What do you do when the demand for legal services falls into the gutter? Did you answer: make up a new, unnecessary service to artificially drum up business? Then congratulations, you’re well on your way to making partner!
A Biglaw firm is pitching a “second opinion” service, asking clients to throw a couple of bucks their way to confirm or reject the conclusions of the client’s primary lawyers. Lawyers love being second-guessed, so this practice makes firms and clients alike more than a little nervous.
However, it’s all about how you pitch it, and with the right spin this just might be the best idea anyone’s had to shore up some business in a while….
Alan Salpeter, currently with Kaye Scholer, is the man behind this new strategy. Salpeter is a refugee from the Dewey & LeBoeuf debacle, and prior to that he served as the litigation department chair for Mayer Brown — rendering him a passing character in The New Republic’s indictment of Biglaw, which was really just an indictment of Mayer Brown. David thought the article made Salpeter sound like an old man yelling at the kids to get off his lawn, so inventing a new line of business is not what we’d expected to see from him.
Mr. Salpeter, a former co-chair of Mayer Brown LLP’s litigation department, believes his firm can overcome potential hangups and help would-be clients, relatively cheaply, decide whether to go to trial or settle high-stakes cases or appeal adverse verdicts.
On offer are free one-day consultations and flat-fee engagements ranging from $100,000 to about $500,000, he says. His second selling point is the blended perspective of the three principals: Mr. Salpeter’s decades of trial experience, appellate lawyer Steven Rosenthal’s input from Washington, and a former judge’s viewpoint from James Catterson, who recently joined the firm in New York.
“We all look at litigation through a different lens,” said Mr. Salpeter, 66, who at Mayer Brown defended Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison against insider trading charges and won a $50 million settlement on behalf of litigation consultant Lexecon Inc.
If you think no one would pay half a million to get a rubber stamp, you don’t have the appropriate contempt for your clients. Unfortunately for Salpeter, it looks like clients aren’t buying it.
Some general counsels remain cool to the process. After hiring a top-tier law firm, they are reluctant to second-guess their own judgment and wonder what a contrary second opinion gains them.
“I just don’t see it catching on among highly competitive firms, which is essentially all of them,” said Chicago-based legal industry consultant Joel Henning. “Most law firms and lawyers will be reluctant to get into this game for fear of retaliation.”
That makes sense. Biglaw firms will mostly resent second-guessing, but there is a way to position this service to take advantage of market realities. Instead of casting this business as a second opinion for other, similarly situated firms, Kaye Scholer should sell this as insurance and peace of mind for clients increasingly turning toward lower-profile firms. A reasonably priced second opinion from a Biglaw firm allows general counsel to employ the smaller, less prestigious firm they already hire while still signaling to management that the work product has the blessing of a traditional, established firm. Sure some Biglaw firms will balk at anything that gives clients cover for hiring smaller firms, but it’s time for a reality check: they’re already doing it.
Insurance fraud committed by someone who should know better is one thing. But on top of that, this case features allegations of assault, foreign retaliatory detentions, computer hacking, extortion, spurned lovers, and revenge.
This former Biglaw partner left the practice complaining of back injuries that forever closed the door to the profession. In 2002, the carrier got a request to provide long-term disability benefits. But the carrier never really trusted the partner — because who really trusts lawyers — and conducted video surveillance and multiple independent medical examinations.
Late last week, a federal appeals court sided with the insurance company, agreeing that the partner was more than likely faking it and writing up the whole scandalous tale….
Terri Truitt was a partner at Mayer Brown in its Houston office, specializing in international oil and gas litigation. Correction, she was a partner at THE BIGLAW firm of Mayer Brown, because The New Republic informed us that Mayer Brown is the only Biglaw firm out there. They also made it pretty clear that being a partner there was a horrible experience (even if most of the perils described in the article happened years after Truitt left active practice).
Truitt suffered lower back and leg pain that eventually drove her to leave practice and seek benefits on the grounds that these injuries barred her from the regular practice of law. Having worked with exceptional attorneys with chronic back problems and even in wheelchairs, I’m incredulous. But Truitt suggested that her practice required intense physical effort.
For example, “lifting and handling boxes in excess of 25 pounds.” I have one word for you: associates.
