The firm was dubbed the “Most Feared and Loathed Firm in Silicon Valley” by Business Insider (June 2011)
They have a Nintendo Wii and Beatles RockBand in the lobby of the Chicago office
Former summer associates include Korean pop star, Nikki Lee
Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway Toys Lead Paint Litigation
National HAMP litigation against Wells Fargo
Netflix Video Privacy Litigation
Simon & Schuster Text Spam Litigation
Blagojevich civil RICO case
Inside the Firm
from the firm
We are a different type of firm.
Headquartered in Chicago, we focus on high stakes plaintiff’s-side class actions, employ only 20 or so lawyers (and presently four summer associates), and thrive on representing the little guy. We have a ping pong table in our conference room and really, our office feels more like a tech-start up than a law firm. Check out our website, www.edelson.com and you’ll see what we mean. We’re unafraid to litigate cases of first impression and get our kicks out of challenging convention. And while we’ve probably ruffled a few feathers along the way – last year, Business Insider dubbed us the “Most Feared and Loathed Firm in Silicon Valley” – we’ve also managed to win several seminal opinions while litigating some of the most exciting class actions in the Country.
When it comes to our associates, we take issue with the model that holds the person who knows the most about the particulars of a given case gets to do the least meaningful work. As we litigate matters involving new technologies, it is often the youngest person in the room who has the right answer. We celebrate that by encouraging our associates to take ownership over their cases and by giving them real work starting their very first day. If one of our associates writes a great brief, chances are he or she will be the one arguing it in Court. If a Summer Associate comes up with the winning legal theory or argument, he or she will be at the mediation. And if an associate helps the firm make money, the associate shares in the reward. There’s no hierarchy, no minimum billables requirement, and no pretension. There’s just lawyers working with other lawyers…in shorts.
We admit our firm isn’t for everyone: We take our work very seriously but never ourselves. Someone who needs a secretary and a team of paralegals to feel successful, or to wear a suit and tie to work everyday – or who can’t make their own copies – wouldn’t be a great fit. Anyone whose passion is defending multi-national corporations that break the law shouldn’t apply. And a person seriously deciding between us and a big firm should probably just choose the big firm.
Instead, the type of student who excels in our summer program is smart, entrepreneurial, driven, talented and – above all else – hungry. We’re looking for thorough researchers and excellent writers who are also creative and willing to take risks. We’re aiming to hire students who are eager to start litigating immediately in a collaborative, fast-paced environment and who don’t measure success by counting the number of lawyers in their department. We seek lawyers who are unafraid to make mistakes and smart enough to know when to learn from them.
In short, we want students who understand that becoming truly great at this profession requires doing real work and want to get that process started immediately. Think you’re ready to come play? Visit www.edelson.com/careers/
from the firm
Jay Edelson is the founder and managing partner of Edelson LLC, a national consumer class action firm. Edelson LLC focuses on consumer technology, privacy, and banking litigation, and has secured settlements valued at over $1 billion in the last five years. Jay also serves as an adjunct professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he teaches class actions and negotiations. The American Bar Association has called him one of the “most creative minds in the legal profession” for his views on associate training and firm management.
1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?
Our greatest challenge is an internal one. The legal industry has demonstrated an inability to embrace (or even talk honestly about the need for) radical changes. Modern innovations in science and technology fuel a constantly and rapidly evolving marketplace. Forward-thinking companies and new entrants have successfully disrupted widely “accepted” ways of doing business. From novel brick-and-mortar storefronts (Apple), to payment processing (Square), or booking a private driver (Uber), these companies have proven how to leverage creativity and technology in solving conventional business problems. Yet our profession is reluctant to follow suit. We cling to rigid hierarchical work environments that stifle ingenuity, the free exchange of information, and job satisfaction. The billable hour continues to dictate fees (and associate pay), which results in having to perform the awkward dance of fostering and preserving relationships with clients while our financial interests remain misaligned. And, we refuse to let go of the notion that attorneys must be seasoned for years before they can meaningfully contribute.
