“The role of the traditional ‘legal secretary’ is rapidly changing,” one secretary recently told us. “Major law firms are full of career secretaries with 20 to 25 years of service, but younger attorneys don’t need the same assistance. You will see that many firms are adopting a secretarial team/services center model which increases the secretary/attorney ratio from 1:3 to 1:5, 1:6, 1:7 or more. At my former firm, it was 1:10. Honest.”
“Paralegals are in trouble too,” this source added. “First-year associates need something to do. I am ranting now.”
This tipster (and several others) told us about yet another law firm conducting layoffs, which we confirmed with the firm….
The missing apostrophe in the headline is not a typo. As some of you may have guessed, the firm in question is Arent Fox. Here is the statement from the firm:
Effective this week, the firm reduced the number of support staff by approximately 20 people in various offices and departments. Like many firms across the country, we are making hard choices to ensure that our resources are aligned with demand. This was a difficult decision that was made even harder because we are losing good people who have helped make Arent Fox an excellent law firm. Those affected are being provided with severance pay and health benefits. We wish them the best.
A classy comment, with minimal spin, that could serve as a model for future such statements. And Arent Fox is an excellent firm, at least according to those of you who responded to our ATL Insider Survey. Among D.C.-based firms, Arent ranked #1 in firm culture and #2 overall.
But that isn’t much comfort to the affected individuals at Arent. Good luck to them as they seek new opportunities, whether in the legal field or beyond.
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…
The Insider Survey asks respondents to rate their firms in each category on a scale of 1 through 10 (with 10 being the best). Please keep in mind that we only publish rating for firms for which we have sufficient survey responses. Obviously, there are major firms missing. So, lawyers at, say, Williams and Connolly or Wiley Rein, or any other firm left out here, please take our survey here and we’ll revisit D.C. when we compile more information.
1. Steptoe and Johnson 9.00
2. Arent Fox 7.83
3. Crowell and Moring 7.25
4. Hogan Lovells 7.05
5. Patton Boggs 7.00
6. WilmerHale 6.72
7. Covington and Burling 6.43
8. Arnold and Porter 6.42
D.C Average: 7.21
National Average: 7.17
1. Steptoe and Johnson 8.0
1. Arent Fox 8.0 (tie)
3. Hogan Lovells 7.05
4. Covington and Burling 6.87
5. WilmerHale 6.76
6. Patton Boggs 6.0
7. Arnold and Porter 5.83
8. Crowell and Moring 5.75
D.C Average: 6.78
National Average: 7.18
1. Steptoe and Johnson 8.30
2. WilmerHale 7.52
3. Covington and Burling 7.30
3. Hogan Lovells 7.30 (tie)
5. Arnold and Porter 7.08
6. Patton Boggs 7.0
6. Arent Fox 7.0 (tie)
8. Crowell and Moring 5.88
D.C Average: 7.17
National Average: 7.09
Culture and Colleagues
1. Arent Fox 9.00
2. Steptoe and Johnson 8.60
3. Covington and Burling 8.35
4. Patton Boggs 8.0
4. Hogan Lovells 8.0 (tie)
5. WilmerHale 7.68
6. Crowell and Moring 7.50
7. Arnold and Porter 7.42
D.C Average: 8.06
National Average: 7.99
1. Steptoe and Johnson 8.24
This firm is great about treating associates like professionals. Face time is a non-issue — as long as you get your work done, the partners are flexible about where the work gets done.
2. Arent Fox 7.83
A very open, welcoming, liberal, diverse culture. Supportive of minorities and very family-friendly.
3. Hogan Lovells 7.43
It is all about the culture. The number of a-hole partners is low and associates are genuinely valued.
4. Covington and Burling 7.32
Covington is a really pleasant place to work. The people are great, and as long as the work that needs to get done is getting done, people are very understanding about the fact that everyone wants a life outside of the firm. It’s a bit less social than a lot of other firms, which actually helps with having a life outside the firm — people spend their nights and weekends at home, not at the firm.
4. Patton Boggs 7.32
For each of the three years I have been at the firm, my year-end bonus has been higher than the lockstep bonuses doled out by New York firms.
