Law firms love to slap their names on stuff. If you’ve been through on-campus interviewing or worked as a summer associate, you probably own lots of Biglaw-branded swag, from t-shirts to duffel bags to energy drink.
And now you can sip that Biglaw beverage from a customized container. Check out the picture for our latest caption contest….
Paul Weiss might have the hottest lawyers, but Davis Polk has the hottest… cups? This photo gives new meaning to the term “brand dilution”:
Same rules as always: submit possible captions in the comments. Please try to be funny. We’ll choose our favorites — with preference given to those with a legal bent — and then let you vote for the best one.
Please submit your entries by THURSDAY, DECEMBER 5, at 11:59 p.m. (Eastern time). Thanks!
This coming Friday, it is the inalienable right of all Americans to sleep off their hangovers, or riot at Walmart, or do anything at all rather than work for The Man. But Biglaw is a different country. As illustrated by Elie’s decision matrix, the “choice” of whether to work on this sacred day is, for the denizens of the law firm world, fraught with other pressures and expectations. We all know that Biglaw careers demand a Faustian bargain: in return for their fat paychecks (and bonuses?), lawyers are expected to work grueling, unpredictable hours. This time of year, that reality is brought into sharp relief: the “holiday season,” with those “family obligations” and so forth, is something that occurs elsewhere.
But law firm billable expectations are not homogeneous. There are significant differences across practice areas, seniority levels, and, of course, individual firms. So how do the various practices, employment statuses, and firms stack up?
The ATL Insider Survey (we’re fast approaching 15,000 responses, thanks everyone) asks respondents to assess their employers in terms of a variety of “quality of life” categories, including hours. These ratings are indications of respondents’ “satisfaction” with their hours, not an attempt at making quantitative comparisons. We are also assuming that “satisfaction” implies a sense of work/life balance and basic reasonableness, rather than “more = better,” although that will be true of some minority. Please note we lack sufficient survey data to generate ratings for all firms (e.g., Wachtell Lipton). Ratings are on a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 highest.
On this, we’ll just quote Lat: “As the old saying goes, ‘making partner is like winning a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie.’ It’s intended as criticism of partnership, but people seem to forget: eating pie is pretty awesome.”
Congratulations to Haynes and Boone, Davis Polk, Cooley, Jenner, and Fulbright. Condolences to attorneys at the bottom five — although it must be said that they are probably crying all the way to the bank. That group comprises some of the most prestigious and profitable law firms in the world, and many a law student would kill for a job at any one of them.
Finally, thanks to all of you who have taken our Insider Survey. If you’ve yet to, please take a few minutes and do so here.
* Former U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride will be joining Davis Polk as a partner in the firm’s white-collar defense practice. Nice work, DPW — he’s actually kind of cute. Earn back that rep! [DealBook / New York Times]
* Matthew Kluger, most recently of Wilson Sonsini, was disbarred in D.C. following his insider trading conviction. His criminal career apparently began while he was still in law school. Sheesh. [Blog of Legal Times]
* Kent Easter, he of the “I am but a spineless shell of a man” defense, was just on the receiving end of a mistrial. It seems the jury was totally deadlocked. Guess they felt bad for him. [Navelgazing / OC Weekly]
* The Iowa Law Student Bar Association supports the school’s decision to cut out-of-state tuition by about $8,000 because to stand against such a measure would be absolutely ridiculous. Congratulations on not being dumb. [Iowa City Press-Citizen]
* Apple won more than $290 million from Samsung in its patent infringement retrial. Siri, tell me what the fifth-largest jury award in the U.S. was in 2013. OMG, I didn’t say delete all my contacts. [Bloomberg]
* The trial for James Holmes, the shooter in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre, was delayed by a judge until further notice. A hearing has been scheduled to reassess the situation in December. [CNN]
* Myrna S. Raeder, renowned expert on evidence and criminal procedure, RIP. [ABA Journal]
When we talk about the Biglaw firms with the most good-looking attorneys, the conversation usually ends pretty quickly. Only one firm is known to hoard hotties like they’re going out of style, but word on the street is that another firm may be looking to dethrone the sovereign of sexiness.
Move over, Davis Polk, because you’ve got some competition….
According to the New York Post, based on an incredibly scientific study performed by a social dating app called Hinge, there’s only one law firm in New York that’s home to hotties, and it wasn’t the usual suspect, Davis Polk. Which one has displaced DPW in its ability to bring brains and beauty to court?
