In an era when “disruption” is celebrated, the world of large law firms is one of the last redoubts of conventional wisdom. For a uniquely rule- and precedent-bound profession, this makes sense. Biglaw’s conventional wisdom has the added virtue of being reliable. For example, we can count on Cravath taking the lead — at least chronologically — on bonuses, and for DLA Piper to have the most random Third developing-world offices.
Another reflection of conventional wisdom is the way in which Biglaw lends itself to — and revels in — superlatives and rankings. There tends to be a generally acknowledged and perennially dominant player (or a few) in most practice areas: Wachtell Lipton for M&A, Weil Gotshal for Chapter 11 work, Patton Boggs for lobbying, and so forth. There’s no doubt that many worthy firms get overlooked.
Last year we took a look at which firms’ practice groups were considered “underrated” by peers in the field. Among the notable 2012 nominees: Cahill for corporate law, Arnold & Porter in litigation, and Proskauer for its bankruptcy and tax practices.
We wondered whether the same practice groups were still considered by practitioners to be unfairly underrated. Or are there other firms deserving more recognition?
Each year, Corporate Counsel compiles a list of the law firms that Fortune 100 companies use as outside counsel. This year, to change things up a bit, it seems like the list has been expanded to cover the entire Fortune 500. From Apple to Yahoo, and every billion-dollar company in between, these corporate clients expect nothing short of the best in terms of legal representation when dealing with high-stakes litigation and deals. If you’re looking to line your firm’s pockets, you better head to the RFP line when these companies seek lawyers.
Up until last year, only the most prominent Biglaw firms (like Cleary, Davis Polk, Cravath, and Simpson Thacher) topped the list of those that had the pleasure of doing business with the country’s biggest companies. Things changed rapidly, however, when Big Business tried to cash in on deals for legal services. The firms that were willing to cave to the pressure of providing alternative fee arrangements won in a big way, and the rest were left in the dust.
Have these prestigious firms changed their ways? Is Corporate America again willing to open its fat wallet for them? Let’s find out…
[E]ven the most disgusting criminals should have access to counsel when they violate the law, and Exxon’s shareholders will now pay big bucks for Seyfarth’s lawyers, who are probably some of the most expensive corporate defense lawyers in the country. But I don’t think there’s any need for Seyfarth to run up their billable hours since Freedom to Work would like to settle the case today.
– Tico Almeida, founder and president of Freedom to Work, commenting on Seyfarth Shaw’s decision to defend a case alleging anti-gay bias at Exxon Mobil — one of the few Fortune 500 companies that lacks a written nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
(Will Seyfarth come to regret this case? Let’s discuss….)
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a new series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.
From Q3 2012 through Q2 2013, we have seen approximately 7,500 lateral moves at the top 200 law firms. Approximately 4,500 (60%) were associates; 1,900 (25%) were partners; and perhaps most surprisingly, 1,100 (15%) of the lateral movement consisted of “counsel” or “of counsel” positions.
To clarify, some firms promote their senior associates to a “counsel” position based on seniority, but even excluding this pool of associates, that still leaves a significant number of counsel-level laterals finding opportunities within new law firms. From April 2012 to the end of the second quarter this year, Gordon & Rees had the largest number of lateral counsel transitions, with 34 (in large part due to the fact they opened seven offices in 2012 alone). Seyfarth Shaw, Greenberg Traurig, and Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker followed closely with 26, 23, and 22 counsel placements, respectively. Notably, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan had 11 counsel transitions in that same timeframe, 8 of them from a group of more than 15 Skadden Arps product liability attorneys who followed colleagues Sheila Birnbaum and Mark Cheffo, two heavyweights in the product liability world….
When it comes to marriage proposals, some guys are completely clueless. Perhaps your girlfriend said she’d once dreamed of getting engaged in a castle. Your friends, if they’re any good, will quickly advise you that you’re a moron for thinking you can pop the question at the local White Castle. Usually your best bros, or your wingmen, will be able to help you to see the error of your ways, and get you back on the right track.