6. WilmerHale 7.22
Wilmer is great. Colleagues whose significant others work at other big firms in town know that Wilmer is a more friendly and collegial BigLaw experience. All while working on front page matters with well-known partners. All around first-rate. Recruiting is very selective.
7. Arnold and Porter 6.77
[A]ssociate partner relationships the single most important factor in determining the types of cases and work you get. For the most part, great people to work with.
8. Crowell and Moring 6.53
Pros: hands on experience for junior attorneys, opportunities to write substantive pleadings, generally nice people and a clear value for pro bono. Cons: compensation is a bit of a black box process with minimal transparency.
D.C Average: 7.33
National Average: 7.38
So congrats to Steptoe and Johnson for the highest overall rating. (Just don’t confuse them with this firm, they hate that.) Comparing the D.C. average ratings to the national averages, what’s striking is how closely they track. In five out of six categories, the D.C. ratings are within a tenth of point of the national averages. The one exception? Firm morale, which is significantly lower.
Finally, for those of you who have yet to do so — whether in D.C. or elsewhere — please take a few minutes and take the ATL Insider Survey. Thank you.
This weekend, I had the unenviable task of going on Fox News and “defending” Detroit. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be defending: poor city government, white flight, crumbling infrastructure… the best thing anybody can say about Detroit right now is that Miguel Cabrera is still sober. My solution was to sell Detroit to Canada. Our neighbors to the north seem to do a better job of providing civic services in a business-friendly environment without the kind of gridlock and recriminations that dominate every “solution” ever offered to Detroit’s long-standing problems.
Understand, this is a city that can’t even file for bankruptcy without getting dragged into legal quicksand. Former Jones Day partner Kevyn Orr was named Detroit’s emergency financial manager just four months ago. Evidently, it doesn’t take long to look at Detroit’s books and cry uncle, but now a judge is trying to block Orr and the city from restoring financial sense.
Don’t worry, as usual there will be people making money in Detroit. It just won’t be the people who actually live there…
First, let’s deal with the fact that Detroit’s bankruptcy filing is being challenged in court. From Reuters:
Concerned that retirement benefits will be slashed, Detroit retirees, workers and pension funds have been running to state court in Michigan’s capital of Lansing in an effort to derail the biggest Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
A Michigan state court judge on Monday morning adjourned a hearing in a case brought by city pension plans with no action taken. The pension plans asked for the proceedings to be postponed one week to July 29.
That follows an order issued in one of the other cases on Friday by the same judge, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, directing Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to withdraw the bankruptcy petition he filed on Thursday.
In Friday’s order Aquilina said the state law that allowed Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to approve the bankruptcy filing violated the Michigan Constitution. The governor cannot take actions that would violate constitutional protections for retirement benefits for public workers, she said.
So Detroit, which can’t afford to pay all that it owes to things like its public pension funds, might not be allowed to file for bankruptcy because it might affect how much it owes to its public pension funds. Baby Boomers really rigged this system in an amazing way.
Generally, I’m on the side of public workers, police, firefighters, teachers — a city should meet its obligations to its workers.
But as much as I might support “workers” over “corporations” or whatever, there’s comes a point where the only side you can choose is “math.” Detroit owes money, but it has no tax base. How many of these retired workers even still live in Detroit? Math is a bitch, and she doesn’t care about our human laws and constitutions.
While Detroit’s retired workers hope the state’s constitution protects their interests, Detroit’s creditors have hired their own protection force. From Am Law Daily:
Detroit’s municipal bond insurers and creditors have retained their own teams of Am Law 100 firms.
Arent Fox is advising Ambac Assurance; Sidley Austin and Michigan’s Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss are representing the National Public Finance Guarantee Corporation; Winston & Strawn has been retained by Assured Guaranty; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges is counseling the Financial Guaranty Insurance Company.
There are also some local firms getting in on the action. It’s a right mess, so we can expect that lawyers will be getting paid.