It’s none other than Paul Weiss. The firm’s men came in at number 7 on Hinge’s list of the Big Apple businesses with the most attractive employees. Show us your briefs, gentlemen, because we’d obviously love to see them. Here’s additional information:
“The inquiry at the heart of these findings is whether attractive people are more likely to be hired by these companies — or that by working at these companies, people become more attractive to others,” a representative for the company said.
“We think it’s a mixture of both.”
That said, we think it’s now pretty easy to see why Paul Weiss employs some of the happiest and “most satisfied” men in Biglaw. With their incredibly good looks, they’re probably getting satisfied every night.
Here’s just a small sample of the talent you’ll be able to find at the Paul Weiss New York office (six favorites of mine, selected after reviewing 41 pages of profiles):
Davis Polk, it’s time for you to put up or shut up. If you’ve got men who are hotter than the ones we found at Paul Weiss, you better make them known to us, lest you lose the rights to the “Men of Biglaw” calendar.
We here at ATL want to know what world’s largest legal audience — ours, of course — thinks. Hence, we ask our audience a lot of questions. Our Insider Survey, which is soon coming up on its 15,000th respondent, provided the raw materials for the creation of our Law Firm and Law School Directories, as well as features on various specific organizations, locations, and practice areas. To supplement our Insider Survey data, we also take a closer look at specific aspects of institutions, such as compensation and social media policies. Additionally, we check in with our readers for their take on topical events, including presidential politics and Obamacare. Today, we have a look at a handful of our ongoing survey projects: Social Media, Stipend/Advance, and Health Insurance. But first, we are looking for help with a new research initiative.
There is probably no other industry as obsessed with the concept of “culture” as the legal profession, particularly in the world of law firms. Many firms view their culture as a key element of their distinct place in the competitive marketplace. But what does that even mean? Is there consensus on what constitutes culture? Do clients notice or care? We would like to dig deeper into these questions. As a first step in this project, we are looking for a small group of currently practicing law firm attorneys who are willing — in complete confidence — to give us about twenty minutes of their time to answer some of our questions concerning the realities of what defines firm culture. Preference will be given to attorneys who have lateraled between firms. We will be conducting this project in partnership with our friends at Adam Smith Esq. and JD Match. If interested, please email us here.
Apart from the never-ending Insider Survey, ATL has three ongoing surveys which we hope will bring greater transparency to subjects of interest to our readers. Here’s a quick glimpse at where they stand today…
Salary Advances vs. Stipends
One seldom discussed aspect of law firm compensation is the stipend/advance distinction. We are seeking to shed some light on this topic. There are firms that give newly hired associates salary advances rather than stipends. That is, instead of giving them what is effectively a bonus to live on while taking the bar, new hires receive an advance on salary. In other words, a no interest loan. This makes a fairly large financial impact (often a five-figure swing) and we thought it would be helpful to put on law students’ radar screens as they research firms. Thus far, our respondents report a roughly even split between stipends and advances, with around $10,000 as the average amount for both. What is interesting about the results so far are the specific firms that fall into each camp. On one side we have Gibson Dunn, Sidley Austin, and Kirkland. On the other, Davis Polk, Weil Gotshal, and O’Melveny Myers. Which is which? We’ll tell you later! What is your firm’s policy? Please take a minute and let us know here.
Since the Recession, we have heard anecdotal evidence that some firms have been using health care cost clawbacks as a stealth expense-cutting tactic and de facto pay cut. We had to assume that in this time of layoffs and all the rest of the Biglaw belt-tightening measures, that no category of expenses would be immune. The ATL Law Firm Health Insurance Survey confirms those suspicions: 89% of you tell us that your health insurance premiums have gone up since you started work at your firm. One surprising thing coming out of this survey: nearly 10% of respondents tell us that their employers completely cover the cost of their health care premiums. 100% coverage is typically considered a much rarer perk. How does your firm compare? Take our brief, anonymous survey here.
There is ample reason to believe that there has been a sea change in the attitudes of law firms as organizations toward social media. Seventy percent of law firms maintain blogs. Around forty percent said that blogging and social networking had actually helped them land new clients. We thought it would be interesting to get the point of view of the individual attorney within the firm. How prevalent are firms’ use of social technologies? What are they being used for? Thus far, 35% of respondents to the ATL Social Media Survey have told us that their employers “don’t get” social media, whereas only 15% do. Is your firm social media savvy? Or a bunch of Luddites waiting for this whole fad to blow over? Please let us know.
