* Say what you will about Justice Scalia, but the man is hilarious — more funny than his four liberal colleagues combined, according to a statistical analysis of oral argument recordings. [New York Times]
Marty Lasden of California Lawyer magazine interviewed the severely conservative James Bopp Jr. for the “Legally Speaking” series (in which I previously participated). It appears this interview with Bopp took place before Bopp got bumped from the podium in favor of Erin Murphy, a young superstar of the Supreme Court bar:
The idea of “happiness” is the basis of an ever-growing body of research. In fact, while economists traditionally measure a nation’s prosperity by looking at GDP, there is a growing movement for them to consider a different measure, something akin to “Gross National Happiness.” One of the best-known efforts to move away from a reliance on GDP as a measure of national welfare is the UN’s Human Development Index, which amalgamates three metrics: lifespan, educational attainment, and adjusted real income. Then there are dozens of much more subjective surveys of national happiness, many of which find Costa Rica to be the happiest country in the world. Others say it’s Norway. (Then there is this preposterous “Happy Planet Index,” which ranks the U.S. at number 113, between Madagascar and Nigeria.)
Of course happiness research is performed in more narrowly targeted ways, such as examining specific professions. Earlier this year, Forbes reported on a “Career Bliss” survey of 65,000 employees that ranked “law firm associate” as the unhappiest job in America. (See Joe’s take on that survey here.)
First, there is a forthcoming academic paper, Buyers’ Remorse? An Empirical Assessment of the Desirability of a Lawyer Career, which analyzes data from NALP’s After the JD project, tracking about 4,500 lawyers from the class of 2000. The paper’s authors conclude that “evidence of buyer’s remorse [over getting a legal degree] is thin at best.” To cast doubt on this conclusion, Harper needs only to point out the study’s fundamental defect: it does not incorporate any data after the prelapsarian year of 2007. Aside from that, should anyone contemplating a legal career today draw any conclusions based on the experience of the class of 2000? Some questions answer themselves.
Next, Harper looks at the release of the 2013 Am Law Midlevel Associate Survey, which reported record high levels of associate satisfaction. Harper’s interpretation of this finding sounds about right: “Many members of the youngest generation of lawyers (and would-be lawyers) are so concerned about finding jobs that they are now equating satisfaction with getting and keeping one long enough to repay their staggering student loans.” Furthermore, we would direct readers to that survey’s methodology and let them judge for themselves. If you like what you see, you can buy the full results for the low, low price of $750.00.
Of course, we here at ATL do a fair amount of survey research ourselves, some of which could be categorized as “happiness research.” Among other things, the ATL Insider Survey asks respondents from law firms to rate their employers in terms of five categories: compensation, firm morale, culture and colleagues, training, and hours. What do our survey results have to say about current trends in Biglaw happiness?
For context, here are the overall mean ratings, on a scale of 1 to 10, by law firm associates for each of the five categories (the ratings from September 2012 are in parentheses):
So across every category except Culture and Colleagues, ratings are up compared to last year. It’s difficult to know whether the Biglaw environment is brightening or whether the simple fact of having a job these days acts as a set of rose-colored glasses. Two of these categories above are arguable near proxies for the concept of “happiness”: Morale and Culture. It is interesting to see the discrepancy between the two. Culture gets the highest marks, while morale is neck and neck with the Biglaw associate bête noire of “hours.” It’s as if associates are telling us that, while the climate is good, the weather’s not so great.
Our survey contains another “happiness” proxy. Law firm lawyers are asked a “time machine” hypothetical: “If you could go back and do it over again, would you still choose to work for your firm?” Despite all the angst of most online discussions about law firm life, a remarkable 84% of respondents said yes, they would make the same decision and re-join their current firm. This is up slightly from 12 months ago. Responses to this question were consistently positive across all practice areas:
If we look at the results of this question in terms of specific firms, we find that there are six firms (for which we have sufficient responses) with a remarkable 100% “Yes” rate. Not a single associate respondent tells us that she regrets the decision to go to work for these six firms (with a representative quote):
[A] strong work/life balance culture demonstrated by the fact that we all take our vacation each year, and parents, male and female, take their parental leave, can easily work from home, and having a life outside of work is valued by the firm.
