When you’re a real litigator — at a firm, in the trenches, arguing stuff and getting your hands dirty — you see and hear the coolest things.
So I’m sharing a couple of litigation war stories with you today, and soliciting you to share others in the comments.
I’m in the California Court of Appeal in San Francisco. My case is third or fourth on the calendar, so I’m watching the arguments before mine. In the first case, the appellant had been convicted of a bunch of gruesome crimes. It was hard to tell without having read the briefs, but the litany plainly included rape, murder, and the desecration of a corpse. Defense counsel had not exactly lucked out in the selection of an appellate panel: He was arguing to three female judges, all of whom had formerly been prosecutors.
For reasons not entirely clear, counsel was trying to reverse the conviction for desecration of a corpse. He insisted that no evidence supported the verdict, because there was no evidence (I kid you not) that the defendant had jammed the stones inside the victim after she had died. As one of several arguments, counsel tried an appeal to reason. He asked the (seemingly) rhetorical question: “But why would my client have shoved rocks inside the body after she was dead?”
The question wasn’t so rhetorical, after all. One of the judges leaned forward incredulously and asked, with a snarl: “Excuse me, but . . .
But as it turns out, as reflected in our traffic stats and in various messages sent directly to us, people actually want to learn about methods for staying (or looking) busy while they put in their law-firm face time. Does this mean work is slow? All these unused billable hours don’t bode well for bonus expectations this year.
Anyway, here you go: 7 more ways to kill time while working at a law firm….
Last month we wrote about a Biglaw firm that’s in big trouble. The firm in question: Dow Lohnes, a former Am Law 200 firm that has been hemorrhaging lawyers and clients (and lost two more partners last week, to Venable). In our story about Dow Lohnes, we noted that “[i]t seems possible that the firm could merge out of existence — if it’s lucky enough to find a partner.”
Fortunately for the remaining lawyers and staff at Dow Lohnes, the sinking ship has located some lifeboats. A larger and stronger firm, a member of the Am Law 50 and Vault 100, will be picking up many (but not all) of Dow Lohnes’s lawyers.
Who’s the white knight riding to the rescue of Dow Lohnes?
Tied up in the office? You might as well make the most of it.
As the old saying goes, time is money. And in the land of law firms, where the billable hour is king, the saying is literally true. The pressure to churn that bill, baby rack up thousands and thousands of hours is one of the toughest aspects of legal practice. It drives lawyers towards drink and away from their families. (See reasons #7 and #8 of the 10 Reasons To Leave Biglaw.)
But what if you have the opposite problem? In some ways, not having enough in terms of billable hours is worse than having too much. If you’re billing, say, 75 hours a month as an associate, you could find yourself in the breadline before too long. (Partners have more leeway, but even they are hungry for hours nowadays.)
If you’re stuck in the office with nothing to do — and this applies not just to lawyers but to support staff, who are getting laid off partly because there’s not enough for them to do — how should you pass the hours? Here are seven suggestions….
As in-house columnist Mark Herrmann put it, “Dewey know who’s next?” No, we don’t. But we certainly have some guesses about major law firms that are existentially challenged.
Here at Above the Law, we do maintain a shortlist of Biglaw firms that could go under. But, truth be told, the list is not that exciting. With a handful of exceptions, the firms that populate it are big regional firms, not national or international behemoths, and they cluster toward the lower echelons of the Am Law 200 or NLJ 350. Put another way, no firm on our list boasts the size and stature of Dewey & LeBoeuf. (If you know of a firm that should be placed on our list, please email us, subject line “Biglaw Death Watch,” or text us, at 646-820-8477.)
But even if a firm isn’t a household name, lawyers and staffers will suffer when it goes under. Let’s hear about the latest large law firm that appears to be on the ropes….
Ed. note: The Aspiring Lateral, a new series from Levenfeld Pearlstein, will analyze a variety of issues surrounding lateral moves, drawing on the firm’s experience in the lateral market as well as the individual experiences of LP attorneys. Today’s post is written by Laura Friedel, a partner in the firm’s Labor & Employment group.
In the legal profession, the view from the top is pretty good. If you’ve been lucky enough to snag a position at one of the 100 or so firms loosely defined as “Biglaw,” you’re probably looking out a window near the top of a shiny skyscraper. You probably have a nice cafeteria down the hall. Who knows: at your glam partner retreats, you may even take chartered boats down the Thames.
The point is, while that view from Biglaw is a good one, it’s not the easiest vantage point to assess your career options. I’ve been there. And when I began to think about alternatives to a Biglaw practice, I admit I did not fully realize that mid-sized firms even existed. In my mind, there were Biglaw firms, boutiques, and that’s about it. I was something like the native New Yorker who is only dimly aware that a mass of states lies between herself and the only other meaningful part of the country, California.
Thankfully, just as flyover states do in fact exist, so too do mid-sized firms that provide sophisticated, full-service capabilities to their clients. For the Biglaw practitioner facing rate pressure from clients, frustrations with the anonymity that goes with mega-firm practice, or perhaps nosebleeds from the trip up the elevator, they are worth considering along with obvious alternatives such as in-house positions.
And as Biglaw lawyers investigate mid-sized firms, they will likely find more misperceptions falling away. I’ll share a few here that opened my eyes further, and that make the mid-sized firm alternative an attractive one…
Business development sometimes seems like an impossible task. Winning new clients, or generating new business from existing clients, isn’t easy. If you doubt this, check out in-house columnist Mark Herrmann’s excellent column, Nothing You Can Say Can Cause Me To Retain You (explaining all the strategies for trying to obtain his business that won’t work). The challenge of getting new clients explains why so many firms resort to effectively trying to buy clients, by luring lateral partners and hoping their books of business come with them.
But still, every now and then a law firm does get hired by a new client. And every now and then a law firm gets fired by an existing or even longstanding client (even though it’s not easy to displace incumbent counsel, especially if they’re decent).
Why do clients hire and fire their outside counsel? A new survey offers some answers….
Is the slowdown in Biglaw that we’ve seen since the Great Recession a long-term trend or just a temporary blip? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, the debate rages on. (The latest salvo: New Republic editor Noam Scheiber’s response to critics of his controversial article, The Last Days of Big Law.)
Because of its power, prestige, and profitability, Biglaw gets a big proportion of the media coverage that’s aimed at law firms. But let’s not overlook small firms and solo practitioners, who make up about 70 percent of American lawyers in private practice.
One often hears stories about small firms, especially boutiques formed by ex-Biglaw attorneys, that are thriving. The tales are inspiring; the small-firm lawyers talk about how they enjoy their practice more, have greater autonomy, and make the same or even more money than they did back in Biglaw.
But such information is anecdotal. How are small law firms doing compared to bigger firms on a broader level? A new survey has some answers….
* If President Obama could send a love note to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, it’d probably say something like this: “Girl, you look good. Won’t you back that ass up?” [ABC News]
* The fun things you learn during a Supreme Court justice’s book tour: apparently Sandra Day O’Connor dated William Rehnquist when they were at school together at Stanford Law. [Legal Times]
* When it comes to law firms, size really does matter. Quite a few midsize firms had the urge to merge in the first quarter of 2013, according to the latest Altman Weil survey. [Am Law Daily]
* In case you haven’t heard the news by now, NYU Law School has a new dean, and he was poached fresh from Columbia. The bonus here is that he’s actually pretty cute. We’ll have more on this story later today. [NYU Law News]
* Law faculties may be a tad too liberal, say some at Harvard Law School, which is basically a bastion of leftie law professors. Cut to Ted Cruz muttering about Commies under his breath. [USA Today]
* Here’s an obvious protip that may not be obvious to 0Ls: if you’re going to ask for a recommendation letter, you should probably make sure that it’s going to be a positive one. [U.S. News & World Report]
* OMG! Get ready to have a lawgasm, because the Supreme Court is going to be releasing same-day audio recordings from oral arguments during next week’s gay marriage cases: Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. [National Law Journal]
* “Way to go, Justice.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan work out with a personal trainer who’s got a client list that would make Article III Groupie swoon — and he just so happens to be a records manager at D.C.’s federal court. [Washington Post]
* Debevoise & Plimpton’s littlest litigatrix, Mary Jo White, sailed her way through the Senate Banking Committee with a vote of 21-to-1. Her nomination to lead the SEC will now head to the full Senate. [DealBook / New York Times]
* “Our 2012 numbers aren’t as good as we would have liked.” Gee, ya think? From attorney headcount to gross revenue to profits per partner, just about everything was down in 2012 for Fried Frank. [Am Law Daily]
* Eckert Seamans will be merging with Sterns & Weinroth, adding 17 partners and seven associates to its ranks. Someone please come up with the semen joke so I don’t have to. [Philadelphia Business Journal]
As part of a nationwide tour, Above the Law is coming to the great city of Chicago.
Join preeminent law firm management consultant Bruce MacEwen, Katten Muchin Chicago managing partner Gil Sofer, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. assistant general counsel Jason Shaffer for a panel discussion (sponsored by Pangea3) on the evolutionary and market forces bearing down on the law firm business model. Come on by Thursday, November 20, at 6 p.m., for thought-provoking discussion, food, drink, and networking.
Space is limited and there will be no on-site registration, so please RSVP
Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.