Magic Circle

As 2013 draws to a close, let’s look back at the 10 biggest stories in the legal profession over the past year. This is an annual tradition here at Above the Law, which we’ve done in 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. We’ll fire up the old Google Analytics machine to get data on our most popular posts, based on pageviews, and share the results with you.

Before turning to specific stories, let’s look at the top general discussion topics here at ATL. For 2013, our most trafficked category page was Biglaw, which bumped Law Schools out of the top spot — a spot that Law Schools held from 2010 through 2012. Now that the word is out about the perils of getting a law degree, leading to plummeting applications, perhaps it’s time to move on from the “don’t go to law school” narrative.

After Biglaw and Law Schools, our third most-popular category page was, as usual, Bonuses. This wasn’t a terribly exciting year for bonuses — there were no spring bonuses, and Cravath and its many followers paid out the same bonuses as last year — but people still want to know the score.

Our fourth most-popular category page was small law firms. Small firms, including boutiques, are an area of increasing focus and readership for us — and also where many of the job opportunities are these days.

Moving on from the topic pages, what were the 10 most popular individual posts at Above the Law in 2013?

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As we’ve chronicled in these pages, the powerhouse firm of Weil Gotshal has been experiencing some upheaval. The big summer layoffs have been followed by a steady stream of partner departures, mainly from offices outside the power center of New York.

Many of the defections have taken place in Texas, but Weil’s Washington outpost has also been hard hit. Last month, that office lost three IP litigators to Greenberg Traurig. Said one of our sources, “IP was one of Weil D.C.’s most profitable practice groups. Expect downsizing or partner acquisition from another firm to compensate for loss.” And that wasn’t all. Earlier this month, BuckleySandler snagged Walter Zalenski, a prominent player in financial services regulatory law, from Weil.

Today brings news of another departure from Weil in Washington. Who is leaving now, and where is he going?

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* Law professors testify to Congress that President Obama is abusing his power by circumventing Congress. Is this the Congress that takes 239 days of vacation each year and set a record for being the least productive in history? I wonder why any chief executive would circumvent them… [The Blog of the Legal Times]

* Magic Circle firms raise their rates, with partners billing around $1375.56/hour. Blimey! [The Careerist]

* A law firm paid for a nativity scene in a state capitol building. Sound the litigation alarm! [ABA Journal]

* Supreme Court seems hesitant to help out a guy who lost his frequent flyer miles for constantly complaining to his airline. On the one hand, customers shouldn’t be penalized for voicing their concerns. On the other hand, this guy’s “complaints” included his luggage taking too long to come out on the carousel. Chill the hell out. [Associated Press via Daily Finance]

* A SAC Capital employee carefully weighed the “risk-reward” of complying with the “law.” [Dealbreaker]

* Former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski is getting paroled. Now I feel old because I represented a witness in that trial. [Dealbook / New York Times]

* A middle school principal in Texas is placed on administrative leave for banning students from conversing in Spanish at school. What a puta. [Associated Press via Business Insider]

* The rules to the self-proclaimed greatest law school drinking game of all time. Or a look at what Australian law school guys do instead of study. Video after the jump… [YouTube]

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If you’re an associate at a Biglaw firm, you’re probably scrambling for billable hours right now like a squirrel desperately trying to find one last nut before the winter comes. You need to hit your hours target, and you need to hit it now.

But what if someone were to step in and try to take those precious few hours away from you? And what if that person were a contract attorney? You’d probably lose your mind and start flooding the Above the Law inbox with your indignation and rage.

Hey, don’t come complaining to us. After all, apparently you asked for it….

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* You’d think that when discussing major reforms to the patent system, the director of the USPTO would be there, but you’d be wrong. You’d also be wrong if you thought we had a director right now. [National Law Journal]

* Welcome to the future of Biglaw: Allen & Overy has realized that it’s a waste of money to keep hiring in a weak market, so the firm is recruiting its alumni to serve as contract attorneys in times of higher legal demand. [Legal Week]

* Dean Gregory Maggs, the interim leader of George Washington University Law, is being lauded for increasing first-year enrollment by 22 percent in a time of crisis. Excellent work, sir. You flood that job market. [GW Hatchet]

* Just because you have a law degree doesn’t mean you’re “entitled to rise up and become partner.” Getting a job in the new normal involves having a good attitude and social graces. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Ladies, if you get pregnant after a fling with an Olympic medalist and move out of state, please know your “appropriation of the child while in utero [will be deemed] irresponsible, reprehensible.” [New York Times]

* GTL stands for “Gym, Tan, Laundry,” but the owner of these Jersey Shore clubs thinks it stands for “Gym, Tan, Lawsuit” — thanks to losses uncovered by its insurer in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. [Newark Star-Ledger]

Did you say threesome, Dean?