Pro bono practice is at the heart and soul of the firm’s culture. The law is more than a business; it is also a noble profession where the priority should be to help clients–rich or poor–to achieve their goals.
Spectacular place to work. A hidden gem among law firms. The only place left where you can do top quality work while enjoying a decent life work balance.
It is still possible to build a practice and forge a career at a law firm. Pillsbury gives associates real opportunities to market to clients, develop expertise, and develop a sustainable practice. The firm is also extremely open about finances and decisions. Finally – the people at Pillsbury are fantastic.
Many moons ago, around this time of year, I worked as a summer associate at Wachtell Lipton. I enjoyed many a fine meal that summer (although Wachtell’s program is more work-focused and less lunch-focused than many others). One of my favorite occasions was a dinner at Jean-Georges with partner Karen Krueger, her husband, myself, and a girlfriend of mine.
Oh how times have changed. It’s rare to see partners leave the gilded cage of Wachtell Lipton, where annual profits per partner regularly exceed $4 million. But Krueger had the guts to make the jump. She left the practice of law and now works as a nationally certified teacher of the Alexander Technique.
What is the Alexander Technique? If you suffer from pain, perhaps as a result of your stressful law firm job, it could be your salvation. And it might help you with your poker game, too….
Karen Krueger practiced law, focusing on employee benefits and executive compensation, for 25 years — five at Patterson Belknap and twenty at Wachtell Lipton. She enjoyed the practice of law, which she found stimulating and fascinating, but she eventually started to experience debilitating headaches and neck pain. In the course of trying to deal with this pain, she learned about the Alexander Technique, as she explained in a recent interview with Spencer Mazyck of Bloomberg Law:
As a longtime partner at Wachtell Lipton, which pays its former partners very generous retirement benefits, Krueger could have retired to a life of leisure. Instead, amazed by how the Alexander Technique helped her overcome her own pain, Krueger completed a three-year, 1600-hour training course to become a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique. She now teaches private lessons in the discipline here in New York City, where many of her clients work in law firms — not a surprising development, in light of how spending long hours in front of computers can give rise to chronic pain.
As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer recently released its Am Law 200 law firm rankings — a list that’s still closely watched, but not quite as prestigious as being a ranked member of the influential Am Law 100. Sorry, but being a part of the “Second Hundred” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
While the Am Law 100 celebrated a year of “slow growth” in 2012, it looks like the Am Law 200 will be known for its “bets on bulk.” When all of the big boys were busy playing it safe, perhaps out of fear of becoming the next Dewey, firms in the Second Hundred were gobbling up talent like there was no tomorrow.
Of course, as could’ve been expected, this kind of aggressive hiring had some pretty major effects on firms’ financial performance. So how did the Am Law 200 stack up? Let’s find out…
Seldom has the strategic divide between The Am Law 100 and the Second Hundred been so stark. Faced with a tepid economic recovery in 2012, the big boys played it safe—and their smaller competitors gambled on growth. … Second Hundred firms are clearly wagering that, as the economy improves, their lower rates will drive work their way, and that their investment in new partners will pay off. Time will tell.
American Lawyer is calling this a “hiring binge,” because for the Am Law 200 as a whole, total head count increased by a whopping 885 lawyers, representing a 3 percent increase over 2011′s numbers. The number of equity partners increased by 1 percent, and the number of nonequity partners grew by a staggering 10.1 percent. This rapid hiring served as a sucker punch to the Am Law 200′s financials.
Sure, gross revenue in the Am Law 200 may have increased by 3.2 percent to $18.51 billion (a new record), but the hiring binge hangover hit these firms where it counts: in their revenue per lawyer (rising just 0.2 percent, compared to the the Am Law 100′s increase of 2.6 percent) and profits per partner metrics (rising only 2.4 percent, compared to the Am Law 100′s increase of 4.2 percent).
Now for the part you’ve been waiting for: gross revenue, revenue per lawyer, and profits per partner. We’ll provide a chart for the the top 15 firms in the gross revenue rankings, and the top five firms for the RPL and PPP rankings (Am Law didn’t provide separate RPL and PPP charts for only the Second Hundred).
