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 PC, a national consumer class action firm. Edelson PC 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.
It’s the most important day of the year for law school deans. The U.S. News 2015 Law School Rankings are out, and absent salacious allegations about their behavior, law deans who do well according to U.S. News do well according to their bank accounts.
The big winner this year seems to be Duke Law School. As we mentioned earlier, they’ve cracked the top ten. Congratulations to the Harvard of the South.
Meanwhile, this seems to be the year U.S. News has fully committed to “ties.” Ties are great for law schools. How else can you have 60 schools claim to be “top 50 institutions”? U.S. News makes ties like kissing your sister… your really hot, adopted sister that your Dad would be all over if your Dad were Woody Allen.
So, who is #1? If you have to ask that question, you’ve clearly come to the wrong website and might want to rethink this whole “going to law school” thing until you’ve researched enough to get a freaking clue…
People can be so unreliable. Especially if those people are Biglaw litigators in a high-stakes intellectual property dispute. With a scheduling order set months in advance, with no warning as to the volume of disagreement, these lawyers dumped “joint” pretrial filings “so rife with disputes that the documents amount to two separate proposals” and a metric tonne of motions on the court to resolve in two weeks.
Scratch that. With less than two weeks, because they filed all this late. Oh, and they filed a bunch of them redacted and under seal without permission, just for good measure.
If that would make you a very angry judge willing to rip both sides for posterity, you wouldn’t be alone….
* Spring break is here for many students, and I know what they’re all thinking: what are the tax implications? [TaxProf Blog]
* Man files suit because his adult son is addicted to video games. Well, with games like South Park: Stick of Truth coming out, who can blame him? [IT-Lex]
* Former Sandusky attorney under investigation for misappropriation of client funds. At least he’s only alleged to have showered himself with money. [The Patriot-News]
* Here’s a lesson in the value of knowing the law: DUI charges against a Chicago judge dismissed. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, “the value of knowing the law needed to beat the rap after you’ve been arrested for totally forgetting the law.”[Checkpoints]
* Business development needs to be everyone’s responsibility in a law firm. Well, at the very least, it needs to be somebody’s responsibility. [The RelSci Web]
* Harvard Law professor seeks help writing regulations for the legalization of marijuana in Jamaica. Wait? It’s illegal in Jamaica? [HLS Administrative Updates]
Conventional wisdom says that solos and smalls should join a bar association — either the American Bar Association, a state or local bar, or a practice-specific bar (such as an association of telecommunications or criminal defense or real estate lawyers) as a way to generate clients. Here’s but one recent article that recommends pounding the pavement at bar events to find clients.
I’m not suggesting that solos and smalls steer clear of bar membership entirely; after all, bar associations provide a myriad of practice benefits including substantive information on practice trends, affordable continuing legal education (CLE), and advice on starting and running a law practice. But if lawyers think that they’ll find business through bar membership, most are sure to be disappointed…
Remember back in June when photographer Jeffrey Binion sued Justin Bieber for allegedly ordering one of his bodyguards to beat him up? Well, Justin Bieber’s videotaped deposition in that case has been leaked and it turns out he’s as much of an arrogant jerk as you expected. He personally objects to questions, sneers at the deposing lawyer, and refuses to give straight answers to obvious questions.
Patton Boggs, the once heralded D.C. lobbying firm, has been in trouble for more than a year now. It all started in March 2013 when the firm conducted significant layoffs, and things continued to spiral out of control from there. Additional layoffs followed, flanked by fleeing partners and the closure of the firm’s Newark, New Jersey, office. Profits have plummeted, so much so that Patton Boggs hired the Dewey & LeBoeuf turnaround team of financial advisers Zolfo Cooper and bankruptcy attorney Al Togut. Things certainly aren’t looking very good for the firm, even though managing partner Edward Newberry claims it’s all lollipops and unicorns over there.
Admittedly, first Newberry was afraid, he was petrified. He thought Patton Boggs could never live without cash by its side. But then he spent so many nights thinking how his firm went wrong, and he grew strong. He learned how to get along. His firm will survive — “healthy and profitable” — the same way all floundering firms do: additional layoffs are making their way down the pipeline, and it’s partners’ heads that will roll.
How many partners will have to find new homes? Let’s find out…
Years ago, I heard the frustrated 60-year-old head of an IP department at a big firm complain: “Aren’t there any other IP lawyers at this firm? Why do I have to decide everything?”
The problem, of course, was that his subordinates were on the wrong end of the pushmi-pullyu: They were pulling the senior guy back instead of pushing him forward. My sense is that the average lawyer, either at a firm or in-house, suffers from the same affliction: The average lawyer stands at the . . . er . . . back mouth of the beast.
I recently published a self-assessment test to help you learn whether you were a bad litigator. I’ve cleverly designed another self-assessment test, this one to gauge whether you advance the cause or obstruct it when you work on a legal matter. Here’s the test:
Look at the last email that you sent reporting on a legal development and seeking guidance on the next step forward. How does that email end? For many of you, the last sentence includes one of these two phrases, which prove that you stand at the pullyu end of the beast . . .
We hope that you’re ready, because it’s almost the most wonderful time of the year for law schools. That’s right, the 2015 U.S. News law school rankings will be published on March 11.
Law school deans must be very, very afraid. They don’t want to be dethroned from their lofty positions in the ivory tower if their respective law schools slip by a just a few slots. Law students, on the other hand, are at the ready to lord their law school’s potentially higher new ranking over their friends’ heads on Facebook. As for incoming law students, all bets are off — they’ll either be happy their school maintained its place or rose in the rankings, or be devastated if their school of choice had a subpar performance.
The rankings, controversial as they are, are still a pretty huge deal to everyone in the legal profession. Just like in years past, the rankings will inevitably be published online in the wee hours of the morning, but because rankings guru Bob Morse knows that the anticipation is killing us, he likely instructed the staff at U.S. News to give his adoring public a little teaser.
Are you ready to take a look at the new, top 10 highest-ranking law schools in the nation?
I figured my first Above the Law post should be something aimed squarely at those who generally read this blog: American lawyers. I also figured I should lead with what I do best and that is scaring the heck out of people.
So I am going to write about four common and egregious mistakes my law firm’s China lawyers often see American domestic lawyers make when representing their clients in doing business with or in China, along with a very brief analysis of what causes American lawyers to make each sort of mistake.
1. Many years ago, a lawyer in the Midwest called us to discuss his client’s desire to form a company in China. This lawyer did not even tell us that his client was in the room. The lawyer asked us the minimum capital the Chinese government would likely require his client put into a Chinese bank to be able to start a business (a WFOE) in China. Based on the nature and size of the business, we estimated $6 to $8 million. The lawyer asked us to confirm that a portion of the required $6 to $8 million could come from factory equipment not cash, and we assured him that it could. At that point, he said, “good,” because his client had already purchased $5 million in equipment and shipped it to China.
We then had to tell him those equipment purchases could not count because they had not been previously designated as going to the WFOE. The lawyer then complained about how his client could not afford to come up with another $5 million and how China was putting form over substance. To which we could say little more than, “yeah”…
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