* Fine Print as “Surrealist Masterpiece.” Because sometimes you need legal analysis involving Foucault. [Concurring Opinions]
* Speaking of fine print, the story behind an attack ad in Virginia is all about fine print. Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli is running an attack ad against Terry McAuliffe connecting him to the collapse of Global Crossing. The problem is the former Global Crossing workers in the ad thought they were talking to a documentary film crew about the company, not making an ad attacking McAuliffe. Should have read that waiver form more closely! [Mother Jones]
* JPMorgan Chase is dropping out of the student loan business. Must be getting too difficult to package likely defaults into some kind of billion-dollar derivative these days. [American Banker]
* A New York attorney candidly tells the world that dealing with his kids “is not my problem” because he has a long-suffering wife for that job. See conservatives, gay marriage hasn’t destroyed all the traditional families. [Dealbreaker]
* More analysis on the legality of intervention in Syria under international law. Welcome to the art of writing listicles, Lawfare! [Lawfare]
* A Q&A with Ignatius Grande of Hughes Hubbard & Reed on the importance of Twitter for clients and law firms. Intriguingly, Hughes Hubbard doesn’t have an active Twitter account. What gives? [Commercial Litigation Insider]
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.
Every year, the American Lawyer trots out its rankings at about the same time — first the highly influential Am Law 100 and Am Law 200, which are then followed up by the A-List. Think of this ranking as the legal professions’s Westminster: everyone is yipping excitedly over the possibility of being named “best in show” at this Biglaw beauty contest.
The A-List differs from the Am Law 100 and 200 rankings in that there’s only one financial metric here (revenue per lawyer). The other factors involved are pro bono work, attorney diversity, and perhaps most importantly, associate satisfaction. In years past, associate satisfaction has represented only 16 percent of a firm’s total A-List score, but taking a nosedive or making significant gains in this area can turn it into a game changer.
So, which 20 firms made the grade this year? Let’s find out…
For the past three years, the same three firms have dominated the top slots of the Am Law A-List, changing order slightly each time. For 2013, they placed as follows:
Poor Paul Hastings, always a bridesmaid and never a bride in the Am Law A-List. Keep up the good work with your associate satisfaction and pro bono work (near perfect scores on each), and maybe you’ll be able to snag a first place rating in 2014. For now, try to concentrate harder on making money.
Hughes Hubbard shows what a significant dip in associate satisfaction can do to a firm. In 2012, their associates gave the firm a 191/200 for their satisfaction, whereas this year, that score dropped by 36 points. While HHR made our list of the top five overlooked firms — one associate called it a “fantastic place to work” — we have to wonder if something is going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about that would cause such a drop in satisfaction. Feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477) if you know what’s displeasing the associates at Hughes Hubbard & Reed.
Alright, we’ve kept you waiting for long enough. Here are the top 10 firms of the 2013 Am Law A-List — with 11 firms actually listed due to a tie. Take a look:
The rest of the list is available here. Congratulations to all the honorees.
The American Lawyer reports on the three firms that were bumped off the A-List, and the one firm that squeezed its way in, all thanks to their associate satisfaction scores:
The three firms displaced by the newcomers—Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and Covington & Burling—rank 22nd to 24th, respectively, on this year’s Honorable Mention list. All three were hurt by double-digit drops in their associate satisfaction scores.
Within the A-List itself, Shearman & Sterling made the biggest jump, going from 18th last year to a 10th-place tie with Morrison & Foerster. The firm benefited from a 24-point increase in its associate score. “We . . . trace this improvement to some very specific steps—like the establishment of a leadership academy for senior associates,” senior partner Creighton Condon said in an email.
It’s worth noting that there are several firms listed on the A-List Honorable Mentions with sub-100 associate satisfaction scores. Here they are: Arnold & Porter (87); Sullivan & Cromwell (90); Steptoe & Johnson (99); Fried Frank (92); Irell & Manella (0); Winston & Strawn (97); White & Case (79); Williams & Connolly (0); and Kramer Levin (80). (We hope associates at the firms with satisfaction scores of 0 never turned in their paperwork to American Lawyer; otherwise, that seems very problematic.)
Memo to Biglaw firms: keep your associates happy, or suffer the consequences in the rankings.