We’ll start with how much cash these firms brought in as a whole (the full chart can be found here). Some things to note before you dig in: Ice Miller had the largest gain (32.5 percent), and Fitzpatrick Cella Harper & Scinto had the largest drop (8.8 percent). Offer a warm welcome to the following firms that recently dropped out of the Am Law 100: Barnes & Thornburg, Chadbourne & Parke, Cozen O’Connor, and Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker. Here are the numbers:
As for RPL, where we see a relatively accurate picture of a firm’s overall financial well-being, we’ve got five big name players strutting their stuff. The integrated Am Law 200 RPL chart can be found here:
1. Irell & Manella
2. Munger Tolles & Olson
3. Choate Hall
4. Patterson Belknap
5. Fenwick & West
Finally, moving on to PPP, where all of the magic happens, we can see that Irell continues to dominate (perhaps with the help of a dip in equity partner head count), despite its overall rank of #122 on the Am Law 200. The integrated Am Law 200 PPP chart can be found here:
When I receive the sections of the Sunday New York Times that get delivered on Saturday, the first one I reach for is Real Estate. And one of the first features I read is The Hunt, Joyce Cohen’s delightful column chronicling the victories and defeats of those who dare to take on the New York City real estate market.
A recent installment of The Hunt featured a lawyer who was previously a movie star. With two daughters and a penchant for entertaining, she and her husband had outgrown their three-bedroom condominium on the Upper East Side. They wanted a townhouse. But with a budget of no more than $2 million, they had their work cut out for them.
Who is the actress turned attorney — a star of one of the most iconic films of the 1990s, in fact — and where is her new home?
Meet Allison Rutledge-Parisi. As noted on her Wikipedia page, “Allison Rutledge-Parisi is an attorney, and a former chief administrative officer for Kaplan, Inc., and a former actress. She is perhaps best known for her role as Jane Clark in Whit Stillman’s critically acclaimed film Metropolitan (1990).”
Allison Parisi in Metropolitan (with Edward Clements)
Ah yes, Metropolitan — a wonderfully witty film, which deservedly received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Rutledge-Parisi played Jane Clark, the best friend of Audrey Rouget, one of the central characters.
(Also in the film: Isabel Gillies, a star of Law & Order: SVU and author of the bestselling memoir Happens Every Day (affiliate link), which I highly recommend. Despite her fame as an actress and author, among ATL readers she might be best known as Mrs. Peter Lattman.)
Sorry for the digression; back to Allison Rutledge-Parisi. As noted on her Wikipedia page:
In the early 1990s, Rutledge-Parisi gave up acting and enrolled at Columbia Law School in New York City, where she was named a Harlan Fiske Scholar. After graduating from law school and passing the bar exam, Rutledge-Parisi clerked for Judge Robert W. Sweet in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. After working as an intellectual property lawyer for the firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler in Manhattan, she joined Kaplan, Inc. in 2004. Three years later, she was promoted to Kaplan’s chief administrative officer.
Columbia Law, S.D.N.Y. clerkship, Patterson Belknap — all in the wake of a successful acting career. Allison Rutledge-Parisi is clearly a woman of many talents.
What is she up to these days? As noted in the Times, she is an executive at a retail design start-up, fab.com. Her husband, Dr. James Marion, is a gastroenterologist. They have two daughters, Molly and Ella.
After Rutledge-Parisi’s mother expressed the view that the family needed more space, they started looking. From The Hunt:
Few apartments offered the space they craved. With a price ceiling of $2 million, they couldn’t afford a town house in Carnegie Hill, where Streeteasy.com lists nine town houses for sale, the least expensive almost $4 million. But they felt they could afford one in Harlem; at the moment, 14 town houses in Central Harlem below 125th Street are on the market, ranging from $1.2 million to $2.9 million.
To read about all the places they considered, check out the Times write-up. We’ll focus on the place they actually ended up in….
So far, no firm has stepped up and paid out bonuses early to help people struggling with Hurricane Sandy. Given the Nor’easter, associates might just burn the money to stay warm.