Today, we turn toward the other major category of Biglaw practitioners: corporate/transactional attorneys. Unlike litigators, about whom the public at least has some notion, however distorted, of what they do, most people have no clue what corporate lawyers are up to. No young person daydreams about “facilitating a business transaction,” while there are some who aspire to argue in a courtroom. As noted last week, this litigation/corporate information imbalance is reinforced by the law school curriculum, which remains largely beholden to the case method of instruction.
When comparing the experiences of corporate lawyers versus litigators, there is a familiar litany of pro and cons:
Transactional work is not zero-sum. In theory at least, you work with, rather than against, other lawyers. Although obviously you must protect your client’s interests, you’re not trying to annihilate the other guy.
Your client is probably in a better mood compared to a litigation client and more likely to see you as an ally than as a necessary evil.
Typically, Biglaw firms staff corporate deals much more leanly than litigations, which tend to be more heavily staffed and hierarchically organized.
The low-level work is awful. But this applies equally to litigation. Litigation has doc review and transactional juniors get due diligence. Pick your poison.
Litigators have dates on the calendar — filing deadlines, court dates, etc. — and are somewhat able to anticipate their busiest periods. Not so for corporate attorneys, who generally have much more unpredictable schedules, driven by the vicissitudes of client demands.
Anyway, most Biglaw aspirants are going to have to choose (or be forced into) either transactional or litigation practice. (Again, of course we must acknowledge that in the current legal job market, such a dilemma is the classic “luxury problem.”) For those in a position to choose, which Biglaw shops’ corporate departments offer the highest quality of life? We’ve dug into our survey data for answer.
The ATL Insider Survey (14,500 responses and counting) asks respondents to assess their employers in terms of compensation, training, firm morale, hours, and culture. Below are the firms that were highest rated by their own corporate attorneys in each category, as well as overall. Keep in mind that these ratings are a commentary on the firm as an employer, without regard to “prestige” or transaction values. Please note we lack sufficient survey data to generate ratings for all firms, most notably in this case Wachtell. Also, we use the category “Corporate” in its broadest sense, lumping together securities, M&A, and all the varieties of corporate practice into one group. Ratings are on a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 highest.
Davis Polk 8.82
Debevoise & Plimpton 8.75 Paul, Weiss 8.50
Simpson Thacher 8.18 Latham 8.00
Average score for all firms: 6.96
Training Cravath 8.89
Latham 8.63 Wilson Sonsini 8.53
Ropes & Gray 8.50 (tie)
Debevoise & Plimpton 8.50 (tie)
Average score for all firms: 7.09
Culture & Colleagues
Davis Polk 9.18
Debevoise & Plimpton 9.00
Simpson Thacher 8.76
Ropes & Gray 8.67
Average score for all firms: 7.69
Davis Polk 8.68
Debevoise & Plimpton 8.44
Simpson Thacher 8.35
Ropes & Gray 8.05
Average score for all firms: 7.29
Wow, Davis Polk takes the top spot in both our corporate and litigation practitioner Insider Survey results. So it’s true: beautiful people are happier. Congratulations to Davis Polk.
Overall, these lists are unsurprisingly dominated by New York firms. Not just any New York firms, but those of the old money, blindingly white-shoe variety: Debevoise, Simpson, Cravath, etc. Apparently, these firms’ reputations for genteel and courteous firm cultures are well-founded. Not to mention a breeding ground for contented lawyers who are practicing at the highest level.
If you have yet to do so, please take a few minutes and tell us about your law firm (or law school) here. Thank you for your contributions.
Now another Biglaw associate has decided to go into the lingerie game….
Today’s Stealth Lawyer, Jiabei Chen, is a lawyer turned lingerie designer. Jiabei is the co-founder of Ampere, a lingerie company committed to helping women find their actual size… not just the size retailers try to force the girls into. Jiabei’s résumé includes graduating from a top law school and working at an elite law firm in New York. How do you jump from a Biglaw corporate practice to selling lingerie? She shares her story with Spencer Mazyck of Bloomberg Law:
Ampere’s twist on the lingerie business allows women to select the size they think they wear and Ampere will also send them a few “sister sizes” to try on at home. After selecting the best fit, the customer returns the rest.