Continuing our annual tradition honoring March Madness, Above the Law is running a law-related bracket, advancing law firms or law schools based on the outcome of reader polls. If you’ve been around for a while, you know the drill. But remember, I’m the new guy, so I’ve made a couple changes to the format this year.
This year, it’s time to talk about law firms. Specifically, your collective editors pose this question: Which law firm has the brightest future? The economy is still fragile and people are writing books with scary titles like The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis (affiliate link). The firms in our competition may look healthy today, but we all could have said the same thing at one time about Howrey, Brobeck, Heller, or Dewey.
What firm’s future is so bright their senior partners gotta wear shades?
First of all, like the real NCAA tournament, we’ve decided to expand the field! Instead of our customary 16 invitees, a full 32 firms will compete in this year’s contest, meaning we’ve got enough entrants to warrant creating some regions. In lieu of geography, we’ll go with the aforementioned, gone-but-not-forgotten firms of Howrey, Brobeck, Heller, and Dewey — the lights dimmed far too soon for you all.
In another change, this year we selected the competitors using the profit per partner rankings from the 2012 Am Law 100 (the 2013 rankings aren’t out yet). If you’re unhappy with the seeding, take it up with firm management for not profiting more in 2011.
(For the record, the law firms that got their bubbles burst were Shearman & Sterling, Jenner & Block, Ropes & Gray, and Alston & Bird. Sorry about missing the Dance.)
Law firms will advance to the next round based on reader polls, in which we ask you which law firm has the brightest future. You can define that however you choose. Possible factors to consider include the top talent at a firm, practice area strengths, global footprint (or lack thereof), firm culture — but really it’s up to you. Feel free to justify your votes in the comments.
The polls are below. The first round will close on TUESDAY, MARCH 26, at 11:59 PM (Eastern). Vote early, and tell your colleagues and friends.
Light years away and in the distant future, perhaps some alien grad student in Defunct Planet Studies will stumble onto the ATL archives. He’ll conclude, not unreasonably, that the legal industry was a sort of oligopoly. That there were only a handful of firms: Skadden, Cravath, Latham, Quinn Emanuel, Tannebaum Weiss, and those few others that get such a disproportionate amount of our attention. And of course, there were only 14 real law schools.
This singular obsession with “prestige,” this mindset that the most elite firms and schools are the only worthy ones, is detached from the experiences of the vast majority of lawyers practicing at the 50,000 other firms and the students at the 180+ other law schools. Back in December, we had a little debate about the effect of prestige in the legal industry. In the spirit of the “prestige obsession is bad” side of that argument, we thought it would be worthwhile to see which firms and schools outside of the very top tiers are, according to insiders, great places to work or learn.
Over the course of 2012, we received close to 10,000 responses to our ATL Insider Survey, where lawyers rate their firms based on compensation, culture, morale, training, and culture, and students and alumni rate their schools based on academics, social life, clinical training, career services, and financial aid advising. Based on our survey, the most highly rated firms and schools also happened to among the most prestigious (e.g., Stanford, Davis Polk), but there is certainly not a correlation between prestige and insider rating.
After the jump, we’ll see which schools outside of the T14 and which firms outside the Vault 50 were rated the highest by their own people….
Below are, in no particular order, our Top Five Overlooked Law Schools, along with a sample of insider comments:
The professors care a lot, the building is amazing, and the Dean is a great guy.
If you want to work at a small-medium sized firm in Milwaukee or the Fox Valley, Marquette dominates those job markets. It also does fairly well in state and local government job markets (e.g., Milwaukee DA’s office).
Cheap in-state tuition. Great education. Very talented and accomplished faculty (even among career services staff). Fun college town to tear apart on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Because Missouri’s public university funding is consistently among the worst in the nation, USNWR won’t give a favorable $ per student ratio. We also correctly report employment statistics at graduation (a number affected by the fact that a large number of our 400 students desire to enter public service, a field that will not make an offer prior to graduation).
If you actually work hard to get good grades and utilize the career center to the fullest extent, a law degree from Tulane will be worth your while. It’s too easy to get distracted by the constant partying that’s available to you in New Orleans. If you prioritize your work and fully commit to building a legal career for yourself, there’s plenty that Tulane can do for you.
