Jeffrey C. Hammes, Chairman of Global Management Executive Committee, Northwestern, JD
Notable Alumni/Partners: Kenneth Starr, Robert Bork, Thomas Yannucci, Jay Lefkowitz.
Kirkland was the first law firm to endow a professorship at Harvard Law School and has done so at Chicago, Michigan and Northwestern.
In 2006, with a $7 million gift — likely the largest ever given by a law firm to any law school — Kirkland set scholars program for University of Chicago graduates. In 2011, endowed a similar program for Stanford.
In an era when “disruption” is celebrated, the world of large law firms is one of the last redoubts of conventional wisdom. For a uniquely rule- and precedent-bound profession, this makes sense. Biglaw’s conventional wisdom has the added virtue of being reliable. For example, we can count on Cravath taking the lead — at least chronologically — on bonuses, and for DLA Piper to have the most random Third developing-world offices.
Another reflection of conventional wisdom is the way in which Biglaw lends itself to — and revels in — superlatives and rankings. There tends to be a generally acknowledged and perennially dominant player (or a few) in most practice areas: Wachtell Lipton for M&A, Weil Gotshal for Chapter 11 work, Patton Boggs for lobbying, and so forth. There’s no doubt that many worthy firms get overlooked.
Last year we took a look at which firms’ practice groups were considered “underrated” by peers in the field. Among the notable 2012 nominees: Cahill for corporate law, Arnold & Porter in litigation, and Proskauer for its bankruptcy and tax practices.
We wondered whether the same practice groups were still considered by practitioners to be unfairly underrated. Or are there other firms deserving more recognition?
Among other things, our Insider Survey asks attorneys to nominate firms with underrated (and overrated) practices within the respondent’s own practice specialty. Litigators nominate litigation departments, tax lawyers do the same for tax groups, and so on.
Below are the top 3 most underrated firms in each practice area, as voted by the ATL readership:
It’s probably a stretch to attribute this result to some “Obama effect,” but usually one thinks of D.C.-based shops dominating antitrust and regulatory work. Yet here are three (up from two last year) Chicago-based firms getting some notice for their government work.
While all firms long for the prestige and fees that come with debtor representations, Chapter 11 cases have a huge range of roles for smaller players, including the representation of creditors’ committees, indenture trustees, and landlords. One respondent nominated “All the New Jersey firms,” contending that “they are cheaper and get the same job done as the NYC Biglaw firms.”
Just as in 2012, Cahill gets the most mentions for its underrated corporate practice. Recently, Lat speculated regarding Munger’s relatively low profile: “Perhaps MTO is hurt [in the Vault rankings] by its relatively small size and tight geographic focus … Or perhaps prestige is tied partly to partner profit, and Munger doesn’t hunger enough for money.”
The ruins of a house on the outskirts of Tacloban, capital of Leyte.
Law firms and the legal profession have a long and distinguished tradition of contributing to the public interest. Earlier today, we highlighted five Biglaw firms that are pro bono all-stars.
Most pro bono cases involve clients and causes here in the United States. But in today’s increasingly global world, law firms look beyond borders when it comes to helping the needy.
Yesterday we commended Skadden for its generous support of Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts in my ancestral homeland of the Philippines. And today we recognize several other law firms that have joined in this worthy cause….
In fact, some of them acted (or at least announced their actions) prior to Skadden. As we noted in an update to yesterday’s post, Weil Gotshal donated $50,000 to Typhoon Haiyan relief, through Oxfam and the Red Cross, as announced last Wednesday by Barry Wolf.
And some could end up making even larger donations (subject to employee matches). For example, take Kirkland & Ellis:
[T]he Kirkland & Ellis Foundation will create a matching fund to help the people of the Philippines. The Foundation will match contributions made by Kirkland partners and employees up to an aggregate of $100,000. In recognition of this unique need, the usual minimum to qualify for matching has been waived and donations will not count toward annual matching limits.
You can read the full Kirkland memo on the next page. The same goes for Akin Gump, which could also end up donating up to $100,000. It will contribute $50,000, $25,000 to UNICEF and $25,000 to Mercy Corps, and will match up to an additional $50,000 in contributions to either of these organizations.
International offices are joining in as well. The Hong Kong office of Clifford Chance donated HK$50,000, and the London office donated £50,000 and will also match employee contributions.
And so are small law firms. For example, Woodruff Johnson & Palermo, a personal injury law firm is Illinois, is collecting not just monetary donations but also supplies.
