re saying or watching what they’re doing, but that’s simply not the case. We’ve got eyes and ears everywhere, and no one is safe.
Today’s Biglaw blind item occurred on yet another Amtrak train, and deals with some longstanding archetypes: an attorney who “sounded like a real jerk” and a law student who “sounded desperate.” It seems like this attorney has hate in his heart for his firm’s summer associates…
A few pending anniversaries to mention: the twelfth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks; my 45th birthday tomorrow; I have been practicing law for 14 years; and my second year of writing this column for Above the Law is fast approaching.
Really, the only date of any import is 9/11. A “first world problem” for me is that my birthday is forever the “day after” — but at least I have a day after. So many families were destroyed that day, and so many of us will forever duck a little bit when airplanes fly past our buildings. I cannot imagine working in downtown San Diego, where the approach from the East is so close to so many skyscrapers.
I won’t dwell too much on lower Manhattan today, as by now I think everyone remembers in their own way, but I will always cherish my thirtieth birthday, a surprise party held at Windows on the World, surrounded by friends and a swing band in the background. I found a picture from that party — I am hugging some buddies, and was a young buck associate at Coudert Brothers, a 150+ year old firm driven to ruin by poor cash management. Anyway, today will forever be bittersweet as I prepare to look to the future tomorrow, and will always remember that awful day 12 years ago….
Three of your Above the Law editors — David Lat, Elie Mystal, and Joe Patrice — recently sat down in the ATL offices to discuss the law firm recruiting process. After on-campus interviews and callbacks are done and a student is weighing multiple offers, how should he or she pick the right firm?
The gang weighs in with this short podcast after the jump. Good luck to all those who are still interviewing or choosing between offers….
Here at Above the Law, we like to keep you informed of new and exciting opportunities for lawyers to get work. According to law deans, all you need is some practical training and a little gumption to take advantage of your super-valuable law degree, and we like to point you in the right direction.
Like Craigslist. Because nothing says three years of post-graduate education like fishing through Craigslist ads searching for employment.
Today, we’ve got a really good job for a part-time criminal and civil litigator. All you need is 30 years of legal experience under your belt…
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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