But at least one firm is being proactive about adjusting expectations because of the crazy weather patterns. Sandy essentially took a week away from billables, and so the firm is knocking a week off the minimum hour requirement….
Honestly, most firms would be like, “You didn’t have power for a week? Awww… guess you’ll be working double time next week.” But Patterson Belknap decided to be, dare I say, “reasonable,” with regard to expectations of associates.
A tipster explains that the firm normally has a target of 1850 billable hours and 2100 total hours (consisting of billable hours plus “related non-billable hours”). Here’s the memo from the firm:
The effects of Hurricane Sandy have hampered the ability of many of our associates to be fully productive last week. Accordingly, the firm has decided to reduce the bonus targets for this year by one full week. The full time bonus targets for 2012 are now:
If you are on a flexible work arrangement, please reduce your current billable target by 40 hours times your appropriate percentage and your total hours by 46 hours times your appropriate percentage. As a quick reference, below are a few of the more frequent flexible work arrangements:
80% reduce your billable target by 32 hours and your total hours by 36.8
70% reduce your billable target by 28 hours and your total hours by 32.2
60% reduce your billable target by 24 hours and your total hours by 27.6
That’s cool. Really, that is mighty decent of Patterson Belknap. No wonder the firm gets an A+ grade from Above the Law readers who work there.
Maybe other Biglaw firms with minimum hours requirements will follow suit? This weather has been a real problem. We just had a snowstorm a week after a hurricane, which is kind of like having a Xanax after enjoying a night of cocaine: it doesn’t “even things out,” so much as it “might kill you.”
Now is the time on ATL when we dance — around the subject of money. With just two months left in the year, law firms are focused on collections, associates are focused on bonuses, and partners are focused on profits. Even though money is not the be-all and end-all of law practice, as we have emphasized in these pages before, it’s a topic that people follow — and a topic that we will therefore be covering closely in what remains of 2012.
Earlier this week, the American Lawyer magazine touched upon a topic that doesn’t get as much attention as it should in the world of Biglaw: compensation for non-equity partners. Let’s take a look at Am Law’s findings….
You could call it the last black box. For more than three decades, The American Lawyer has ranked profits per partner at Am Law 200 firms. Parsing and comparing those equity partner paychecks has become routine sport among law firm leaders, consultants, and recruiters. Associate compensation is put under the same microscope — salaries and bonuses appear on news sites and blogs minutes after their announcement or distribution. But compensation for nonequity partners, the fastest-growing cohort in The Am Law 200, has remained largely opaque. Until now.
This is a great opening, and it’s absolutely true that non-equity partner comp is hard to get to the bottom of. But does the article deliver on the promise of clarifying this obscure subject? Let’s keep reading.
Here’s Am Law’s methodology:
Just as we derive a firm’s profits per partner from its net income (we divide that amount by the number of equity partners), we used each firm’s reported nonequity compensation, divided by its total number of nonequity partners, to calculate an average payout per nonequity partner, or PNEP. The range in PNEP results was startling, going from $1.53 million at the high end (Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy) to $100,000 at the bottom (Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease) [see "How the Other Half Lives,"]. What’s more, the relationship between what firms paid their nonequity partners (PNEP) and what they paid their equity partners (PPP) was all over the place, with PNEP spanning from less than a fifth of a firm’s PPP to a number that’s only a bit below it (at Wiley Rein, for example).
Hmm…. While these individual data points are certainly interesting ($100,000 a year for a law firm “partner” — depressing), it seems hard to come up with generalizations or even rankings based on them. And here is why:
There are a half-dozen different names for this cohort—income partners, salary partners, nonshare partners, fixed-dollar partners, contract partners — and the types of lawyers that carry these titles are just as varied. They can include ambitious junior partners on the path to equity partnership, laterals with a short-term fixed-compensation arrangement, senior partners on their way to retirement, partners seeking a predictable income or better lifestyle, or at many firms, some combination of all of the above.