If you’re aware of additional firms that are lending support to Philippine typhoon relief efforts, please note them in the comments or email us, subject line: “Typhoon Relief.” We will update this post accordingly (or possibly write a new post). Thanks once again to all the firms that have come forward to help those in need.
UPDATE (5:50 p.m.): Orrick, through the Orrick Foundation, is matching employee donations to three organizations — Action Against Hunger, UNICEF, and the International Rescue Committee — up to an aggregate of $50,000. Memo on the next page.
UPDATE (11/20/2013, 5:00 p.m.): First, Linklaters is (1) donating £10,000 to the Red Cross and (2) matching individual donations up to a maximum of £10,000.
Second, several Asian-American lawyer groups are organizing a fundraising event taking place on Monday, November 25. If you’re in New York, please consider attending. Details are available at the AABANY website and on Facebook (where you can RSVP).
(Flip to the next page for the Kirkland & Ellis and Woodruff Johnson memos.)
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.
* Judge Ellen Huvelle has ordered the government to turn over to her an executive order that the feds claim is subject to executive privilege. Judge Huvelle rejected the administration’s argument that privilege exists because, “we don’t want to give it to you.” [Politico]
* Pepper Hamilton has joined the greener pastures of Silicon Valley, opening an office with three partners poached from Goodwin Proctor. [Reuters Legal (sub. req.)]
* Speaking of poaching, Martin Dunn, former deputy director of the SEC and O’Melveny partner is joining Morrison & Foerster. [The Blog of the Legal Times]
* And while we’re at it, M&A partner Sean Rodgers has left Simpson Thacher to merge with Kirkland & Ellis. [The AmLaw Daily]
* Publisher ALM (The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel, The National Law Journal, The New York Law Journal) has a new technology partner and hopes to boost its readership. If they want to boost their readership, wouldn’t starting a new law school be a better investment? [Talking Biz News]
* Conservative groups are miffed about video of this Democratic party lawyer “attacking” a Republican at the polls and trying to “steal” an election. It seems like he put his hand over the lens of a camera phone, but sure, this is exactly like telling minorities the wrong day to vote. [Bearing Drift]
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.
Washington, DC is often derided as a contemptible swamp full of power-mad squabblers and greedy leeches. And we don’t dispute that. The nation’s capital can be fairly awful when viewed through certainlenses. Still, if you can overlook the pettiness and the posturing, there’s a lot to love about Washington. And a lot of love in Washington, as demonstrated by the newlyweds featured below. All three of these über-impressive couples live and work in and around DC, and we think you’ll agree that any town that’s attracting such gifted, ambitious young people can’t be all bad.
- Our tour of DC’s young legal elite begins with a wedding officiated by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for whom the bride clerked. Jane — a former Neil Gorsuch clerk who received her undergraduate, master’s, and law degrees from Harvard — is putting her exalted credentials to work at the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel — arguably the most prestigious legal office in the Justice Department (though the Solicitor General’s peeps would doubtless disagree).
- Her groom, while not her equal in legal prestige, is certainly no slouch. With degrees from Harvard and Yale Law, he works as a special assistant United States attorney in Baltimore. And he has a proudly DC-centric pedigree as the grandson and namesake of the late Paul H. Nitze, foreign-policy architect and former Secretary of the Navy.
The Case Against:
- The groom’s father is a case study in how the DC game is played: start out as the progeny of a big player, do several years in government yourself as deputy assistant undersecretary blah-blah-blah, then depart for the private sector, put all your connections to work, and host glamorous parties in your Georgetown abode. Actually, this is the kind of party the groom’s parents are hosting — and it’s a good reminder that although DC may have seized the reins of power from New York, it lags sadly behind the Big Apple in glamour.
- Our second couple may look low-key and unassuming, but don’t be fooled: The only thing you can assume about them is that they’re way smarter than you. Despite meeting and courting Anne at Harvard Law, Bob, an Emory grad, found the time not only to graduate magna cum laude, but also to sit atop the masthead of the Harvard Law Review as its president (SWOON!). Bob went on to clerk on the First Circuit for Michael Boudin and at SCOTUS for Justice Antonin Scalia. In true Scalia-clerk fashion, he’s now at a white-shoe law firm (Kirkland, specifically). And just look at that enormous brain!).
- While Bob makes it rain at Kirkland, Anne, who graduated from the University of Virginia, serves her country in the chief counsel’s office at the Food and Drug Administration.
The Case Against:
- Speaking of the FDA, did you know that it regulates cheese pizza, but USDA regulates pepperoni pizza? And that USDA’s in charge of regular turkey sandwiches, but if you remove the top piece of bread and make it an open-faced sandwich, it becomes the FDA’s responsibility? Ah, Washington. Never change (don’t worry, it won’t).