The closest parallel that comes to mind–and it’s not an exact one–is the newspaper industry. Years ago, I listened to a roundtable of editors from some of the country’s leading newspapers. They understood that fewer people were buying papers, advertising revenues were down, and that the forecast looked bleak. Yet, in addition to offering no realistic solutions (“we should charge for internet content” was the most popular), they couldn’t come to terms with their changing industry, namely that (1) consumers had come to expect free content and (2) the wealth of free information on the internet meant readers were no longer reliant on traditional news sources. Fearful of remaining inactive, newspaper conglomerates focused on growth (i.e., acquiring other, smaller, newspaper publications) and cutting labor costs (i.e., layoffs, downsizing, etc.).
It feels like the legal industry is in a similar place. Traditional firms, unwilling to make real reforms but not wanting to sit on their hands either, gobble up other firms, lay off associates (and income partners), shrink their summer classes, and then return to step one. The main difference from the newspaper comparison above is that it’s significantly harder for outsiders to compete with traditional law firms, whereas anyone can set up a blog and instantly be in the media game. Because of strict laws prohibiting non-lawyer ownership of law firms, innovative companies (like LegalZoom) generally exist on the periphery and don’t pose much threat to Biglaw. These barriers to entry mean that change comes at a slower clip, but when it finally reaches us (it will), we won’t have Jeff Bezos to bail us out.
2. What has been the biggest positive change to the legal profession since the start of your career?
The democratization of knowledge, ushered in by the Internet era, has allowed the public greater access to the legal world. Now that court documents are available on the web (albeit sometimes for a small fee), folks can follow cases that interest them, or read editorials about them online. From SCOTUSblog, which demystifies cases of national importance, to Fight Copyright Trolls, which has a significantly narrower focus, members of the public no longer need to rely on lawyers (or the gloss of the national press corps, which often relies on establishment lawyers anyway) to understand how our legal system works. The results, though at times uncomfortable, have been by and large positive. More and more lawyers have embraced “plain language” contracts and briefs, eschewing traditional mind-numbing legalese. It is now easier for clients to understand (and learn about) their rights and, with that knowledge, keep their lawyers honest. Attorneys and judges alike know that their decisions are subject to instant and public scrutiny (thanks, AboveTheLaw!), which makes them more accountable. And when the conduct of large corporations impacts the rights of millions, it has become increasingly simple for individuals to learn about their rights and find a lawyer to protect their interests.
What is both extremely exciting (and scary to some) is that the elimination of this information asymmetry has only just begun. Over the next decade, we can all expect that the knowledge gap between lawyers and the lay public will continue to narrow, which will make the judicial system significantly more open and with that, much more fair (and hopefully more efficient).
3. What has been the biggest negative change to the legal profession since the start of your career?
Our justice system, though imperfect, is the greatest ever created. But it can’t work without proper funding. Over the last few years, state and federal legislatures have failed to recognize this basic fact. Simply put, our courts don’t have the funding that they need. Nor do state Attorney General offices, public defenders, and prosecutors. It has gotten so bad that judicial concerns about the underfunded system are being acknowledged in court opinions. See, e.g., Burton v. Nationstar Mortgage LLC, No. 1:13-cv-00307-LJO-GSA, Dkt. 14 (May 29, 2013), Dkt. 29 (Sept. 3, 2013) (“The parties and counsel are encouraged to contact United States Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to address this Court’s inability to accommodate the parties and this action.”). A lack of funding undermines the entire judicial process and disrespects already starved courts and public servants, stripping them of their ability to reliably offer the speed and certainty needed to enforce the rights of businesses, consumers, and all other litigants.
Another threat to the public’s ability to access the judicial system stems from the Supreme Court’s recent decisions endorsing the enforceability of certain forced arbitration clauses. If this trend continues, we risk developing two distinct systems of justice: corporations (and likely high-powered citizens) can use the public courts, while the average individual will be forced to vindicate their rights in a forum established for the benefit of businesses.