In fairness to Truitt, she claimed her particular practice required long, international flights to far-flung locales like Sweden, Turkmenistan, and Pottsylvania. That could present a problem if you don’t get one of those Virgin Atlantic flights with the beds, I suppose.
But her carrier, Unum, never really believed her:
This continuing review also produced evidence inconsistent with Truitt’s disability. For example, surveillance videos showed Truitt walking, driving, and bending down, and lifting and carrying boxes, bags, coolers, pumpkins, and a dog. After conducting an Independent Medical Examination (“IME”), orthopedic surgeon Michael Graham found that “it is clear that [Truitt] has little or no physical impairment.”
Unum cut her off once, but relented after a brief clash of experts. Then the case got really crazy:
Around the same time that Truitt’s benefits were reinstated, a man identifying himself as Andrew Mark Thomas called Unum. Thomas said: that he had been in a personal relationship with Truitt for “a number of years”; that Truitt had him “locked up” and deported to the United Kingdom; that, as a result, he wanted “to see the b**** locked up”; and that he had photos, travel itineraries, and other documents that showed that Truitt was not totally disabled. Thomas sent Unum a follow-up email asking to be paid six times “the current monthly payments made to” Truitt in exchange for providing “complete evidence that [she] is obtaining monthly (disability) payments under false preten[s]es.” He warned: “This is a one[-]time offer, and no further thought will be given if you decide to decline.”
Extortion? Foreign detention? It’s not clear the extent of the “personal relationship” Thomas alleges, either. Thomas sounds totally crazy seriously aggrieved. Too bad Thomas let Unum know just how much he hated Truitt because Unum realized they didn’t need to buy the cow when they could get the milk for free:
Unum responded that it “does not pay for fraud[-]related information,” but that Thomas was “free to call” if he was willing “to provide this information without compensation.”
Thomas proceeded to provide, without compensation, some emails purportedly sent by Truitt. Unum asked Thomas if there were “any additional emails/information available which might shed additional light regarding this case?” Responding that “this is personal to me,” Thomas provided Unum with additional emails. In total, Thomas provided more than 600 pages of emails, spanning March 2005 to July 2007.
The emails — summarized over the course of multiple pages of the opinion — show that Truitt was an extensive world traveler, despite her stated inability to sit still on an international flight for hours. Her defense: vacation travel is way less demanding than work travel, which is true, but not likely to sway the carrier paying you upwards of $1 million in benefits because you claim to be “bed-ridden for upwards of 15 hours a day.” Worse still, the emails demonstrated that Truitt was actively practicing law on the side while telling Unum she could never practice again.
But even worse for Truitt, the emails matched up suspiciously with her correspondence with the carrier:
• Truitt contacted Unum on August 20, 2005 to say: that her condition had gotten worse; that her mother was taking care of her; that she would not be able to attend an FCE scheduled for September 2, 2005; and that she would not be available until September 24, 2005. Yet Truitt’s travel records showed that she was traveling in Europe between August 7, 2005 and September 22, 2005.
• Truitt told Unum in an April 24, 2006 letter that, since a March 1, 2006 FCE, she had “been confined to bed rest for approximately 15 hours per day.” Yet video surveillance on April 6, 2006 showed Truitt “driving for most of the day and
removing several items from her vehicle.”
• Truitt told physician Levine during a June 9, 2006 IME that she had stayed in bed for 15 hours a day since the March 1, 2006 FCE. Yet “[d]uring this time period, some of the activities she was performing included international traveling, working, purchasing tickets to attend a Gala event, riding and keeping up two acres of property by herself.”
But Thomas wasn’t telling Unum everything:
Truitt sent Unum a three-page affidavit. Truitt recounted how she had been assaulted by Thomas. She then stated: that Thomas was “a computer and hacker expert”; that he “copied onto his laptop virtually all of the data from my personal computer”; and that his “laptop also has computer hacking programs and communications stating that Mr. Thomas was planning to ‘grass’ me up to UNUM and steal money from me.” Truitt characterized an email purportedly from Thomas—in which he threatened to tell Unum that he had “detailed knowledge & evidence of a long[-]term fraud being commi[t]ted by a[n] insured client of Unum”—as “threatening to send false information to UNUM.” She also asserted that “[n]one of the statements Mr. Thomas threatened to make to UNUM are true.”