* Though she be but little, she is fierce! Under Mary Jo White’s guidance, the Securities and Exchange Committee is now cracking down on financial fraud with a vengeance. [DealBook / New York Times]
* When a Biglaw firm’s chairman skeptically says, “Uh, OK, I mean, maybe,” with regard to a future increased demand for legal work, you know things are bad. We’ll have more on this later today. [New Republic]
* With Detroit’s downfall, vultures are swooping in left and right to snag clients. Firms retained thus far include Weil Gosthal, Arent Fox, Kirkland & Ellis, Winston & Strawn, and Sidley Austin. [Reuters]
* “I’m not a 100% sure this is legal.” Two law professors have come up with a revolutionary way for law students to finance legal education that sounds like it just might work. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* Normally when Biglaw firms and legal departments go to court over contested litigation, something’s gone wrong, but this summer, they’re trying to do some good in the world. [National Law Journal]
* Soon, it’ll be known as Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School, but even with a new name, you’re still going to be Cooley, and there’s no recovery from that. [Lansing State Journal]
* In Greenwich, Connecticut, the fact that people buy homes where they want their kids to go to school isn’t a “complicated concept.” The schools’ racial diversity, on the other hand, is. [New York Times]
* Since summer’s start, Patton Boggs has been leaking lawyers like a sieve. Thus far, 22 partners and 11 associates have defected from the firm to Holland & Knight, Jackson Lewis, Arent Fox, and WilmerHale. [Blog of Legal Times]
* Considering the deadly force choke American health care reform legislation has supposedly put on employers, perhaps more lawyers ought to consider becoming Jedi masters of the Affordable Care Act. [Daily Business Review]
* The new normal for the ivory tower: Law schools are tackling falling applications by “voluntarily” decreasing their class sizes, or by “voluntarily” offering faculty and staff buyouts. [Wall Street Journal]
* But look on the bright side, professors, the ABA wants to amend its accreditation standards to save your jobs and offer greater protections. Too bad its unwilling to do the same for students. [ABA Journal]
* If you’ve been swindling clients for long enough, the law school you donated money to will try to scrub your name off its walls. That is what’s happening now at IU-McKinney Law. [National Law Journal]
* The National Labor Relations Board, now with fewer recess appointments! Partners from Arent Fox and Morgan Lewis were nominated to fill seats necessary for the board’s quorum. [National Law Journal]
* Shearman & Sterling seems to be bucking the Biglaw system. The firm is cutting pay for high earners and increasing it for lower-ranking attorneys. We’ll probably have more on this later today. [Reuters]
* Dentons (formerly known as SNR Denton) recently poached a six-partner team led by Stephen Hill from Husch Blackwell to bolster its white collar practice. Welkom too teh furm, guise! [Am Law Daily]
* “It is technically more legal to screw a walrus than to get gay married.” You know you live in a very sad place when not only do article headlines like this exist, but they’re also CORRECT. [Death and Taxes]
* An American Eagle pilot is facing attempted drunk flying charges. Yes, that’s a thing, but come on now, anyone who’s seen the movie Flight knows you can fly a plane while you’re wasted. [Bloomberg]
* Lindsay Lohan blew off a deposition in Los Angeles yesterday. Cut the girl some slack; she had to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman, which was way more important. [Contra Costa Times]
* “I’ve been a restaurant waitress, a hotel hostess, a car parker, a nurse’s aide, a maid in a motel, a bookkeeper and a researcher.” This SCOTUS wife was well-prepared to give a graduation speech at New England Law. [Huffington Post]
* Sniffling over lost profits is the best way to get a court to take your side. Biglaw firms have asked the Second Circuit to consider reversing a decision in the Coudert Brothers “unfinished business” clawback case. [Legal Intelligencer]
* James Holmes, the alleged Aurora movie theater gunman, is being evicted from his apartment. Guess he didn’t know — or care — that booby-trapping the place with bombs would be against the terms of his lease. [Denver Post]
* The ABA has created a task force to study the future of legal education, and its work is expected to completed in 2014. ::rolleyes:: Oh, good thing they’re not in any kind of a hurry — there’s no need to rush. [ABA Journal]
* Indiana Tech, the little law school that nobody wants could, has hired its first faculty members. Thus far, the school has poached law professors from from West Virginia, Florida A&M, and Northern Illinois. [JD Journal]
* When divorces get weird: is this lawyer’s soon-to-be ex-wife hacking into his law firm email account and planning to publish privileged communications online? Yep, this is in Texas. [Unfair Park / Dallas Observer]
* Breast-feeding porn: yup, that’s a thing, so start Googling. A New Jersey mother is suing an Iowa production company after an instructional video she appeared in was spliced to create pornography. [Boston Globe]
* If someone from your school newspaper asks you for a quote about oral sex, and then you’re quoted in the subsequent article, you’re probably not going to win your invasion of privacy lawsuit. [National Law Journal]
The four attorneys who just jumped to DLA are John J. Altorelli and Alexander G. Fraser, who were partners at Dewey, and Patrick Costello and Gerald Francese, who were counsel. All four will be partners at DLA, and Altorelli will serve as co-chair of DLA’s U.S. finance practice, as well as a member of the executive committee. Although DLA is not a paradise, presumably the Dewey defectors determined DLA Piper to be more stable than Dewey (unless they took an “any port in a storm” approach, which is certainly possible).