Getting the right size is all the rage in this market. It’s reminiscent of Diana St. Louis, who left the law to design bras specifically for busty women.
Perhaps the best part of Ampere’s business model is that the lightly used bras that the customer returns are donated to victims of human trafficking. It’s called the Free the Girls program. I see what they did there.
The popular conception of “lawyer” — as seen on television and in the movies — is that of a litigator. Understandably, law students are also susceptible to this view and will be so as long as the case method remains the pedagogy of choice in law school. Cases, by definition, are always about litigation. Both popular culture and the law school curriculum show lawyers most often in court or, at least, investigating the facts of the case. However, the truth of litigation practice is very different: the overwhelming majority of litigators’ work takes place outside the courtroom. Never mind that upwards of 90 percent of all lawsuits settle before trial or that most litigators’ spend their actual in-court time arguing procedural motions rather than the substance of the dispute. Oh, and there’s also doc review.
Anyway, most new associates and law students who aspire to Biglaw are going to be confronted with a question. To grossly generalize and simplify: am I a litigator or a transactional attorney? Many would say that there are distinct personality types best suited for each. Are you a win-lose kind of person or a win-win kind of person? Do you enjoy confrontation? Do you care if you ever see the inside of a courtroom? How important is the predictability of your schedule? And so on. (Of course we must acknowledge that wrestling over such questions is the classic “luxury problem.” For the majority of law students, what follows is, at most, of voyeuristic interest.)
For those in a position to choose, which Biglaw shop’s litigation departments offer the highest quality of life? We’ve dug into our survey data for answers…
The ATL Insider Survey (14,500 response and counting) asks respondents to assess their employers in terms of compensation, training, firm morale, hours, and culture. Below are the firms that were highest rated by their own litigators in each category, as well as overall. Keep in mind that these ratings are a commentary on the firm as an employer, without regard to “prestige” or won/loss record. Please note we lack sufficient survey data to generate ratings for all firms, most notably in this case Williams & Connolly. Also, we use the category “Litigation” in its broadest sense, lumping together IP, general commercial litigation, white collar defense, securities litigation, and all the disparate varieties into one group. Ratings are on a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 highest.
1. Davis Polk 8.94
2. Jenner & Block 8.67
3. Sidley Austin 8.22
4. Paul Weiss 7.90
5. Boies Schiller 7.79
Average score for all firms: 7.09
1. Paul Weiss: 8.80
2. Cravath 8.75
3. Jenner & Block 8.58
4. Arnold & Porter 8.22
5. Davis Polk 8.13
Average score for all firms: 7.97
Culture & Colleagues
1. Jenner & Block 9.25
2. Sidley Austin 8.89
3. Davis Polk 8.81
4. Debevoise & Plimpton 8.80 (tie)
4. Quinn Emanuel 8.80 (tie)
Average score for all firms: 7.97
1. Davis Polk 8.67
2. Jenner & Block 8.50
3. Sidley Austin 8.27
4. Paul Weiss 8.04
5. Arnold & Porter 7.89
Average score for all firms: 7.29
Congratulations to the Davis Polkers and all the other happy campers at the firms making the grade here. Not only do the litigators at these firms report a higher quality of life relative to all their peers at hundreds of other firms, they are, however you measure it, among the profession’s most elite practitioners.
Finally, if you have yet to do so, please take a few minutes and tell us about your firm (or school) here.
As was vividly demonstrated by our recent infographic, Biglaw’s summer associate classes have undergone a major and seemingly permanent contraction. For the most part, large — arguably bloated — summer associate classes are a thing of the past. Among the Am Law 50, only eight firms are bucking this downward trend, with actual increases in the size of their summer classes since 2007. These firms are a collection of Wall Street’s oldest and most elite white shoe mainstays: Sullivan & Cromwell, Cravath, Davis Polk, and their ilk. On average, these firms were founded 112 years ago (i.e., during the McKinley Administration). The outlier here is the relative upstart litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel, founded only back in 1987.
Besides the durability and strength that comes with such a refined pedigree, what other trends are apparent in this great downsizing of Biglaw’s summer associate classes?
Some further observations on the decline of the giant Biglaw summer associate class:
Changes in summer associate class size by geographic region (based on a firm’s HQ or original location)
New York City: -22.5%
Ouch, Chicago. The aforementioned small group of firms experiencing growth in their summer classes are largely in New York, and would help account for the relatively smaller decrease there.
