Eric J. Sekler, Executive Director
Brad S. Karp, Chair
First major NYC firm to break the barrier of Jews practicing with Gentiles, first to hire an African-American associate, first to make a woman a partner, and first to open a full-service office on mainland China.
Crafted strategy and worked on briefs in Brown v. Board of Education – the landmark racial segregation case.
The three current female U.S. Supreme Court Justices each began her career as a summer associate at Paul, Weiss.
Represented Warner Music Group – one of the “big four” recorded music businesses in its sale to Access Industries for $3.3B.
Represented Citigroup and achieved a complete victory in a $8B dollar lawsuit brought by the PE firm Terra Firma – one of the largest claims ever made against Citigroup – spending just 10 months preparing the case.
Lead counsel to the NFL in the hundreds of lawsuits by former NFL players – seeking to hold them liable for football-related concussions.
Latest from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
This coming Friday, it is the inalienable right of all Americans to sleep off their hangovers, or riot at Walmart, or do anything at all rather than work for The Man. But Biglaw is a different country. As illustrated by Elie’s decision matrix, the “choice” of whether to work on this sacred day is, for the denizens of the law firm world, fraught with other pressures and expectations. We all know that Biglaw careers demand a Faustian bargain: in return for their fat paychecks (and bonuses?), lawyers are expected to work grueling, unpredictable hours. This time of year, that reality is brought into sharp relief: the “holiday season,” with those “family obligations” and so forth, is something that occurs elsewhere.
But law firm billable expectations are not homogeneous. There are significant differences across practice areas, seniority levels, and, of course, individual firms. So how do the various practices, employment statuses, and firms stack up?
The ATL Insider Survey (we’re fast approaching 15,000 responses, thanks everyone) asks respondents to assess their employers in terms of a variety of “quality of life” categories, including hours. These ratings are indications of respondents’ “satisfaction” with their hours, not an attempt at making quantitative comparisons. We are also assuming that “satisfaction” implies a sense of work/life balance and basic reasonableness, rather than “more = better,” although that will be true of some minority. Please note we lack sufficient survey data to generate ratings for all firms (e.g., Wachtell Lipton). Ratings are on a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 highest.
On this, we’ll just quote Lat: “As the old saying goes, ‘making partner is like winning a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie.’ It’s intended as criticism of partnership, but people seem to forget: eating pie is pretty awesome.”
Congratulations to Haynes and Boone, Davis Polk, Cooley, Jenner, and Fulbright. Condolences to attorneys at the bottom five — although it must be said that they are probably crying all the way to the bank. That group comprises some of the most prestigious and profitable law firms in the world, and many a law student would kill for a job at any one of them.
Finally, thanks to all of you who have taken our Insider Survey. If you’ve yet to, please take a few minutes and do so here.
When we talk about the Biglaw firms with the most good-looking attorneys, the conversation usually ends pretty quickly. Only one firm is known to hoard hotties like they’re going out of style, but word on the street is that another firm may be looking to dethrone the sovereign of sexiness.
Move over, Davis Polk, because you’ve got some competition….
According to the New York Post, based on an incredibly scientific study performed by a social dating app called Hinge, there’s only one law firm in New York that’s home to hotties, and it wasn’t the usual suspect, Davis Polk. Which one has displaced DPW in its ability to bring brains and beauty to court?
It’s none other than Paul Weiss. The firm’s men came in at number 7 on Hinge’s list of the Big Apple businesses with the most attractive employees. Show us your briefs, gentlemen, because we’d obviously love to see them. Here’s additional information:
“The inquiry at the heart of these findings is whether attractive people are more likely to be hired by these companies — or that by working at these companies, people become more attractive to others,” a representative for the company said.
“We think it’s a mixture of both.”
That said, we think it’s now pretty easy to see why Paul Weiss employs some of the happiest and “most satisfied” men in Biglaw. With their incredibly good looks, they’re probably getting satisfied every night.
Here’s just a small sample of the talent you’ll be able to find at the Paul Weiss New York office (six favorites of mine, selected after reviewing 41 pages of profiles):
Davis Polk, it’s time for you to put up or shut up. If you’ve got men who are hotter than the ones we found at Paul Weiss, you better make them known to us, lest you lose the rights to the “Men of Biglaw” calendar.
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.
The popular conception of “lawyer” — as seen on television and in the movies — is that of a litigator. Understandably, law students are also susceptible to this view and will be so as long as the case method remains the pedagogy of choice in law school. Cases, by definition, are always about litigation. Both popular culture and the law school curriculum show lawyers most often in court or, at least, investigating the facts of the case. However, the truth of litigation practice is very different: the overwhelming majority of litigators’ work takes place outside the courtroom. Never mind that upwards of 90 percent of all lawsuits settle before trial or that most litigators’ spend their actual in-court time arguing procedural motions rather than the substance of the dispute. Oh, and there’s also doc review.
Anyway, most new associates and law students who aspire to Biglaw are going to be confronted with a question. To grossly generalize and simplify: am I a litigator or a transactional attorney? Many would say that there are distinct personality types best suited for each. Are you a win-lose kind of person or a win-win kind of person? Do you enjoy confrontation? Do you care if you ever see the inside of a courtroom? How important is the predictability of your schedule? And so on. (Of course we must acknowledge that wrestling over such questions is the classic “luxury problem.” For the majority of law students, what follows is, at most, of voyeuristic interest.)