Along with the affidavit, Truitt sent Unum documents confirming that Thomas pled guilty to assaulting Truitt by strangling her during a November 2007 camping trip. She also sent medical records, tax returns, and relevant case law.
So now Unum had some damning electronic evidence, but the source was allegedly a violent extortionist computer hacker.
Unum believed the emails and cut off Truitt’s benefits, prompting the former partner to file suit, alleging that Unum acted arbitrarily and capriciously in putting faith in anything Thomas sent them.
The Fifth Circuit disagreed with Truitt, finding that Unum’s faith in Thomas was merely part of an extensive investigation into the partner’s claimed disability.
And there you have it. If any of you other Mayer Brown partners were reading The New Republic and contemplating a severance package a la insurance fraud, you need to do a much better job committing to the role.
Want to read the entire sordid opinion, along with all the damaging email excerpts? It’s all on the next page…
But, at the end of the day, the story that lorded over the legal week was Noam Scheiber’s piece in The New Republic about the decline of Biglaw. So let’s talk about why most lawyers drink themselves asleep in dark rooms and how attorneys are a lot like professional athletes.
Oh, and Justice Scalia called people Nazis, and the royal baby proved how awful punditry can be…
1. Let’s talk about what the New Republic article wasn’t.
Despite the buzz it generated, the New Republic article wasn’t really news. If you’ve been reading ATL for any length of time, the decline of Biglaw is old news. To some extent, the article brought this story to a wider audience, but the sort of person reading the New Republic is likely to have seen any number of news items over the last five years profiling an industry in trouble. The only trend piece more done to death is “Hey everybody! Look at Brooklyn!” This latter piece gave rise to this clip, which confirms that Brian Williams is awesome:
But back to the TNR article. Basically, the article explains that lawyers are sad pandas.
On the one hand, Biglaw attorneys come off as narcissistic complainers. In an economy where people are begging for scraps, it’s hard for normal folks to sympathize when Biglaw attorneys kvetch about how hard their lives are while making well over six figures and rue the fact that it might take them 12 years to become millionaires instead of eight. And even then they might just be kind of millionaires while someone else is a bigger millionaire. Life’s hard all over.
On the other hand, the article does try to bring out the most misunderstood aspect of working in Biglaw, which I call the “professional athlete effect.” I often argue with people saying “professional athletes make so much money” by pointing out that, beyond the superstars, you have to look at their salaries and recognize that they will only earn them for a finite period. If an athlete makes $1 million a year for three years, it’s nothing to sneeze at, but after taxes and divided out over the athlete’s life, it’s really not a ton. Sure they can go out and get another job, but the point remains those three years don’t really leave them set for life.
The same is true of Biglaw:
Helen’s son was born on March 19, 2010. Just before he turned three weeks old, she received the call she’d been dreading. Mayer Brown gave her the rest of her maternity leave, plus another three months pay as severance. It was, under most circumstances, a fair offer. But Helen was in a bind. Her husband was a stay-at-home dad, and the couple owned a condominium in downtown Chicago. “I sent out a ridiculous number of resumés,” she says. “If I didn’t have a job lined up by time the time the severance ended, I didn’t have a way to make payments on my house.” She landed two or three interviews and no offers. “The market was so bad in the spring of 2010. Not a single law firm was hiring.”
Inevitably, the bank foreclosed on her condo. She and her husband relocated to the Michigan town where he grew up, and she eventually joined a local firm. Her annual salary when she left Mayer Brown was $230,000. Last year she made $40,000. It was barely enough to put food on the table and clothe her children, much less keep up with tens of thousands of dollars in law school debt. “There’s probably a bankruptcy in our future. I don’t think there’s a way out of it,” Helen told me. “In ten years, hopefully we’ll be financially recovered, we can buy a house, have a credit card again.”
A short score doesn’t mean much if you overextend yourself and work in an industry where almost everyone has a short employment lifespan. Add to lawyers the obscene student loan debt that professional athletes don’t have to deal with and you see why Biglaw lawyers get depressed: their situation is horrible, but not horrible enough that normal people will give them any credit for complaining.