Extremely dedicated faculty with high proportion of critical legal theorists. Lots of emphasis on job training with four required co-ops. First-year Legal Skills in Social Context program is imperfect and sometimes frustrating but very, very beneficial (in terms of ability to work well in groups, structure a project with little direction, and accept critical feedback). I love NUSL.
And here, again in no particular order, are the highest rated non-Vault 50 law firms, our Top Five Overlooked Firms:
Hughes Hubbard’s D.C. office has managed to maintain a very intimate, “family” feel despite the fact that it has nearly tripled in size since 2005. We work the big-firm hours, but partners are extremely considerate and respectful of people’s personal lives. It is a fantastic place to work.
The firm is remarkably committed to training its young attorneys, something that is unparalleled in the Philadelphia market or even across the country.
Look, no one wants to get paid under market for four months, but Drinker instituting its training program instead of laying off the ’08 class was pretty powerful signaling that they care about developing young associates. As someone who intends to stay at the firm for the foreseeable future, that matters. As for the program itself, they keep us busy with work and structured events. For better or for worse, they want you to be friends with the people around you.
We’re entering on-campus interviewing season. If you’re a law student going through OCI, or if you’re a lawyer involved in your firm’s recruiting process, be sure to check out Above the Law’s new law student career center, a repository job search resources, and our law firm directory, where law firms get letter grades in different categories.
One area that interviewees are always interested in is diversity. Diverse attorneys — okay, that’s a bad way of putting it — minority attorneys want to know where they’ll feel welcome. Even lawyers who aren’t minorities want workplaces that are open and inclusive. And corporate clients are increasingly keen on sending their work to firms that show a commitment to diversity.
So which Biglaw firms are the biggest on diversity? Let’s check out the latest rankings….
Congratulations to Carlton Fields, which took first place for the fourth year in a row. As one associate at the firm told the Vault Law Blog, “Carlton Fields has a well-earned reputation for inclusion. There is always room to improve, but compared to the industry at large, we are standard bearers — not just in terms of voicing the right policies, but in terms of actually hiring, welcoming, nurturing and promoting diverse, well-qualified individuals at all levels of firm life.”
Carlton Fields wasn’t the only returnee among the top ten. Congrats also to Ropes & Gray, Littler Mendelson, Debevoise & Plimpton, Jenner & Block, Shook Hardy & Bacon, and Paul Weiss, all of which made this year’s top ten list and last year’s top ten list.
The Vault diversity rankings don’t stop at the top ten. Feel free to check out the full list of 25 firms that excel when it comes to diversity. You can also see how firms ranked in various diversity subcategories, namely, LGBT diversity, minority diversity, and diversity for women.
Vault isn’t the only organization keeping track of law firm diversity. Back in May, the American Lawyer issued its latest Diversity Scorecard. Congrats to Lewis Brisbois for taking the #1 spot.
Interestingly enough — and perhaps suggesting that diversity is in the eye of the beholder, or at the very least, that there are many different ways of measuring diversity — the top ten firms for Am Law, which focuses exclusively on the percentage of minority lawyers and partners at a firm, are almost completely different from the top ten firms for Vault, which considers gender and LGBT diversity as well as minority diversity. The only firm to make the top ten in both rankings is Fenwick & West (#8 for Vault, #10 for Am Law).
If you look at the top 25, though, there is considerably more overlap. Here are the firms that made the top 25 on both the Vault and Am Law diversity rankings:
Carlton Fields: #1 for Vault, #22 for Am Law
Paul Weiss: #7 for Vault, #14 for Am Law
Fenwick & West: #8 for Vault, #10 for Am Law
Cleary Gottlieb: #11 for Vault, #13 for Am Law
Weil Gotshal: #15 for Vault, #18 for Am Law
Morrison & Foerster: #17 for Vault, #9 for Am Law
Finnegan Henderson: #16 for Vault, #17 for Am Law
Munger Tolles: #19 for Vault, #4 for Am Law
Hughes Hubbard: #21 for Vault, #12 for Am Law
Shearman & Sterling: #24 for Vault, #21 for Am Law
Arnold & Porter: #25 for Vault, #24 for Am Law
Congratulations to all of the firms honored for their diversity by Vault and by Am Law. The legal profession has come a long way since the days when minorities and women were absent from Biglaw.