Let a thousand partners bloom? Because “non-equity partner” is essentially a concocted category — made up, in many cases, so firms can look better in the very influential Am Law 100 profit per partner rankings — smart and creative lawyers have come up with a proliferation of approaches to it. And it gets worse (at least for those of us who like clarity as opposed to messiness):
Making matters even more complex, The American Lawyer’s definition of nonequity — any partner earning more than half of his or her compensation on a fixed basis — doesn’t always match firms’ internal classifications. Given such diverse and amorphous definitions, it’s no surprise that a multitude of different compensation systems and pay scales have proliferated for this group of lawyers.
Let’s pause here, because that’s huge. For purposes of this analysis, a non-equity partner is “any partner earning more than half of his or her compensation on a fixed basis.” As a result, the definition includes high-powered and highly paid lateral partners who have guaranteed or contractually specified compensation for a specific period of time at their new firms. These partners wouldn’t really be considered “non-equity” partners in the traditional sense (at least to the extent there is a “tradition” about something so novel), but they count as NEPs for purposes of the Am Law analysis, and their presence significantly skews the compensation figures in some cases.
So who is it that we think of when we think of the traditional “non-equity partner”? Kolz mentions two firms, Kirkland & Ellis and Akin Gump, that take one fairly standard approach: “the junior nonequity partner as an employee.” At K&E, the average payout per non-equity partner (PNEP) clocked in at around $455,000 in 2011. At Akin Gump, according to chairman R. Bruce McLean, these junior non-equity partners earn around $450,000 to $500,000. (These numbers seem about right to me; if you had asked me to peg the comp range for non-equity partners prior to this article, I probably would have said it goes from $350,000 to $600,000, depending on the firm.)
Here is the second big approach to junior non-equity types:
The second type of junior nonequity partner is more of a hybrid. Exemplified by Paul Hastings and several New York–based firms, these junior partners are considered full equity partners by their firms, with the same rights to vote and requirements to contribute capital. While their compensation is largely fixed, for anywhere between one and four years, it’s still quite generous. Paychecks for these ascending partners can range from $650,000 to $1 million in the major markets, according to law firm leaders and recruiters.
“The fixed compensation allows a level of planning for our younger partners who haven’t yet had the benefit of a big [end-of-year] paycheck,” says Greg Nitzkowski, Paul Hastings’s managing partner. His firm uses fixed compensation for the first two years after a lawyer has been elected to the partnership. “I’m one tier below the top [compensation level], but I don’t want to forget what it was like to be a 40-year-old partner struggling to pay a mortgage or afford my kids’ tuition. We’ve tried to make those things easier for our younger partners,” Nitzkowski says.
That’s actually pretty nice. Making partner can carry some costs (such as a buy-in or covering your own health insurance), so giving a new young partner a fixed paycheck helps that partner from a budgeting perspective.
Now let’s turn to the people who qualify as non-equity partners for purposes of the Am Law analysis but wouldn’t conventionally be considered as NEPs:
[L]ateral hiring at Am Law 200 firms almost always skews the PNEP, and its ratio to PPP, higher. Though firms such as Paul Hastings immediately place all lateral partners in their share or point system, most firms offer arriving partners a base guarantee for anywhere between a few months and two or three years, according to recruiters and law firm leaders. These pay packages, which can be completely fixed or can include bonuses earned through benchmarks, almost always qualify the new lateral for nonequity status in the Am Law 200 survey by virtue of our 50 percent rule. And so any addition of senior lateral partners can add tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to a firm’s average nonequity payout in a given year, say law firm leaders.
In some cases, these well-paid laterals are considered equity partners at their new firms on day one, with full partnership and voting rights. Weil, Gotshal & Manges, for instance, hired 18 lateral partners into its equity ranks in 2011. And though the firm only pays guaranteed packages for the months remaining in the calendar year that the lateral joins, the sheer number of these fractional additions are enough to artificially raise Weil’s PNEP to $1.3 million, says executive partner Barry Wolf.
So if you thought it was a bit odd to hear about non-equity partners with seven-figure paychecks, no, you’re not crazy. These partners are really pseudo-non-equity partners.