And it’s even hard to be a partner, as David explained, though partners are more analogous to superstar athletes — no matter how bad it gets, they can probably get another job, even if it requires playing in the Canadian Football League. I tend to think Helen in that story proves Staci’s point.
Biglaw might not die off entirely, but this was one piece explaining that this is more than a slump, no matter what the law school advocates proclaim.
So that’s kind of what the article wasn’t. What the article was was a little over 7000 words of “Mayer Brown sucks,” which was interesting in its own right. Or more specifically, Mayer Brown sucked, because the article lays a lot of the blame on the firm’s former London leader, Paul Maher. Maher now heads up the London office of Greenberg Traurig, whose attorneys are no doubt overjoyed to see a major magazine piece suggesting their guy ruined a venerable law firm.
The article was also — due to the cover photo of Bob Odenkirk — an excellent commercial for the impending return of Breaking Bad.
Despite the problems and challenges facing large law firms, making partner at a Biglaw firm remains a big deal. As an old friend told me a few years ago, comparing his pre- and post-partnership existences, “My life has been transformed. I feel like I’ve been let into a special club. Overnight, the same people treat me in completely different ways.”
My friend isn’t the only partner who feels like he got kissed by a princess and turned from a frog into a prince. Others recognize the transformative power of making partner as well. In the words of our very own Anonymous Partner, “You now occupy a new professional status, and the nature of making partner is such that no matter how badly you screw up the rest of your life, you have accomplished something very rare. It is a life milestone, on par with getting married or winning the lottery in terms of its immediate alteration of your identity.”
Comparing making partner to winning the lottery is apt: many lottery winners don’t live happily ever after (as brilliantly captured by this Onion article, Powerball Winners Already Divorced, Bankrupt). A fascinating new piece in The New Republic goes behind the scenes at one major law firm and shows that being a Biglaw partner in the twenty-first century isn’t all peaches and cream. In fact, aspects of being a partner sound as appealing as rotten fruit (and this isn’t just sour grapes)….
Of all the occupational golden ages to come and go in the twentieth century — for doctors, journalists, ad-men, autoworkers — none lasted longer, felt cushier, and was all in all more golden than the reign of the law partner.
There was the generous salary, the esteem of one’s neighbors, work that was more intellectual than purely commercial. Since clients of white-shoe firms typically knocked on their doors and stayed put for decades — one lawyer told me his ex-firm had a committee to decide which clients to accept — the partner rarely had to hustle for business. He could focus his energy on the legal pursuits that excited his analytical mind.
Above all, there was stability. The firms practiced a benevolent paternalism. They paid for partners to join lunch and dinner clubs and loaned them money to buy houses. When a lawyer had a drinking problem, the firm sent him off for treatment at its own expense. Layoffs were unheard of.
We all know how those days are gone. Regular readers of Above the Law are familiar with how the formerly protected world of partners has been rocked by layoffs, de-equitizations, and dissolutions of entire firms in recent years.
Scheiber goes on to describe familiar changes in the world of Biglaw, correctly identifying the critical problem as “many, many more high-priced lawyers today than there is high-priced legal work.” There will always be some top-of-the-line legal work to sustain top-of-the-line firms, but probably not enough to sustain all the firms who are today viewed as part of “Biglaw” — the NLJ 250, say, or the Am Law 100. As Scheiber puts it:
Within the next decade or so, according to one common hypothesis, there will be at most 20 to 25 firms that can operate this way — the firms whose clients have so many billions of dollars riding on their legal work that they can truly spend without limit. The other 200 firms will have to reinvent themselves or disappear.
The New Republic piece zeroes in on one such firm that will have to retool itself or suffer the consequences: Mayer Brown, “the paradigmatic Chicago firm.” He uses “Chicago firm” here as a term of art, contrasting the “Chicago firm” with the true “Cravath model” firm; the Cravath-style firm is more profitable, cutthroat, and leveraged than the Chicago-style firm, in Scheiber’s telling.