The nation’s top law firms now welcome attorneys of all creeds and colors. Just make sure you can generate the green.
If asked to name people who might be worried about owing money to the Dewey estate, some observers might cite “the Steves”: former chairman Steven H. Davis, and former executive director Stephen DiCarmine. Some have accused the Steves of mismanaging D&L’s affairs (or worse), contributing to the collapse of a firm that was once in the top 30 U.S. law firms by total revenue.
But if you’re thinking that Steve DiCarmine wants to pay the Dewey estate some money and get on with his tanning life, think again. As it turns out, Steve DiCarmine is claiming that Dewey owes him money….
A colorful figure noted equally for his charisma and ever-present tan, Mr. DiCarmine was one of the firm’s non-partner managers who cut deals allowing them pull in about $2 million a year in salaries and bonuses, as WSJ reported in April.
The WSJ ruminates on how DiCarmine’s claims might be received by former Dewey & LeBoeuf lawyers:
One wonders how [DiCarmine seeking money from the estate] will play with those ex-partners who blame DiCarmine and former chairman Steven Davis — known collectively as “the Steves” — for financial mismanagement, including a spree of lateral hires and lucrative pay guarantees for some star lawyers, that they said led to the firm’s demise. Particularly since the Dewey estate has said it intends to claw back partner earnings as it scrounges through the metaphorical couch cushions for cash to satisfy the more than 5,000 creditors owed money by the firm.
In the end, DiCarmine’s assertion of claims against Dewey probably represents posturing on his part. It reminds me of former vice chairman Morton Pierce claiming that the firm owes him $61 million, presumably in an effort to protect himself against clawback claims.
DiCarmine was one of the most fascinating figures of the Dewey drama. Readers can’t seem to get enough information about him. So today we bring you pictures of his Lawyerly Lair — the office that this man called home, while collecting his $2 million a year salary from the firm….
* Dewey know the firms that have been tapped to represent the groups that this failed firm owes money to? Yes, we do! Brown Rudnick for the unsecured creditors’ committee, and Kasowitz Benson for the former D&L partners. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]
* The Ninth Circuit is supposed to be issuing an order today regarding an en banc reconsideration request on the Prop 8 case. They really ought to slap a big fat denial on that motherf’er and call it a day so we get some SCOTUS action. [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]
* Matthew Kluger, most recently of Wilson Sonsini, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, which is the longest sentence that anyone’s ever received in an insider trading case. Uh yeah, he’ll be appealing. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* Hughes Hubbard & Reed has billed more than $17M in the first four months of its work on MF Global’s unwinding. Will the firm will be handing out spring“special” bonuses like they did last year? [Reuters]
* Mattel is appealing MGA’s $310M copyright award, claiming that the judgment was based on “erroneous billing invoices.” Don’t you call my billable hours into question, Kathleen Sullivan. [National Law Journal]
* Jerry Sandusky’s accusers will be named in court thanks to this judge’s ruling. But don’t worry — there’s no tweeting, texting, or emailing allowed in his courtroom. Like that’ll make a difference. [Legal Intelligencer]
* Trust me, I’m a lawyer: a now-disbarred Colorado attorney managed to scam a convicted con artist out of more than $1 million. Now that’s some pretty sweet karmic intervention for you. [Missouri Lawyers Media]
* A bus driver is suing a hospital because he claims that instead of treating his painful erection, the staff watched a baseball game on TV. Whatever, that was a really great Yankees game. [Associated Press]
In the nascent spirit of positivity aroundhere, let’s take a look at where, according to our research, Biglaw’s happiest troopers can be found.
To be sure, lawyers are a notoriously depressive lot. Various studies — and presumably Will Meyerhofer — suggest that the characteristics that make a good lawyer actually correlate with clinical depression. Combine these alleged traits with crushing debt, an oversaturated job market, and an uncertain future, and the industry seems mired in malaise.
But what about those fortunate ones who’ve managed to snag a coveted Biglaw gig? Why, not only are they employed, but they have a realistic chance to pay off their loans. Are they any more upbeat than the industry’s rank-and-file? Our own survey data strongly suggests the answer is definitely maybe.