And laterals with contractually dictated compensation aren’t the only folks throwing a wrench into the works when it comes to calculating the true compensation of true non-equity partners. Am Law also notes:
A far smaller subset of well-compensated nonequity ranks at some firms are the elder statesmen. In the twilight of their careers, these partners may be either approaching mandatory retirement, looking to reduce their workload, or simply happy to hand over the reins of equity partnership in exchange for a regular paycheck and the return of their capital. That paycheck can be quite steep. Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler has three nonequity partners who earned a combined $4 million in 2011, an average of $1.3 million each, and 82 percent of its PPP. “Those partners are in a two-year transition to retirement, during which their income is fixed by a formula,” said cochair and managing partner Robert LoBue in an email.
Here’s the conclusion to Amy Kolz’s article (which is extremely interesting, and which you should read in full):
[E]xpanding the population of nonequity partners, or the dollars going to them, might not be a bad thing. Law firms may just be moving toward the business model dominant in many other professions, with few owners and workers compensated on the basis of their contribution, says law firm consultant Joel Henning. “Think about what Derek Jeter or A-Rod makes—they’re not owners, but they’re making a market [compensation], or so their agents believe,” he says. “You want to pay people what they’re worth, but that doesn’t mean that they have the owner mentality.” At some firms that can mean a whole lot of money.
That sounds about right. The rise of the non-equity partner is just another aspect of the larger transformation of law firms away from the traditional partner/associate structure — i.e., current owners of the business, and future owners of the business — and towards the model of the large international accounting and consulting firms, which boast a proliferation of positions with different titles, duties, and pay levels.
So, with apologies to Raymond Carver, what do we talk about when we talk about non-equity partners (and their pay)? Unfortunately, due to some inherent issues with methodology, it’s hard to come up with a fixed and solid definition (and attendant rankings).
The world of large law firms isn’t all about prestige and pay. Although the Vault 100 prestige rankings and the Am Law 100 profit-per-partner rankings are closely watched, there are other ranking schemes out there — and some of these frameworks adopt a kinder, gentler outlook on Biglaw.
For example, take the American Lawyer’s A-List. Although the A-List rankings take law firm financial performance into account, they also factor in diversity, pro bono work, and associate satisfaction.
Associate satisfaction: that’s the driving force behind another important set of rankings, Vault’s just-released “Best Law Firms to Work For” list. The notion of “quality of life” at a law firm might seem laughable to some — but let’s face it, some firms are generally better workplaces than others. (Of course, your mileage may vary: some lawyers have great experiences at firms known for being awful, and some lawyers have awful experiences at firms known for being great.)
The appearance of these names on such a list isn’t shocking; most of these firms are well-regarded as workplaces. (Disclosure: Foley Hoag does some legal work for us here at Breaking Media.)
Don’t see your firm in the top ten? Perhaps it’s in the top 20, which you can check out here (along with the specific scores and rankings from last year). To learn more about the methodology, see this post.
Congratulations to top firm Williams & Connolly, a litigation powerhouse with a deserved reputation for excellence, and all of the other firms on the Best Law Firms to Work For list. Working in Biglaw isn’t like getting a hot-stone massage — but it doesn’t have to be like walking on coals, and these firms provide proof of that.
I consider myself to be pretty fashionable. Indeed, I (like so many others) pray to the patron saint of fashion, the Duchess of Cambridge. I am well versed in the laws of fashion. For example:
1. Thou shalt not wear a romper after age 22.
2. Thou shalt wear white any season.
3. Khakis are sad.
And I have learned the hard way about the fashion of law (i.e., what to wear at a law firm). It probably involves a khaki sack-turned-skirt but certainly does not involve hoop earrings. (Sorry Jay, but I think dress codes are still alive and well in small firms, at least if you are a woman.)
Yet I did not know what fashion law was. So I got a crash course from an expert, Charles “Chuck” Colman of Charles Colman Law PLLC.
As a former musician and overall creative guy, representing clients in the fields of fashion, music, art and theater was a natural niche for Colman. While fashion law is not the sole focus of his firm, he has quickly established himself as an expert in this growing area of law.