Scheiber provides a juicy mini-history of Mayer Brown over the past few decades. He describes how it overcame the 1984 collapse of Continental Illinois Bank, a major client, as well as Mayer’s ill-fated merger with the London firm of Rowe and Maw in 2002. He then focuses on the changes that took place at Mayer Brown under “the ambitious head of the firm’s London office,” Paul Maher, whom some nicknamed the “Dark Sith Lord” of the firm:
In 2007, the firm’s management committee stripped more than 10 percent of these brief-writers of their equity stake — 45 total — only weeks before Mayer Brown held its annual partners meeting in London.6 The timing was unfortunate. Many partners had already reserved plane tickets for their spouses at their own expense. “They were all ready to go when the pink slips came out,” recalls a partner with a close friend who was affected. “One of the guys let go had that day booked a flight for his wife.”
The partners who made the trip were unsettled by its poshness. Mayer Brown had rented out the Grosvenor House hotel, one of the most expensive in London, and booked top billers into cavernous suites overlooking Hyde Park. One evening, the firm chartered boats to take partners down the Thames for dinner at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. When they arrived, they were escorted down a canvas carpet by guides carrying torches and dressed like beefeaters. The speaker for the evening was the future British foreign secretary, William Hague.
In fairness to Mayer Brown, Biglaw partner retreats almost always feature big pimpin’. See, e.g., the DLA Piper partners — they’re on a boat, everybody look at them ’cause they’re sailing on a boat!
Schieber traces much of the cultural shift at Mayer Brown over the years to changes in partner compensation:
For decades prior to the 1980s, Mayer Brown tilted in the lockstep direction. But, after the collapse of Continental, [then-chairman] Bob Helman realized the firm would go under if his partners sat around waiting for business to walk in the door. Hereafter, he decreed, each partner’s compensation would depend heavily on the amount of business he or she drummed up.
Helman’s plan may have worked too well. Ever since it went into effect, partners have competed aggressively not just against lawyers at other firms, but against one another. Chicago partners would fly into New York to poach clients from their Manhattanite counterparts, holding clandestine meetings in which they would pitch themselves as less expensive and a mere two-hour plane ride away. When the New Yorkers invariably caught wind of these plots, they would remind clients that they were far more efficient than their Midwestern cousins.
Scheiber then delves into detailed discussion of the partnership points system at Mayer Brown. You should check out the full piece to read it for yourself; it’s extremely interesting for observers of Biglaw. Here’s the gist: before 2007, “there were often 75 or 100 different levels of income” among the partners; after 2007, the firm moved to a system of about 15 bands, where partners in the same band would receive the same number of points, with each point worth a specific amount depending on the firm’s financial performance that year.
This new system, which might sound logical in theory, presented a number of problems in practice. Disputes arose over who should move up a band and on what basis. Controversies broke out regarding manipulation of business-development credits. And, even more problematically, points started falling in value in 2009 and 2010 — not just because of the financial crisis, which affected the firm’s performance, but because of bonuses being diverted to certain partners, totally independent of their points allocation. Some of these bonuses amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It sounds like partner compensation remains a sore spot for some at Mayer Brown. The New Republic piece describes, in great and painful detail, all of the infighting over distribution of partner profits — infighting that associates and staff are blissfully ignorant of, which is at least one way in which partners have it worse. And if the Biglaw pie shrinks over the years to come, as many predict it will, the tension and strife will only grow.
What lessons can be derived from the Mayer Brown situation? Here are a few preliminary thoughts that occurred to me:
If a firm can’t do lockstep comp, then perhaps it should adopt the Jones Day “black box” model, i.e., a closed compensation system, where the powers-that-be set individual partner pay, and no partner knows how much any other partner makes.
If you’re a partner at a “black box” firm, don’t even try to find out what your fellow partners make; just think about how happy you are with your own paycheck, and save yourself the stress.
And live well within your means, since job security for partners isn’t what it once was.
So back to the original question: is being a partner the worst job in Biglaw? There’s a case to be made here. Sure, partners enjoy tremendous pay and prestige. But partners also experience incredible stress and pressure, related both to business development and office politics; they can no longer just focus on doing good legal work, as associates arguably can. At the same time, partners no longer enjoy the job security they once did. And when firms fail, like Dewey & LeBoeuf, partners face financial exposure in a way that associates and staff do not.
This is just a thumbnail sketch of the New Republic article, which you should check out for yourself. It contains many amazing (and depressing) anecdotes not mentioned here, such as the story of a laid-off Mayer Brown associate who now makes $40,000 a year, which is not enough to support her family, and might have to declare bankruptcy.