And that’s why it’s great to have a wingman like Mayor Cory Booker. Not only is he handsome, but he’s also incredibly intelligent — Stanford for college, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Yale for law school. Oh, and he’s a famous politician who’s social media savvy (and not in an Anthony Weiner kind of way), so that’s a good thing.
The dashing young mayor of Newark, New Jersey is pretty good at saving things, too. The list of things he’s saved is quite long, and ranges from freezing dogs to damsels in distress in burning buildings.
Law school is a ‘debt wizard’ — it’ll make your money disappear like magic!
* In the nick of time, lawyers for the Obama administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging the justices to strike down California’s ban on gay marriage. Let’s hope their views have evolved. [BuzzFeed]
* As the lawyers and administrative staff who just got laid off at Patton Boggs can attest to, it sucks to be on the wrong side of “rightsizing.” We’ll have more on this developing story later today. [Reuters]
* Lanny Breuer is leaving the DOJ today, and he’s doing it with a bit of “swagger.” He’s shrugging off rumors that he’ll retreat to Covington, insisting he’ll interview at many firms. [DealBook / New York Times]
* It’s time for the changing of the guard over at Milbank Tweed. Mel Immergut, the longest serving chair of any Am Law 100 firm in New York, is passing the reins to Scott Edelman. [New York Law Journal]
* Michigan Law has a new “Debt Wizard” program that’s extremely useful in that it will allow you to see what you’re getting yourself into. Or, in my case, how poor I’ll be for the rest of my life. Yay! [National Law Journal]
* All he wanted to do was “make the world a better place,” but that didn’t work out so well. In a plea deal, Bradley Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the charges against him in his WikiLeaks case. [Los Angeles Times]
* Of all of the words that are used to describe Cory Booker, one of them is now “matchmaker.” The Newark mayor assisted a young Seyfarth Shaw associate with his engagement proposal earlier this week. [TIME]
Apparently also underrated? The corporate group at Cahill Gordon, according to the ATL audience. Cahill received the most mentions as having an “underrated” corporate group in our ATL Insider Survey. Biglaw has a fairly stable roster of alpha dogs in each practice category (Weil in bankruptcy, Wachtell in M&A, etc.), but we wondered which firms’ practice groups deserve more recognition. So, among other things, our survey asks attorneys to nominate firms with underrated (and overrated) practices within the respondent’s own practice specialty. Litigators nominate litigation departments, tax lawyers do the same for tax groups, and so on.
Read on and have a look at the top three underrated firms in each practice area:
Isn’t Jewel v. Boxer a great case name? Doesn’t it sound like one of the classics of the 1L curriculum, right up there with Pierson v. Post, Hawkins v. McGee, and International Shoe?
It is definitely a case that lawyers ought to know. This appellate decision, handed down by a California court in 1984, remains the leading case on how to divvy up attorneys’ fees generated by cases that were still in progress at the time of a law firm’s dissolution. Dewey care about this case? Absolutely.
But Jewel might not maintain its status as the key precedent on so-called “unfinished business,” at least if one judge has anything to say about it. Check out an interesting ruling that just came down from the Southern District of New York, arising out of one of the biggest Biglaw bankruptcies of recent years….
Last week I wrote a story asking the question, “How important is it for law schools to teach students about electronic discovery?” The post stemmed from a perturbed tipster, who lamented the fact that her alma mater had decided to offer a class exclusively dealing with the subject.
The poll results were interesting. Most of you said the subject is definitely worth learning in school, despite its alleged unsexiness.
Additionally, I received an letter a few days after the story ran, signed by 14 attorneys, including small firm and Biglaw partners, tech company leaders, and one state judge, who wanted to give their collective opinion on the issue.
Technophiles will appreciate the note, although some young lawyers might find it an ominous sign of document review work to come. Let’s take a look at what these decision-making readers had to say…
* Is it more amusing that law students at the University of Georgia adopted a “Law Hawk” as an unofficial mascot, or that the student newspaper article about it reads like something out of The Onion? You decide. [Red and Black]