- No less an authority than our own David Lat has called this couple “disgustingly perfect,” and we think you’ll agree. Prepare to be revolted by their flawlessness! We’ll start, as the NYT always does, with the bride. She has both an undergraduate degree, summa, and a JD from Yale. She clerked for Merrick Garland on the DC Circuit and Chief Justice John Roberts at SCOTUS. Now she’s an associate counsel in the White House Counsel’s office.
- The groom has an undergraduate degree (cum laude) and a JD (magna) from Harvard. He clerked on the Seventh Circuit for Frank Easterbrook. (Side note: It’s not typical for NYT write-ups to include past appeals court clerkships. Special treatment for a special couple?) Now he works for the Federal Programs Branch of the Department of Justice.
- The parents of the bride and groom are spectacularly impressive in their own right. Kate’s father, Kris Heinzelman, chairs Cravath’s securities practice. Down in DC, Jonathan’s father is a former partner (now of counsel) at Williams & Connolly, and his mother, Judith Areen, is a law professor (and former dean) at Georgetown.
The Case Against:
- People, assortative mating will be the death of this nation. Fifty years ago, successful male attorneys married their secretaries. Now they marry even more successful female (or male) attorneys. Seriously, when was the last time you heard about a lawyer marrying his secretary? Social scientists are worried that this “‘increased marital sorting’ — high earners marrying high earners and low earners marrying low earners — ‘will significantly increase income inequality’” as cognitive-elite supercouples flock to economically insulated enclaves (like DC) and ruthlessly cement their privileged status and that of their genetically gifted offspring. After all, if class is relative and we want a society where upward mobility isn’t just some fairy tale we tell the drones, downward mobility (for some) has to be a reality as well.
So although LEWW adores gazing upon the mating of the ridiculously credentialed, we beg you elite young lawyers: Consider marrying your secretary (or your Starbucks barista, or whomever) and popping out some merely average kids who will go to state schools, thereby keeping the social fabric intact.
Obviously a close call here, but the stomach-churning perfection of Team Heinzelman-Cooper carries the day. Congratulations to all our newlyweds!
* Shine bright like A. Diamond: Howrey’s bankruptcy trustee has secured yet another multimillion dollar settlement for the defunct firm from places like Covington, Kirkland, and Shearman. [Am Law Daily]
* If for some reason you’re still shocked that GCs are breaking up with their Biglaw boyfriends, here’s some additional info on why corporate clients are moving from Biglaw to “big enough” law. [Corporate Counsel]
* Man, this LL.M. program seems like the best of both worlds for foreign students. They can learn U.S. law without ever being with stepping on U.S. soil. Thanks USC Law! [National Law Journal]
* Three more states could legalize gay marriage by the end of the year, making the marriage equality movement 17 states strong, plus D.C. Here’s to an extra fabulous new year. [GovBeat / Washington Post]
Biglaw branding sounds painful, but thankfully, associates at the highest and mightiest of firms don’t have to sear their flesh with their firms’ logos. Biglaw branding is more about the image firms want clients to see when making hiring decisions, and partners are likely equally as worried about their reputations in the marketplace as their year-end profits.
The last time we spoke about law firm branding, we found out that Skadden had the most recognizable brand in the country. But we, loving rankings as we do, wondered which law firm had the best brand in the world. Luckily for us, hot on the heels of the release of the Am Law Global 100, Acritas published its 2013 Sharplegal Global Elite Brand Index.
Who’s got the best Biglaw brand on the planet? Let’s find out…
Acritas ranks Biglaw firms based on feedback from their most important clients: general counsel at companies across the globe with revenue of at least $1 billion. Here’s how the survey was conducted:
All interviews were conducted by telephone in local languages across 55 countries between January and September as part of the ongoing Sharplegal 2013 survey.
The Sharplegal Global Elite Brand Index is determined through four open-ended questions from the full survey to ﬁnd out from general counsel:
- The ﬁrst law ﬁrms to come to mind
- The ﬁrms they feel most favorable towards
- The ﬁrms most considered for multi-jurisdictional deals
- The ﬁrms most considered for multi-jurisdictional litigation.
As noted in Morning Docket, DLA Piper, the recently crowned King of the World in terms of revenue, did not take the title of the best brand. Instead, the firm that was dethroned from the seat of power on the Global 100, Baker & McKenzie, came in first place in the Acritas ranking, for the fourth year in a row.