Respondents to our ongoing ATL School & Firm Insider Survey give their “firm morale” a mean rating of 6.81 out of 10. (By the way, if you haven’t yet, please take the survey here.) For context, lawyers rate morale a bit higher than “hours” (6.55) and bit lower than “training” (6.88). So, generally speaking, firm morale is not conspicuously singled out by lawyers as a negative.
But which are the happiest firms? And the unhappiest? Let’s have a look at the Biglaw shops getting top marks for esprit de corps….
As rated by their own attorneys, below are the top 10 for “firm morale.” Looks like it’s true: beautiful people are happier.
Alexander Leighton defined morale as “the capacity of a group of people to pull together persistently and consistently in pursuit of a common purpose.” That idea reverberates in one Davis Polk insider’s assessment of her firm: “The people here are incredibly nice, but also incredibly hard-working, smart, intense and dedicated to the practice of law.” On the other hand, one of her colleagues proclaims: “If models and bottles are your thing, come work for DPW.” As anywhere, happiness at DPW is in the eye of the beholder.
... to take a survey
One firm stood apart with by far the lowest rating for morale (3.4). Dewey even need to specify who it was?
So, what do you think? Has your firm been overlooked in this ranking? Overrated? Please weigh in by taking our brief survey here.
Welcome to our latest round-up of summer associate offer rate news. This post contains the latest list of law firms and offices with 100 percent offer rates. In future posts, we’re going to shift gears and focus on firms with lower-than-average offer rates.
An offer rate that’s lower than 100 percent is not necessarily newsworthy. The fall recruiting process by which summer associates are selected isn’t perfect. Sometimes candidates look great on paper and do well during interviews, but then do something during the summer — turning in disappointing work product, getting drunk and acting inappropriately — that causes them to get no-offered. And sometimes people get no-offered for reasons that aren’t their fault — office politics, discrimination. Stuff happens.
We’re not expecting 100 percent offer rates all around. At the same time, there is such a thing as an unusually low offer rate. If you know of an office with an unusually low offer rate — which we will arbitrarily define here as something under 66 percent, or two-thirds — please email us (subject line: “[Firm Name] Offer Rate”).
Now, on to the updated list of firms and offices with 100 percent offer rates….
Upon information and belief (please correct us if we’re wrong), the following offices of the following firms boast 100 percent offer rates:
Akin Gump (Dallas)
Dechert (New York, Philadelphia)
Gibson Dunn (New York)
Goodwin Procter (D.C.)
Hughes Hubbard (New York)
Jones Day (Dallas)
K&L Gates (Boston, Chicago, D.C.)
Latham & Watkins (D.C., New York, Orange County, San Francisco)
O’Melveny & Myers (Newport Beach, New York)
Proskauer (New York)
Quinn Emanuel (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Silicon Valley)
Ropes & Gray (New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley)
Schulte Roth & Zabel (New York)
Simpson Thacher (New York)
Vinson & Elkins (Dallas, New York)
Weil Gotshal (New York)
White & Case (Los Angeles)
Willkie Farr & Gallagher (New York)
Winston & Strawn (Los Angeles)
If you have corrections to the foregoing, please email us at email@example.com, or text us at 646-820-TIPS (646-820-8477).
One caveat: note that these 100 percent offer rates might include so-called cold offers, in which a firm makes an offer to a candidate, but suggests that perhaps the candidate should not accept it. E.g., “We’re making you an offer [so we can boast about our 100 percent offer rate], but we think you might be happier elsewhere [wink wink], so you might want to look into the 3L recruiting process [don't come here unless you want to work out of a utility closet].”
Q. It is reported that some employers give offers to summer associates with the understanding that the offer will not be accepted. What is NALP’s view of this practice?
A. NALP does not condone this unethical practice. Whether initiated by students to appear more attractive to future employers or by employers to enhance their offer ratios, the practice is fraudulent and unprofessional. NALP suggests that employers adopt a standard policy of extending or confirming offers in writing, signed by a representative of the organization, so that only legitimate offers are made.
But look, cold offers do happen. If you know of a firm that is making them or has made them in recent years, please feel free to let us know (subject line: “[Firm Name] Cold Offers”). As noted above, our next report is going to focus on firms with higher-than-average no offer / cold offer rates.
If you received an offer of full-time employment, congratulations. Hopefully we will avoid a double-dip recession, so your offer will be honored and you will start work on time.