For those in a position to choose, which Biglaw shop’s litigation departments offer the highest quality of life? We’ve dug into our survey data for answers…
The ATL Insider Survey (14,500 response 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 litigators 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 won/loss record. Please note we lack sufficient survey data to generate ratings for all firms, most notably in this case Williams & Connolly. Also, we use the category “Litigation” in its broadest sense, lumping together IP, general commercial litigation, white collar defense, securities litigation, and all the disparate varieties into one group. Ratings are on a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 highest.
1. Davis Polk 8.94
2. Jenner & Block 8.67
3. Sidley Austin 8.22
4. Paul Weiss 7.90
5. Boies Schiller 7.79
Average score for all firms: 7.09
1. Paul Weiss: 8.80
2. Cravath 8.75
3. Jenner & Block 8.58
4. Arnold & Porter 8.22
5. Davis Polk 8.13
Average score for all firms: 7.97
Culture & Colleagues
1. Jenner & Block 9.25
2. Sidley Austin 8.89
3. Davis Polk 8.81
4. Debevoise & Plimpton 8.80 (tie)
4. Quinn Emanuel 8.80 (tie)
Average score for all firms: 7.97
1. Davis Polk 8.67
2. Jenner & Block 8.50
3. Sidley Austin 8.27
4. Paul Weiss 8.04
5. Arnold & Porter 7.89
Average score for all firms: 7.29
Congratulations to the Davis Polkers and all the other happy campers at the firms making the grade here. Not only do the litigators at these firms report a higher quality of life relative to all their peers at hundreds of other firms, they are, however you measure it, among the profession’s most elite practitioners.
Finally, if you have yet to do so, please take a few minutes and tell us about your firm (or school) here.
* Former top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson previously told us he was done with public service, but when the president asks you to join the Cabinet, it’s kind of hard to say no. Plus this Paul Weiss partner is filthy rich, so he can secure our Homeland any day. [Washington Post]
* Earlier this year, Gibson Dunn appointed a seventh-year associate as the firm’s first ever global pro bono director. We wish her the very best of luck as she tries to make lawyers do work for free. That can be a really tough sell in Biglaw. [Am Law Daily]
* Law school rankings existed long before U.S. News was even conceived of, and they broke schools into two lists: those that matter, and those without the “slightest significance.” Sick burn. [National Law Journal]
* Arizona Law alumni really don’t need to worry themselves about the fact that the school’s servers were hacked. Come on, your credit couldn’t be much worse than it already is with all that debt. [KVOA News 4]
* Lady Gaga is nearing settlement with a disgruntled ex-employee, which is too bad, because we were dying to see her get on the stand. The dropping of F-bombs would’ve been fabulous. [New York Post]
Ed. note: In honor of Columbus Day (and Canadian Thanksgiving), Above the Law will be on a reduced publication schedule today. We will be back in full force tomorrow.
* Justice stops for no one, not even a broken Congress. With the end of days approaching quickly for federal courts in terms of funding (or the lack thereof), many judges are lashing out and declaring all their employees essential. [National Law Journal]
* Legal expenses can be especially “painful,” even for the biggest of banks, but sadist firms like Sullivan & Cromwell, Paul Weiss, and WilmerHale are really getting their rocks off on Jamie Dimon’s suffering. [DealBook / New York Times]
* DLA Piper’s future’s so bright it’s got to wear shades — and appoint a new co-managing partner in New York City, its largest office. Congratulations to Richard Hans, you’ve co-made it! [New York Law Journal]
* “It’s not just about me.” Jim Tanner, a Williams & Connolly partner who represents Jeremy Lin, is leaving the firm to start his own sports management business, and he’s taking people with him. [Bloomberg]
* “I have no apologies to make about anything I did.” Steven Donziger of Chevron/Ecuador infamy will be defending himself in court this week in what’s being called a legal cage match. [Wall Street Journal]
* “Touro is asking a judge to declare the school a diploma mill.” Irony alert: Touro wants Novus University Law School, a school supposedly conferring “worthless law degrees,” to be stopped. [New York Post]
* If you think SCOTUS abused its discretion in the early abortion cases, you’re going to love this book (affiliate link), a “cautionary tale” about consequences of decisions like Roe v. Wade. [Wall Street Journal]
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]
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.
There hasn’t been much major good news on the associate compensation front over the past few years — since, say, January 2007. But recent weeks have brought pockets of minor good news for limited constituencies. Green shoots, anyone?
And now $300K bonuses for SCOTUS clerks have spread, to other law firms in other cities. Consider this the new going rate for top-shelf talent….
Multiple clerks from the October Term 2012 class have received offers of $300,000 signing bonuses, from the following firms:
Sullivan & Cromwell
If you know of any firm that’s missing from this list, email us (subject line: “SCOTUS Clerkship Bonuses”) or text us (646-820-8477), and we will update.
And the new bonus amount has spread beyond the Big Apple. Clerks bound for Washington and San Francisco have received $300K bonus offers too.
Now, $300,000 is a nice round number (as well as a large one). I’m guessing that bonuses for Supreme Court clerks might remain at this level for a year or two before heading higher.
But that’s just a guess. I wouldn’t mind being wrong about this — and I’m sure the OT 2013 and OT 2014 clerks wouldn’t mind my being wrong either.
P.S. We’re still filling out the list of OT 2014 clerks. If you know of a future clerk whose name doesn’t appear on this list, please drop us a line so we can include them in the next round-up. Thanks.