Here are the top 10 global Biglaw brands of 2013, per Acritas (click here to see the full list):
Much of this list has changed from last year’s ranking. While B&M maintained its position (as did DLA and Allen & Overy), the rest of the top 10 shuffled around, and one of the most prestigious firms got booted from the list of the best-known firms in the world altogether. Skadden, once seated at #7 on the Acritas ranking, has landed inelegantly at #13. According to Sarah Chisman-Duffy, head of Acritas Asia-Pacific, Skadden doesn’t have a “clear vision of where it sits in the market.” Ouch. We think Skaddenites will feel better after rolling around in their billions of revenue. White & Case also fell from #10 to #11.
But Baker & McKenzie better watch its back in the global legal marketplace, because rival firms, dubbed the “rapid risers” by Acritas, are quickly catching up — their brand strength has increased dramatically over the past four years. Congratulations are due to the following firms: Kirkland & Ellis (also a rapid riser on the Am Law Global 100); DLA Piper; King & Wood Mallesons; K&L Gates; and Gibson Dunn.
Once again, this ranking speaks volumes as to which Biglaw firms are on top when it comes to client loyalty, but there are only two U.S.-based firms in the top 10 of the Acritas Global Elite (Hogan Lovells is a product of a U.S./U.K. merger). What does this say about our lawyers? Our Biglaw firms might be doing something right, but surely there’s a way to do things differently to propel additional firms to success.
For all the talk of layoffs and worries over an unstable legal economy, Biglaw just keeps getting bigger. Today, the American Lawyer magazine announced its Global 100, a ranking of the world’s 100 largest law firms in terms of total revenue. The view from the top is simple: as we learned from the 2013 Am Law 100, slow and steady does win the race, because Biglaw is at the biggest it’s been in years, and partners’ profits are headed up, up, up.
Now that we’re on the long road to recovery following the recession and collapse of the U.S. financial markets, there are some lessons to be learned from the past five years. Some firms were able to cash in modestly on their success, while other firms buckled under the pressure and were forced to close their doors for good. The game of musical chairs in the top 10 of the Global 100 reflects this economic uncertainty.
DLA Piper is the new top dog in terms of total revenue. Which firms are the leaders of the pack in other metrics, such as profits per partner and attorney headcount?
We’ll begin with the revenue figures. Thanks to this record-high revenue growth, it seems like models and bottles may soon be flowing freely at the top 10 firms. Here’s the good news, courtesy of Am Law:
Combined gross revenue for The Global 100 grew by 3.8 percent in 2012 to a record high of $85 billion. This year 77 of the world’s top-grossing firms are American and 13 are British. Rounding out this year’s list are five Australian firms and one firm each from Canada, China, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Eight firms are structured as vereins or as European Economic Interest Groups (EEIGs).
Here are the top 10 firms of the 2013 Global 100 (click to enlarge; check out the full list here):
For the first time in the history of Am Law’s global rankings, DLA Piper rose to the top, with $2.44 billion in gross revenue, barely displacing Baker & McKenzie. Unlike last year, where the top 10 remained largely unchanged, this year saw some dramatic movement, with one firm being bumped off the list entirely (alas, Am Law’s got no love for Ho-Love). The biggest move came from Kirkland & Ellis, which posted an increase of $187,500,000 in revenue, allowing the firm to jump from ninth place to sixth place in the top 10 ranking.
Next up, we’ve got every prestige whore’s favorite metric: profits per partner…
* Do you want to be a partner? These 12 simple rules are a good start. (Not featured: Rule 13. Have incriminating pictures of the other partners.) [At Counsel Table]
* The University of Vermont and Vermont Law School are considering a joint “3-2″ degree program. So if you’re 18 years old and positive you want to grow up to be a lawyer, you may soon have a lower cost option. You’re also probably a tool. [AP via Boston.com]
* Can introverts be solo practitioners? It’s an interesting question, but since Growth is Dead (affiliate link) notes that even rainmakers are tragically lacking in sociability, it’s likely that most lawyers across firms are introverted. [Lawpolis]
* St. Louis University Law School has taken over and refurbished an old building in downtown St. Louis. See, it’s possible to run a law school without spending money on MOAR BUILDINGS! [Urban Review STL]
* A poem about CLE. Wait, are there people not doing their CLE online? [Poetic Justice]
* Matthew Martens, the senior SEC attorney who ran the “Fabulous Fab” trial, is leaving the agency. Possible landing spots for Martens include Kirkland & Ellis; Paul Weiss; WilmerHale; Latham & Watkins; and Cleary Gottlieb. [Wealth Management]