I thought Noam Scheiber’s piece was great, but reasonable minds can disagree. Here’s what one former Mayer Brown partner had to say about it….
* Though she be but little, she is fierce! Under Mary Jo White’s guidance, the Securities and Exchange Committee is now cracking down on financial fraud with a vengeance. [DealBook / New York Times]
* When a Biglaw firm’s chairman skeptically says, “Uh, OK, I mean, maybe,” with regard to a future increased demand for legal work, you know things are bad. We’ll have more on this later today. [New Republic]
* With Detroit’s downfall, vultures are swooping in left and right to snag clients. Firms retained thus far include Weil Gosthal, Arent Fox, Kirkland & Ellis, Winston & Strawn, and Sidley Austin. [Reuters]
* “I’m not a 100% sure this is legal.” Two law professors have come up with a revolutionary way for law students to finance legal education that sounds like it just might work. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* Normally when Biglaw firms and legal departments go to court over contested litigation, something’s gone wrong, but this summer, they’re trying to do some good in the world. [National Law Journal]
* Soon, it’ll be known as Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School, but even with a new name, you’re still going to be Cooley, and there’s no recovery from that. [Lansing State Journal]
* In Greenwich, Connecticut, the fact that people buy homes where they want their kids to go to school isn’t a “complicated concept.” The schools’ racial diversity, on the other hand, is. [New York Times]
* Ed O’Bannon asks the NCAA to agree in writing not to retaliate against any current athlete that joins his lawsuit against the organization. How sad is it that a non-profit organization committed to helping students needs to be reminded not to retaliate against students? In other news, NCAA Football 14 (affiliate link) came out today. [USA Today]
* More SCOTUS Term analysis. Tom Goldstein, Adam Liptak, and Jess Bravin have been invited to explain to the Heritage Foundation what an awesome term it had. [Heritage]
* The Shelby County decision completely lacks any foundation for the argument that the Voting Rights Act violates the Constitution. Yeah, but besides that… [Lawyers, Guns & Money]
* What is wrong with soccer fans? Referee stabs player and then ends up like Ned Stark. [Legal Juice]
We love baby name trends almost as much as we love weddings, so we’re always interested to watch different names wax and wane among our brides and grooms. Remember back when everybody’s baby sister was named Caitlin? Now those little Caitlins are getting married in droves. Jordan was another popular name for boys and girls (there’s a Jordan among our contestants today).
It makes us feel a bit old to watch the last decade’s parade of Ashleys and Jennifers in their strapless dresses give way to the Caitlins and Jordans in their lace-backed gowns. When the little Olivias and Aidens start tying the knot, we’ll know we’ve got one foot in the grave.
- Up first is this gorgeous pair of Texas lawyers. Emily is an associate general counsel at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Michael’s an assistant federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Texas, also in Houston.
- They’re as well-credentialed as they are good-looking: Emily has undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard, and Michael has an undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins and a law degree from UVA.
The Case Against:
- This isn’t a strike against them, but we noticed that some of the knives on their registry haven’t been purchased. PSA to ATL readers: When you’re perusing a wedding registry and don’t know what to give, buy knives! Old, superstitious people don’t like to give cutlery as wedding gifts, so the young and hip need to step up. Your friends will be ever-so-grateful.
- Don’t let those smiles fool you; this is one bad-ass couple. The bride is ex-Army, works for the Director of National Intelligence, and speaks Serbo-Croatian. Fierce. She also graduated from the University of Minnesota and has a master’s degree in history from the University of Washington and a JD from UVA.
- The groom, a former Marine intelligence officer, directs a division of ReconRobotics (“World Leader in Tactical Micro-Robot Systems”). He also teaches national security policy at Macalester College. A graduate of Macalester, he has a certificate in somethingorother from Harvard and a JD from the University of Minnesota.
The Case Against:
- Oh, like we’re gonna say anything bad about people who could have us droned.
- This couple owes Fordham for both their JDs (she was magna; he was cum laude) and their love connection: They met there as law students.
- The bride, an associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, has an undergraduate degree from Emory. The groom was magna at Boston College and is an associate at Mayer Brown.