In other Dewey news, the American Lawyer is revising the 2010 and 2011 financial results for Dewey — downward. And we’re hearing rumblings about some of the firm’s international offices….
The American Lawyer is revising the 2010 and 2011 financial results reported for Dewey & LeBoeuf in our annual Am Law 100 ranking. The revision is based on a review prompted by a March 27 Bloomberg story. In that article, Dewey’s management reported earnings of $250 million for 2011, far less than the amount reported by The American Lawyer for its Am Law 100 database three weeks earlier.
On March 7, Dewey management told The American Lawyer that the firm collected $935 million last year, up from $909.9 million in 2010. According to the Bloomberg story, which was corroborated by a current and a former partner, however, the revenue figure for 2011 is actually $782 million, up 3 percent from the previous year. According to the new information, equity and non-equity partners shared a profit pool of $254 million. Equity partners, viewed apart from the non-equity tier, shared a net of $197.5 million, not the $340.5 million first reported by The American Lawyer.
According to the new information, profits per partner last year were $1.04 million, not the $1.8 million The American Lawyer initially reported. Additionally, our new reporting shows that the firm’s revenue per lawyer was $750,000 last year, not $900,000.
Going from $1.8 million to $1 million in PPP is a significant drop, altering Dewey’s place in the profits-per-partner rankings by probably dozens of spots (we’ll know how many when the full Am Law 100 rankings come out). Consider DLA Piper, the new home of the latest Dewey defectors. DLA had PPP of $1.225 million in 2011. Revising Dewey down by $800,000 takes it from being well ahead of DLA to somewhat behind.
(The size of the revision also makes me wonder about the overall accuracy of PPP figures, but that’s another kettle of fish. My general view on the law firm financial data reported by Am Law is not unlike some people’s view on God: we believe because it’s all we’ve got. If you have information about the accuracy of your firm’s financials as reported by Am Law in the past, please feel free to email us. If we get enough tips, maybe we’ll write about this subject.)
For its part, Dewey denied that its numbers need to be restated. The firm issued a statement on the subject (which we’ve reprinted in full on the next page).
Meanwhile, on the international front, we’ve heard reports that some of the firm’s overseas offices might be shuttered over the next few months. The reports are vague, however, and some sources deny that there are plans for the closing of any specific office. But if some foreign offices were to close, such as the more thinly staffed ones, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Office closures could assist Dewey in refocusing on on its core clients and core locations.
Some of the reports concern Dewey’s offices in Italy. The firm’s two Italian offices, in Rome and Milan, are home to more than 100 lawyers, including about 30 partners. One tipster tells us that the Italian offices might break off to start their own independent firm or might wind up joining another large international law firm, such as White & Case.
“The recent events opened up a furious internal debate and fight,” says our Italian source. Some of the Italian partners have issues with the leadership of Bruno Gattai, head of D&L’s Italian practice. But Gattai, who has received numerous awards for his M&A and private equity work, is a major rainmaker. “Some consider him a despot, but he controls a lot of business,” according to our source.
