Above the Law

Recent Headlines from Above the Law

 

Earlier this month, we launched the ATL Law Firm Reputation Survey, asking those of you working in Biglaw to rate your peers and competitors. (Take five minutes and take our survey here.)

For our purposes, we split “reputation” into two distinct aspects: 1) the reputed strength and quality of a firm’s practice, and 2) the perceived desirability of the firm as a potential employer. For some, these factors will be functionally equivalent. For others, these are less overlapping considerations.

To date, we’ve received not quite a thousand survey responses and today we share some preliminary findings. What are you telling us thus far about which firms have the strongest practices? Which firms are some of the most coveted Biglaw employers in major markets?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Law Firm Reputation Survey: Who Are The Early Front-Runners?”

This is the latest in a new series of ATL infographics — visual representations of our own proprietary data, relevant third-party data, “anecdata,” or just plain jokes. This infographic is brought to you by our friends at Prestige Legal Search. Earn another $5,000 to $50,000 with their Rewards Program.

For the most part, Biglaw associate bonuses remain stuck at last year’s levels, reflecting expectations that firm profits will be flat at best. This might seem fair, with everyone feeling the pinch of the “New Normal” and so on. But when we take a small step back and see how these bonus numbers compare as a percentage of partner profits to the bonuses of just a few years ago, these bonuses are arguably pretty measly.

The current $10,000 “market” (i.e., Cravath-following) rate for first-years is just 0.29% of Cravath’s profits per partner (according to the American Lawyer). Back in 2007, first-year bonuses equaled 1.36% of PPP. In other words, the Cravath partnership was nearly five times more generous to its associates back then.

Obviously, Cravath is among the most profitable firms in the world. What are the implications of matching Cravath’s bonus scale for those firms with much lower profit margins? Today’s infographic takes a look at how big a hit to PPP partners willingly take in order to Keep Up With The Cravathians….

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In the two years that we’ve been conducting our ATL Insider Survey, we’ve amassed in excess of 15,500 responses from practicing lawyers and law students. These results have provided us with unique insights into what people really think about their employers and schools. We believe our survey information furnishes our readers with a deep resource for comparing and evaluating these organizations, whether in the form of our Law Firm and Law School Directories, or in posts that take a deeper look at such factors as practice area, compensation, or geographic location. Many thanks to those thousands of readers who have shared their experiences.

Obviously, one subject that the ATL readership is passionate about is the world of Biglaw. Whether it’s to assess a potential employer, or to simply see how one’s firm compares to its peers, apparently there’s no end to the appetite for insider information. So as this year winds down, we’ll end on a happy note and have a look at which Biglaw firms are rated most highly by their own employees…

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In the wake of recent matches of the Cravath scale from Simpson Thacher and then Sullivan & Cromwell, it’s looking likely that associate bonus season is over. Sure, there will be outliers — like Boies Schiller and its $250,000 and even $300,000 bonuses — but most Biglaw firms will probably end up following Cravath.

Still, as Staci Zaretsky observed earlier today, there’s a one-in-a-million chance that some firm that hasn’t announced yet will beat Cravath. And if you’ve bought a ticket for Friday’s $400 million Mega Millions drawing, you believe in one-in-a-million — actually, one-in-259-million — chances.

Three firms just announced their year-end associate bonuses for 2013. Let’s scratch off these tickets and see what lies underneath….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Debevoise, Linklaters, And Schulte, Oh My!”

Can Biglaw solve this puzzle?

Most every law firm — including 100 percent of the Am Law 50 — maintains a Linkedin company page. Or rather, “maintains” such a presence on that most buttoned-up of all the social media platforms. A quick look at the LinkedIn pages of the Vault top 10 shows that only two firms bothered to change their page’s default setting to display “Services” rather than the inapt “Products” tab on the navigation menu. (Kudos to Kirkland and Debevoise!) This might seem like the most trivial of nits to pick, but aren’t these firms defined by fanatical attention to detail? Yet this nonchalance is emblematic of Biglaw’s unsettled relationship with social media.

We can safely assume that Biglaw’s old guard just wants social media to get off its lawn already, but what data we have strongly suggests that, as organizations, firms believe — or act as if they believe — that engagement with social media is worth doing (pace Brian Tannenbaum). When we examine the particulars of how they are managing this engagement, firms should hope that there is truth to Chesterton’s dictum: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly….”

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Biglaw’s Brave New Social World”

* Good news if you’re a better golfer than your buddies: if you play in New Jersey, you’re not liable when another member of your group injures someone with an errant ball hit into the proverbial lumber yard. On the other hand, you’ll have to be in New Jersey. [The Legal Blitz]

* Hank Greenberg continues his effort to throw roadblocks in the way of the NY AG investigation into AIG. Now he’s accusing the AAG on the case of ethical lapses, which is only fair since that’s what everyone else is accusing Greenberg of. [NY Daily News]

* It’s official: Biglaw fees are unreasonable. At least by South Florida standards. [South Florida Lawyers]

* A Nevada judge was charged with misdemeanor manslaughter in the death of a bicyclist. If convicted, he could spend up to six months in jail. I’d like to imagine this would play out a lot like when Rorschach went to prison. [Associated Press]

* Congratulations to Jennifer J. Johnson on being named the new dean of Lewis & Clark. Try to avoid any censorship scandals! [Lewis & Clark]

* If you’re in NYC tomorrow evening, the New York City Bar Association is hosting a free event titled “The First Amendment in an Age of Terror” featuring Professor Jonathan Hafetz of Seton Hall University School of Law; James Goodale of Debevoise & Plimpton; Judge Robert D. Sack; Spencer Ackerman, the U.S. National Security Editor for The Guardian; and Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union. [New York City Bar Association]

* Syracuse College of Law students have an early Law Revue video for us. Strap in for a Mariah Carey parody that involves a baby getting a hatchet to the face. That sounds way darker than it really is. Video embedded below….

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… a damn about pro bono.

Pro bono work is often an afterthought in the minds of attorneys who have more important things to do with their time — things like “churn[ing] that bill, baby!” But for others, it’s a commitment to fulfilling the very concept their naive and idealistic law school applications were premised upon: helping the people who need it most.

We know lawyers like rankings, so we thought we’d provide you with a way to measure a firm’s prestige and beneficence, all at the same time. Out of all of the Biglaw firms in the United States, which five are filled with the most worthy do-gooders? Let’s find out…

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[W]hat I found most interesting was that their lives were often far more complex than they had predicted. Even the greatest of expectations, it seems, eventually encounter reality.

Florence Martin-Kessler, a journalist and documentary filmmaker, offering commentary on the lives of 21 women who were interviewed by New York Times Magazine 12 years ago. At the time, they were fresh out of law school, incredibly idealistic, and about to begin careers at Debevoise & Plimpton, where they planned to conquer the world. Today, “only a handful” of them are still with the firm.

Last week we took a look at how Biglaw’s litigation departments stack up against one another in terms of compensation, training, firm morale, hours, and culture.

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:

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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…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Which Biglaw Firms Have The Most Satisfied Litigators?”

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