The Case Against:
- We’re scratching our heads over this registry. We’ll give them a pass on the $230 bread basket, but those orange buffet plates will be dated in five years. And who the hell needs two KitchenAid stand mixers?
- You could make a strong case for each of these couples, but in the end LEWW is charmed most by those terrific Texans, Team Kuo-Chu. Congratulations to them and to all the newlyweds!
Aside from the daily challenges associated with sustaining or exceeding gross revenue year after year, Biglaw partners are probably most worried about their firm’s brand. After all, a brand is something that will keep clients coming back, and usher in new and exciting business opportunities.
But with so many firms to choose from, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly which one is on top when it comes to being the most well-known of the bunch, regardless of what their Am Law or Vault 100 ranks might tell you. What matters most is obviously what the clients think.
Of course, there’s now a ranking to determine which firm has the strongest brand in the business….
For the past two years, Acritas has ranked Biglaw firms based on feedback from their most important clients: general counsel at companies with revenue of at least $50 million. Here’s how the survey was conducted:
Acritas’s survey, conducted by phone between March and December 2012, asked respondents a series of questions about outside legal counsel: which five law firms first come to mind, which three firms do you favor most, which firms do you consider for bet-the-company litigation and major M&A transactions, and which five firms do you use for high value work.
The survey also requested that foreign respondents name the law firms they use for inbound U.S. legal work. Firms received points for each question according to the order in which they were mentioned, with the first firm earning five points, the second getting 4 points and so on. About 10 to 15 percent of this year’s respondents replied to last year’s survey; the rest were first-time participants.
According to Acritas, here are the top ten Biglaw brands in 2013 (you can see the full list over at Am Law Daily):
Much of this list has changed from last year’s ranking. While Skadden and Jones Day maintained their positions, the rest of the top ten shuffled around. Much like on the dating scene, size matters, and apparently “[b]ig is best” when it comes to law firm branding — which could explain the rise of both DLA Piper and Baker & McKenzie (which is the biggest law firm in the world) on this list.
In addition, at least one firm in the top ten has rounded up lateral partners and herded them into its ranks within the past year. That’s another explanation for DLA Pipers’s jump from No. 11 to No. 5 on this list. Yet a third explanation is that general counsel really hate geography just as much as those at DLA do.
Congratulations to Mayer Brown on making its first appearance in the top ten of this ranking. Going forward, though, the firm might want to focus on addressing its declining revenues (as recently reported by Am Law). Being one of the few Biglaw firms in a slump, during a time when many other firms are reporting at least mildly positive results, could have a negative brand impact in the future.
Putting prestige aside, this ranking speaks volumes as to which Biglaw firms are on top when it comes to client loyalty. If your firm’s name is one of the first five that comes to mind when big clients have bet-the-company litigation and major M&A transactions, you know you’re probably doing something right.
* Our own Elie Mystal isn’t the only one who’s capable of fanning the flames of race baiting — it seems that Supreme Court justices can do it, too! We’ll probably have more on Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s benchslap later today. [The Two-Way / NPR]
* Patience is obviously one of this judge’s virtues, because this took a looooong time. After waiting more than a year for people to put their petty political pandering aside, the Senate confirmed Robert Bacharach to the Tenth Circuit. [Blog of Legal Times]
* Mary Jo White, the nominee to lead the SEC, will probably face her confirmation hearing in March. Her legal wranglings at Debevoise may be of interest to some, but really, who cares? She’s so cute and tiny! [Reuters]
* Mayer Brown and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year: gross revenue is up overall at most Biglaw firms, but not this one. In 2012, Mayer Brown’s revenue dipped 3.7 percent for a six-year low. [Am Law Daily]
* Kirkland & Ellis, now the fifth-largest Biglaw firm in the nation, is leading the market in terms of top dollar merger-and-acquisition deals. Now, if only the firm could get some bananas. [Crain's Chicago Business]
* Orderly liquidation authority may be a legitimate exercise of power under the Bankruptcy Clause, but as far as these states are concerned, it’s just another reason to hate the Dodd-Frank Act. [DealBook / New York Times]
* An “astronomically stupid” legal loophole? Unpossible! Gun trusts are seeing the limelight because Chris Dorner claims he used one to purchase his paraphernalia without a background check. [New York Times]