Among his most newsworthy fashion law matters, Colman represented fashion blogger Rachel Kane, founder of the Forever 21 parody blog, WTForever21.com. In April, 2011, Forever 21 served Kane with a cease-and-desist letter claiming that Kane’s website was guilty of trademark infringement, copyright infringement, unfair competition and dilution of the Forever 21 brand. The matter appears to be resolved.
In addition to his representation of fashion clients, Colman has also been instrumental in establishing fashion law as a distinct area of law. To that end, Colman successfully sponsored the creation of a Fashion Law Committee at the New York City Bar Association. He also serves as the Co-Chair of the Fashion Design Legislation Subcommittee at the American Bar Association.
So how does this expert define fashion law?
Fashion law is a catchall term for a complex industry, Colman explained. Fashion law involves many different intersecting legal issues, including intellectual property, employment, real estate, customs and trade, tax, compliance and others. In order to adequately represent fashion clients in these various ways, it is important to have a deep knowledge and understanding of the industry and its many nuances.
What are the hot issues in fashion law right now?
Counterfeiting and knock-offs are a major problem in the fashion industry, according to Colman. This has led to the introduction of legislation aimed at providing copyright-like protections for fashion companies. One of the laws with the most momentum is Senator Schumer’s 2010 “Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act.”
Is there room for other lawyers in the fashion law space?
Fashion law is a growing industry — but it cannot be the sole focus of one’s practice, said Colman. That is why he focuses on a variety of creative industries in addition to fashion. For instance, right now he is working on a trademark registration for a fashion client, helping a client launch a vegan clothing store, representing a film developer with copyright issues, assisting a theatrical production company expand its production nationally, and negotiating a lease on behalf of an art gallery.
“The variety is one of the parts of my practice that I enjoy most,” he said.
Colman has several useful suggestions for others looking to go solo (not necessarily as fashion lawyers):
Before making the jump to go solo, make sure you enjoy the business aspects of running your own company. While there are many perks to being your own boss, it is a major undertaking and will be most rewarding to those with the entrepreneurial spirit.
Get in a suite with a senior attorney. Colman shares space with other lawyers, including a transactional lawyer who has been a great resource to him. Also, sharing space is a great way to reduce costs by splitting overhead.
Make sure that all of your social contacts, business contacts, family and friends know that are you launching your own firm. They are great referral sources.
Do good work (obviously). Although the notion is something of a cliché, it is the single best way to expand your client base. Happy clients refer other matters and other clients.
Consider blogging. Colman’s blog, Law of Fashion, discusses the major legal developments occurring in fashion law. It was so successful that it led West Publishing to approach Colman to contribute a chapter on intellectual property to its forthcoming “Navigating Fashion Law” title, slated to be published this fall.
If you do decide to blog, do not be afraid to include your own views in your writing. Also, make sure the writing is accessible to non-lawyers.
After my thorough lesson in all things fashion law, I had only one more question for Colman. I channeled my inner-Joan Rivers and asked: “What are you wearing?” Given that it was a phone interview, things got a little awkward. . .
If you want to learn more about fashion law, check out Colman’s blog and his firm website.
* Star Magazine says that Katie Holmes is a drug addict. Which drug? Scientology. She might win the libel lawsuit, but her ultimate judge will be Xenu. [Reuters]
* A judge in Illinois won’t let a defendant who looks like the Crazy Cat Lady from the Simpsons get her hair done or wear makeup at trial. [Chicago Sun-Times]
* A judge in New York, on the other hand, will give a defendant the tie off his neck and the Brooks Brothers shirt off his back just so he can look stylish in court. [New York Post]
* Just because your kid went to the prom with a Muslim doesn’t mean that you’re down with Islam — especially not when you want to make it a felony to follow Shariah law. [Washington Post]
* Christina Aguilera got arrested for being drunk in public. Someone needs to put that genie back in her bottle before she heads the way of other infamous Mouseketeers. [ABC News]
* How desperate do you have to be to molest your kid in exchange for a date? How stupid do you have to be to think child porn therapy is real? The answer to both questions is VERY. [Detroit Free Press]
* The SEC has accused Goldman Sachs’s ex-director of insider trading. The next insider trading he’ll probably be doing is for cigarettes in the pokey. [Wall Street Journal]