Some of the rank-and-file Italian partners believe that having the Italian operations under the international umbrella of Dewey & LeBoeuf helps keep Gattai under control. They fear that he would be “out of control” as the head of a strictly Italy-based firm without any ties to a global mega-firm. “It is a typical Italian saga,” our tipster tells us.
Will Dewey say ciao to its Italian offices? Or will it all turn out molto bene? Stay tuned.
For Dewey’s statement on its financials and for links to recent news stories cited in this post, please flip to the next page.
P.S. In unrelated Dewey news, one former Dewey associate objected to this comment in a prior post by Elie: “We know from past experiences that when firms get into [financial trouble], the partners take care of themselves, but the associates are on their own.” This source pointed out that some Dewey partners have brought associates over to their new homes — and should be praised for not leaving their people in the lurch.
* Statistically speaking, with its current line up, the Supreme Court is the most conservative that it’s been since the 1930s. This chart makes even Justice Kennedy look conservative. [FiveThirtyEight / New York Times]
* And another one gone, and another one gone, another one bites the dust: earlier this week, Dewey lost an antitrust partner to Arent Fox. That brings the firm’s grand total of partner defections to 38. [Am Law Daily]
* Jerry Sandusky’s trial has been postponed until June to due to “logistical contingencies” — like a motion to dismiss all of his child sex abuse charges. Meh, it’s no big deal. Same verdict, different day. [Bloomberg]
* And on a similar note, Warren Jeffs tried — and failed — to appeal his child sex abuse conviction. Because apparently that’s what happens when you represent yourself in the hopes of overturning a life sentence. [CNN]
* Lindsay Lohan’s supervised probation has ended, and for the time being, her legal woes are over. When will she screw up again? I’m going to give her three months, and that’s being really generous. [Daily Telegraph]
Welcome to the West Coast edition of the Career Center’s Top Partners to Work For. For the past few weeks, we have revealed the best partners to work for in New York and Washington, D.C., as nominated by you, our readers.
Let’s find out why these six partners are truly stellar….
David Anderson. A Sidley Austin litigation partner, Anderson “is the partner who actually takes time to get to know associates; he was a first assistant AUSA and he is willing to train us.” The associate adds: “It is a pleasure to work with him, and I have made sure to stay on white collar cases so that I can keep getting the training and mentoring.”
Frederick Baker. For one associate, it’s clear why Baker, a Sedgwick appellate partner, is one of the top partners: “Fred is the best boss I’ve worked for, and I’ve worked for a lot of them, in a lot of different jobs. If Fred left the firm, then I’d probably follow him.”
Richard de Bodo. An IP litigation partner and co-chair of DLA Piper’s Patent Litigation practice, de Bodo receives the following praise: “Rich de Bodo is an outstanding, Chambers-rated IP lawyer with an amazing mind and exceptional experience, both of which he shares with associates as he looks for other viewpoints on strategy and how to work a case. Associates are given immense responsibilities and should expect to work very hard, but the training you receive, the critical thinking skills, and the experience is well worth it. He shows you how to be all you can be and more than you ever thought you were capable of. Working for Rich is like becoming a SEAL – hard, hard work, but when you come out you are the best of the best.”
Anthony De Corso. An associate who previously worked for De Corso, an Orrick litigation partner, describes him as “the only Biglaw partner I can actually say was a pleasure to work for.” In addition, he is “both a great lawyer and a great person and doesn’t assign work based on hierarchy.”
Carla Feldman. An associate who formerly worked for Feldman, an Arent Fox labor and employment partner, doesn’t mince words: “In the ruthless world of Biglaw employment (where the margins are razor thin), Carla was brilliant, industrious, and ethical. It’s an ugly microcosm, but Carla was a shining beacon of integrity and decency. I hate everyone (as I am a Biglaw associate), but I would f**king throw myself in front a train to help Carla. I’ve worked at four big firms, and she is the best in all regards.”
Hydee Feldstein. Feldstein, a Sullivan & Cromwell banking and bankruptcy partner, sets the bar for the firm in all survey categories and is an “[e]xcellent partner to work for — she inspires one to be a better attorney.”
Next week, we will wrap up our coverage of the top California partners whom associates enjoy working for. In the meantime, you can find out more about the top law firms at which these partners work by visiting the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link.