4. What is the greatest satisfaction of practicing law?
We’ve gotten extremely lucky to be at the forefront of many important consumer issues. The fact that many of our cases involve issues of first impression — from private rights of action to enforce home loan modifications to what “harm” means in the digital age — has given us a unique opportunity to have a voice in how consumer rights will be treated over the next 50 years. This is likely most pronounced in the electronic privacy arena. As a former philosophy student, it is especially gratifying to get to contribute to a field that did not even exist a decade ago and that involves so many competing (and subtle) interests. In short, it’s nice to be doing things that I find challenging and relevant.
5. What is the greatest frustration of practicing law?
Trying to get my tie the right length before going to court is a real pain.
6. What is your firm’s greatest strength?
Two come to mind. First, we approach every issue from first principles. This had led to us being able to clearly identify the core values of the firm, including eschewing short-term decision making, hyper-focusing on attorney growth, and never compromising our firm culture. It also means that we stick to our own (and admittedly very different) playbook when it comes to communicating with opposing counsel and courts, and how to litigate and resolve cases. This model has allowed us to experiment with different strategies while developing quickly as a firm. It also has helped create a firm with a unique identity.
Second, and this is a corollary of the first, we have cultivated an environment where people buy into — and are excited about — the idea that they’re working and advancing together as a team. At our firm, personal success flows from firm success (rather than the opposite), which fundamentally changes how people experience their professional lives.
7. What is the single most important personal characteristic for a successful lawyer in your field?
I tend to think of groupings of characteristics as opposed to characteristics in isolation. I also believe that different types of personalities can have success in my field. That being said, I tend to divide the world up in three ways. In no particular order, I think there is tremendous value in “idea generators.” These are the people who are curious and creative, yet can harness their creativity with a strong sense of pragmatism and strategic thinking. People who are very skilled in the role of a more traditional litigator are similarly valued; these people have a heightened sense of urgency, are decisive, possess strong interpersonal skills and have excellent judgment. Finally, analytical types can do very well in our field. These are people who can grasp extremely complicated ideas, synthesize them, and express them in simple terms, while strongly valuing perfectionism. Probably one of the most important characteristics not to have in this practice: risk aversion.
8. What is your favorite legally themed film or television show?
10. What would you have been if you weren’t a lawyer?
Running a start-up that some firm like mine would probably sue.
Lateral Link’s recruiters are on pace to place hundreds of attorneys throughout the world this year. We are currently involved in over three dozen active partner searches including opening the office of an Am Law 50 firm in a new location, the merger of an Am Law 10 firm with a foreign firm, finding practice chairs for several Am Law10 firms, and searches for groups of partners in at least ten different cities, including Atlanta, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dallas, Denver, and Chicago, just to name a few. We are currently working with partner candidates with $500k to $35M in portable business. For more information, please call Michael Allen, Managing Principal at Lateral Link.
(A stock photo of a teen driver — not actually Ethan Couch.)
I’m sure that by now you’ve all heard the story about the wealthy white teenager who killed four people while drunk driving. As we mentioned in yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs, 16-year-old Ethan Couch got off — sentenced to therapy — because the judge agreed that the kid was a victim of “affluenza”: his parents gave him everything he wanted, and he believed that being rich meant that he wouldn’t have to face consequences for his actions.
The kid’s not wrong; the fact that he’s not facing incarceration for killing four people kind of proves the point. A poor white kid would be in jail right now. A rich black kid would be in jail right now. A poor black kid would be picking out items for his last supper right now. Anybody who thinks that this kind of lenience would be given to anybody other than a wealthy white dauphin is wrong and stupid (and probably racist). The rich kid isn’t in jail because rich people don’t suffer the full force of consequences for their actions.
That said… the judge isn’t wrong either. When you have a jerk-off prick of a 16-year-old, as this kid appears to be, it’s probably not his fault. Not really. My outrage isn’t that Couch is getting off, it’s that so many other teens and young people are being incarcerated without this kind of compassion.
Not that there aren’t people who deserve jail time behind this. It’s just that those people are Couch’s parents….