* The Magic Circle isn’t very magical across the pond in New York City. Four out of five firms from the U.K. — Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Linklaters — have yet to pull rabbits out of their hats in the Big Apple. [Am Law Daily]

* Dewey know how much this failed firm’s old domain name sold for at auction? At the conclusion of the sale, it ended up going for $210,689, which was just a shade over the initial asking price of $200,000. Someone just got ripped off. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* The judge on this case against Skadden Arps isn’t sure that document review should count as anything other than practicing law, “even if it’s not the most glamorous.” Ahh, the luxurious life of a contract attorney. [Am Law Daily]

* Professor Raymond Ku has filed an amended complaint against Case Western Law Dean Larry Mitchell, and now the allegations are even juicier, including a possible ménage à trois. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

* The number of people who took the LSAT in October has dropped for the fourth year in a row, this time by 11 percent. “This is a big deal” for law professors interested in keeping their jobs. [National Law Journal]

The future of elite Biglaw firms?

Historically, the elite Biglaw firms derived safety and security from the knowledge that they could depend on big fees from large institutional clients. After all, where would the big dogs feel confident sending their legal work if not to a giant, white-shoe firm, with a complete support staff and the cream of the law school graduating crop? It encouraged behemoth firms and no small amount of complacency.

No one doubts that we’ve entered a new normal and that Growth Is Dead (affiliate link), but a new study confirms that there’s even more bad news for the top Biglaw firms: GCs simply don’t want them any more…

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* We bet you never thought you’d be spending Labor Day weekend debating with your relatives the legality of a U.S. military strike on Syria and the intricacies of international law. Gee, thanks President Obama. [CNN]

* Over the long holiday weekend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg served as officiant at the gay wedding of John Roberts. No, not that John Roberts, but what an incredibly apropos coincidence that was. [Washington Post]

* Speaking of same-sex marriage, even though “[n]o one told [him] it was an easy job when [he] signed on,” Justice Anthony Kennedy revealed himself to be an ally of the gay rights movement. [New York Times]

* Two days after filing an appeal with the Third Circuit, the parents of a deceased Cozen O’Connor partner have ended their battle to deny their daughter’s profit-sharing benefits to her wife. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* Twitter’s general counsel deactivated his account position with the social media giant, and looks forward to “goofing off.” Congrats to Vijaya Gadde, who will head up the company’s IPO. [Bits / New York Times]

* Biglaw’s latest scapegoat for the culling of the associate herd is the decline of Chapter 11 filings, otherwise known by industry insiders as the “bankruptcy recession.” [New York Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* Without any rabbits left to pull out of hats, it’s been predicted that by 2018, the Magic Circle will be no more. This is one disappearing act lawyers obsessed with prestige hope will never happen. [The Lawyer]

* If you want to learn more about fashion law, check out this interview with Barbara Kolsun, a woman who literally wrote the book on it (affiliate link) while serving as general counsel at Stuart Weitzman. [Corporate Counsel]

* So what has Kenneth Randall been up to since he left the deanship at Alabama School of Law? He’s working to “train law students for jobs that don’t require a bar license” over at InfiLaw. Awesome. [Tuscaloosa News]

* Legal commentators like Elie and Lat would be ecstatic if law school were two years long, but because so many others have a “vested interest in the status quo,” change will come at approximately half past never. [CNBC]

* Ronald H. Coase, influential legend of law and economics and Nobel prize winner, RIP. [Chicago Law]

Deidre Dare aka Deidre Clark

Last year, a New York judge denied a motion to dismiss made by Allen & Overy in the sexual harassment case brought against the firm by the former associate known as Deidre Dare (aka Deidre Clark). “And thank God for that,” as Clark herself said.

We have nothing against Allen & Overy; the Magic Circle member is one of the world’s finest firms. It’s just that if the lawsuit had been dismissed, we would have been deprived of this amazing video of a managing partner reading pornography aloud during his deposition.

Yes, we know that watching video is tough for those of you who are reading us at work. But close your office door, or don your headphones, or put a reminder in your calendar to watch when you get home tonight. This short clip is worth it….

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Unless you’ve made some deliberate, heroic effort to not know, you are aware that the most feverishly anticipated baby since 0 A.D. is now finally among us. This is a huge deal. People love babies. People love princesses and what not. So: huge deal. Thus, as we await the naming of the boy Windsor and as a flimsy topical pretext, let’s have a look at how the Magic Circle, the UK’s legal royalty, rate in the ATL Insider Survey.

The Magic Circle comprises five venerable London firms: Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Linklaters, and the terrifyingly-yet-diffidently named Slaughter and May. Powerhouse “Slaughters” is the only one of this prestigious group lacking a New York office. The other four are among the most truly global firms and are among the top ten firms in the world measured by revenue. S&M is also the only one of the group for which we lack sufficient survey responses to generate ratings based on the ATL Insider Survey. After the jump, see how the others’ New York offices stack up in terms of Compensation, Hours, Training, Firm Morale, and Culture.

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