Firms which are the product of a major merger within the last decade have seen a decrease of 47.25% in the size of their summer classes. This group includes K&L Gates, DLA Piper, Dentons, and Hogan Lovells.
Practice area strength does seems to be a factor in the direction of a firm’s summer program, with firms noted for their litigation practices remaining more stable than their more corporate peers. Firms rated as “Band 1 (nationwide)” by Chambers for Corporate/M&A practice experienced a decrease of 34%. Firms in Chambers’ “Band 1 (nationwide)” for Litigation practice experienced a decrease of just 19%.
Though reduced in number, one thing still remains as true as it was in the halcyon days of the mid-aughts: summer associates are the happiest campers in all of Biglaw. Below is a comparison of ratings from the ATL Insider Survey, which asks respondents to evaluate how their firms are doing in terms of compensation, hours, morale, culture, and training. Unsurprisingly, when compared with full-time attorneys, summers give their firms decidedly higher marks on every count:
Finally, if you haven’t yet, please take a few minutes and respond to our survey here. Thanks.
We’ve just entered August, so you know what that means: the start of on-campus interviewing season. If you’re a law student researching firms or a lawyer involved in your firm’s recruiting efforts, check out Above the Law’s law firm directory, where law firms get letter grades in different categories. Law firms might look alike on the surface, but there are very real differences between them, as our grading system reflects.
For example, law firms diverge when it comes to diversity. While every firm gives lip service to diversity, some firms have the goods to back up their claims, while others do not.
Let’s check out the latest diversity rankings, from two different news outlets, to see which firms are truly diverse….
Here are the top ten firms for diversity, according to the latest Vault rankings (i.e., the 2014 rankings):
Not much movement here, as you can see when comparing this list to last year’s top ten. Congratulations to Carlton Fields, which took top honors for the fifth year in a row. Congratulations to Ropes & Gray, Littler Mendelson, Debevoise & Plimpton, Jenner & Block, Shook Hardy & Bacon, and Baker Donelson, all of which remained in the top ten. And congratulations to Schiff Hardin, Cleary Gottlieb, Alston & Bird, and Paul Hastings, who broke into the top ten.
Who fell out of the top ten? Three firms, but they didn’t fall far, and they deserve kudos for remaining in the top 25: Paul Weiss (from #7 to #11), Foley Hoag (from #10 to #12), and Fenwick & West (from #8 to #13). You can check out the full list of top firms for diversity here.
Meanwhile, in June, the American Lawyer issued its latest Diversity Scorecard. The Am Law rankings diverge from the Vault rankings because they focus on different factors, as we’ve explained before: Am Law focuses exclusively on the percentage of minority lawyers and partners at a firm, in terms of racial and ethnic minorities, while Vault looks at diversity as it relates to minorities, women, LGBT individuals, and individuals with disabilities.
Here are the top ten firms from Am Law’s Diversity Scorecard (click to enlarge):
Congratulations to Lewis Brisbois, for taking the #1 spot yet again, and congratulations to the other top 10 firms, all of whom made the top 10 last year too: White & Case, Wilson Sonsini, Curtis Mallet, Fragomen, Munger Tolles, Kenyon & Kenyon, Fenwick & West, Bowman and Brooke, and Morrison & Foerster. You can access the complete Am Law list, which ranks 228 firms, over here.
No firm made both the Vault and Am Law top ten lists, but these ten firms made the top 25 on both:
Cleary Gottlieb: #7 for Vault, #13 for Am Law
Paul Hastings: #10 for Vault, #18 for Am Law
Paul Weiss: #11 for Vault, #21 for Am Law
Fenwick & West: #13 for Vault, #8 for Am Law
Munger Tolles: #17 for Vault, #6 for Am Law
Davis Polk: #19 for Vault, #18 for Am Law
Hughes Hubbard: #20 for Vault, #12 for Am Law
Irell & Manella: #22 for Vault, #20 for Am Law
Finnegan Henderson: #23 for Vault, #15 for Am Law
Weil Gotshal: #24 for Vault, #14 for Am Law
Congratulations to all of the firms honored by Vault and by the American Lawyer for their diversity. We’re not quite there yet when it comes to diversity in Biglaw, but thanks to these pioneering firms, we’re getting closer by the day.