* Robbery suspect explains that the crime was committed by his alternate personality that takes over against the suspect’s will. Looks like Killer BOB is on the loose and committing crimes in Wisconsin! [Stevens Point Journal]
Instead of going after actual terrorists, the government has been investigating innocent people and violating their civil and constitutional rights in the process.
– Jeffrey Kantor, a former government contractor employee, who alleges in a federal lawsuit that he’s being stalked by the government after accidentally searching for “How do I build a bomb?” on Google. Kantor claims he was trying to search for “How do I build a radio-controlled airplane?” but that the search engine’s autocomplete function backfired on him.
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….
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.
What can we expect for the first quarter of 2014 in terms of the lateral partner market? As I have detailed before, the market is generally volatile and the rate of change of each month and quarter from year to year is difficult to predict. In our calculations, the number of lateral movements in December accounts for less than 20% of the variation in lateral movements in January. However, on average there are 2.4 times as many moves in January as there are in the previous December (but this ratio is subject to much volatility).
Maybe it took the snowstorm. I really felt like law students were keeping it together even in the face of impending finals. But it snowed over the weekend, and was very cold in other places, and maybe that wintery snap reminded law students and professors that finals are here and it’s time to go nuts.
This week, we’ve had our share of final exam stories, but they’ve been of the legitimate mistake or concern variety. Today… we’ve just got some weird crap that happens around campus during finals period…
Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnist, Gaston Kroub of Kroub, Silbersher & Komykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique here in New York. He’ll be writing about leaving a Biglaw partnership to start his own firm.
This is a position I never thought I would be in. I am sure my partners feel the same way. If someone would have told me last Thanksgiving that within a year I would, together with two of my colleagues, give notice at my firm to start an IP boutique, I would have laughed. After all, Biglaw was all I knew, starting with my first full-time position as a first-year associate at Greenberg Traurig over a decade (and well over twenty thousand billable hours or so) ago. Leaving Biglaw to start my own boutique? I had honestly never given it a thought before this year.
Now that I am a whole week into the experience, I am happy to report that I have never been more excited for the next stage of my professional career. Even though I no longer have a large office with a view of the Statue of Liberty (and actually am working from home as we negotiate for space), there is something sweet about trying to build a business on my own terms, working together with partners that I have come to value and trust. After all, they had the courage to make the leap as well. While the decision was not an easy one, it already feels like the right one.
Sometimes in life you face choices. When faced with a slight, you can either walk away or you can keep it real.
Take the case of this benchslap. The lawyer felt the judge was being unfair because an appearance was scheduled for the date of the office holiday party. He could have just sucked it up, but he decided to “keep it real.”
And like so many of the protagonists of the Dave Chappelle skit of the same name, it ends with an important lesson about what happens when keeping it real goes wrong….
The week’s almost over, but we’ve got more bonus news for you. While Sullivan & Cromwell, by matching Cravath, might have dashed your hopes of the bonus market climbing higher, there’s still a chance — probably a one-in-a-million chance — that another very special firm could do it.
In fact, every time an associate says, “I don’t believe in higher bonuses,” there’s a would-be Boies-level bonus someplace that falls down dead.
Leave aside that the article hits the tired drum that more people should have gone to prison after the financial crisis – because, of course, the only thing that causes an economic downturn is crime.
Instead, check out how SIGTARP shows us that they’re doing good work as a law enforcement agency.
[Special Inspector General Christy] Romero noted that the average prison sentence imposed by courts for crimes investigated by SIGTARP is five years and nine months — nearly twice the national average for white-collar fraud.
Right – SIGTARP is a serious player because it’s getting serious prison time…
8/5: University of California, Berkeley
8/14: Washington University
8/16: Harvard Law School
8/16: University of Michigan
8/19: John Marshall
8/20: University of Colorado, Boulder
8/22: Northwestern University
8/23: Loyola University
8/29: University of Chicago
9/3: University of Denver, Sturm College of Law
9/3: IIT Chicago-Kent
9/10: University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign