As outside counsel handling a new piece of litigation, where do you start?
At closing argument.
That’s an oversimplification, of course, but it’s a valuable one. When you’re retained to defend a new lawsuit, you have to figure out how your client can win. What’s the other side’s weakest point? What are your strongest points? Where’s the emotional appeal in your case? What legal angles can you exploit? You put all that together and then spend a couple of years developing an evidentiary record that builds your path to victory.
It’s not rocket science: Figure out how to win; get there. Good lawyers do it intuitively.
As in-house counsel, when we receive preliminary case assessments from mediocre outside counsel, we don’t get the route to victory. What do we get?
The most shocking result of the recent survey on partner compensation conducted by Major, Lindsey & Africa was how much better the average partner does in firms with open compensation systems — almost $350,000 better on average, year in and year out. To me, that is the difference between retiring at 55 or 65. A big deal.
Have some fun. Tell your average law student that the average compensation for Biglaw partners at closed compensation shops (irrespective of equity status and seniority) was only $465,000, and see the reaction. Or pop an associate’s bubble. And realize that with demand for Biglaw services trending down, there is only so much time left before partner compensation generally starts to take a hit. I always knew about the disparity between open and closed firms, and I had heard about it anecdotally (I think Lat mentioned in an article a few years ago a personal friend who saw his comp climb dramatically after lateraling away from a closed comp firm). But I never really appreciated the scale until this survey came out.
I would think that anyone (especially younger partners with growing books) who could get out of such a firm would at least be trying to (ergo the need for a growing book). Even if your numbers are stellar, and your book is growing along with your traditional working collections, it is too easy for a closed comp chieftain to declare that you need to repeat the performance to make sure its sustainable. Whereas in a open system, you have leverage right away, and can convincingly argue to the compensation committee that failing to reward you would risk discouraging other potential achievers. And that you will leave — but one needs to be subtle on that front. Threaten to leave a closed comp place, and if they really like you, they’ll offer to match whatever new offer you get (thereby confirming they have been skimping on you all along)….
Just because you may be a highly successful, incredibly busy attorney doesn’t mean you can’t pursue badass hobbies on the side. Sketch comedy, climbing mountains — sorry, golf doesn’t count — or martial arts fighting.
We interviewed the name partner at a major East Coast plaintiffs’ firm about his devoted jiu jitsu training, his background as a young boxer, and his successful fight competition last month.
Before we jump in the ring, and learn more about the attorney and his fun, unusual hobby, take a quick bow…
The relatively new Boston office of Latham & Watkins seems to be going gangbusters. Even though it’s just a year old, it already boasts at least 24 lawyers. (For what it’s worth, they seem to be an unusually attractive bunch; I haven’t seen such a good-looking crop of Boston lawyers since the days of Ally McBeal.)
And their ranks are about to grow. Above the Law has learned that at least three litigation partners are leaving their current firm to join Latham’s Beantown outpost.
Each year, Corporate Counsel compiles a list of the firms that the Fortune 100 companies use as outside counsel. These are the firms that corporate clients turn to when they’ve got bet-the-company litigation. From Exxon Mobil to Apple to Walmart, and everywhere in between, these are the clients with the deepest of pockets, and if you care at all about the business end of the law, then this is a list that you should care about.
But this time around, the list looks a little different. Due to the state of the economy, general counsel are now looking for more ways to reduce costs, and are constantly seeking out alternative fee structures. The firms on this year’s list may have been the ones that were most amenable to such changes.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at which firms topped this year’s list….
I was recently asked to write an article about the future of Biglaw. (That’s one of the benefits of writing this column: Writing yields more opportunities to write. Like first prize at the pie-eating contest.)
I naturally asked some Biglaw acquaintances what they saw in their firms’ futures, in an effort to generate some grist for the article’s mill. (Given that I occasionally write in unbelievably awkward, and arguably unintelligible, mixed metaphors — such as “grist for the article’s mill” — it’s a wonder that Lat even permits me to continue writing this column, let alone that others solicit me to write in other fora. But that’s neither here nor there.)
What do my Biglaw lunch dates (and others whom I pester) say about their futures? They say many things, but one common refrain about the future of Biglaw is “consolidation. Big law firms will continue to merge, and only the biggest will thrive.” When I ask why firms will feel compelled to grow, folks often say: “Clients insist on it. Clients want one-stop shopping.”
What clients? Any real ones, or just theoretical ones? I, at least, don’t insist on one-stop shopping. . . .
The average person is relatively honest. Why do we create rules that force otherwise honest people to lie?
We do this to many people. Think first about physicians.
For some reason, New Mom and Baby should spend one extra night at the hospital. Mom and Baby are doing fine, but the doctor sees a reason for one more night of rest. What does Doc do?
The insurance company won’t pay for, and Mom can’t afford, an extra night at the hospital, so Doc lies: He falsely notes that Baby is “jaundiced,” which justifies the necessary night at the hospital. The rules have turned Doc into a liar.
I’m sure that’s just the start of what the insurance bureaucracy does to turn honest physicians into routine liars. But I’m thinking today of rules that turn perfectly honest lawyers into liars. Once you start thinking about it, you’ll come up with endless examples . . .
How can you drive clients nuts? Let me count the ways.
First, remember that it’s really not the client’s case; it’s yours! The client retained you. You’re tending to the thing. If you win, you’re going to link to the decision from your on-line firm bio. So take the case and run with it!
When journalists call, answer their questions. (Make sure they spell your name, and your firm’s name, correctly in the published piece. Free publicity can’t hurt.) That silly little client surely trusts you to handle the press properly and, if the client doesn’t, the client’s wrong.
In fact, don’t limit yourself to handling the press. Figure out what an appropriate settlement should be, and then move the process along on your own. Call opposing counsel and tell her that you haven’t yet run this idea past your client, but you think the case should settle for 500 grand. Tell her you’ll recommend that amount if she’ll recommend that amount, and see what happens. The client will be pleased that you evaluated the case and sped the process without bothering the client at all. That’s both convenient and cost-effective: You’ll be a hero! (It’s quite unlikely the client was thinking more broadly than you are, considering the effect of settling this case on business issues, or other cases, or the like. After all, it’s your case. Don’t be a weenie; you handle it!)
Great! We’ve pushed the client one step closer to the brink of insanity. What else can we do to nudge the client over the edge?
Biglaw litigators are to be feared in general, but certain Biglaw litigation departments strike fear into the hearts of their opponents like no others. BTI Consulting Group recently polled 240 in-house lawyers to determine which Biglaw firms they dread “see[ing] as lead opposing counsel in a litigation case.” Each year, after culling through all of the survey results, BTI names the “Fearsome Foursome” — the most-feared litigation firms in the country.
This year, while two litigation powerhouses remained on the list, two prominent Biglaw firms were edged out by other worthy victors. Another 15 firms were honored as “Awesome Opponents.”
So which Biglaw firms are the most feared when it comes to litigation? Let’s check out the latest rankings….
* Dewey know how much it costs to keep this failed firm on life support while its remaining partners try to collect D&L’s unpaid bills? A little more than $2M a month, according to the latest reports. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Former Missouri senators — including two Am Law 200 partners — are asking begging Rep. Todd Akin to step aside so the Republicans’ chances of securing the Senate seat aren’t legitimately raped. [Am Law Daily]
* Howrey going to explain this one to the judge? The defunct firm is blaming a deadly forklift accident at a document-storage warehouse for hindering its wind-down process. [Bankruptcy Beat / Wall Street Journal]
* “No matter what they said, it’s not material? Is that what you’re alleging?” It figures that a Skadden partner argued that employment statistics were irrelevant in the fraud class action suit against Brooklyn Law School, but at least the judge attempted to set him straight. [National Law Journal]
* Alaska is suing to overturn federal oversight of its elections, because the portions of the VRA aimed at protecting African Americans aren’t applicable if you can see Russia from your house. [Chicago Tribune]
* An official at ICE is suing because his boss, a woman, allegedly “created a frat house-type atmosphere that is targeted to humiliate and intimidate male employees.” Pledging totally sucks, bro. [New York Times]
* Psst, we think we know what Victoria’s secret is, and she’s no angel. According to police, she’s got a very bad temper, and if you deny her money for booze, she may strangle you to death with her bra. [Daily Mail]
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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