Have you fallen off the Biglaw bandwagon and can’t get up? Were you lucky enough to hang onto your Biglaw job and are just now realizing that the blessing was actually a horrible curse on your lifestyle? Well, then maybe you’re in the mood to downsize to a midsized law firm, but you just don’t know where to look.
If so, the National Law Journal has you covered. It’s hard to distinguish one midsized law firm from another, but the NLJ has compiled a list of the twenty “hottest” midsized law firms.
Over the weekend, the New York Times took employers to task for taking advantage of university kids eager to get work experience. Unpaid internships abound, and the recession has made it easier for corporate employers to cry poor, and bring on free labor.
However, there are strict federal guidelines [PDF] around unpaid internships, and many are breaking the law by giving their eager little beavers noneducational menial work. The folks at the Labor Department are on to this devious scheme:
Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York’s labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms’ internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.
While most of the abusive internships are in the exciting worlds of fashion, film, media, and music, there was at least one poor NYU student suckered into cleaning out bathrooms for free at a law firm…
Time to resume our series of open threads covering small (or smaller) law firms, focused on different practice areas. We’ve already written about small law firms in general, insurance law, personal injury law, trusts and estates, immigration, real estate, intellectual property, ERISA / employee benefits, and family law / divorce law. Some of these threads are still active (or could be resuscitated), so do check in on them.
Today we turn to the booming field of BANKRUPTCY. This practice area might seem depressing, given its focus on financial distress, but some people find it quite sexy.
A long time ago, the field was generally shunned by large firms, so that most firms doing bankruptcy were on the smaller side. But Biglaw embraced bankruptcy years ago, and it’s probably glad it did. The bankruptcy departments of large law firms are super-busy these days, providing a partial hedge to the weakness on the transactional side.
What about bankruptcy boutiques — how are they doing? Some material to kick off the discussion, after the jump.
Let’s return to our series of open threads on small law firms in different practice areas. We’ve covered seven fields so far; check them out here.
The latest topic to tackle: FAMILY LAW. This is the area of law that our somewhat cantankerous, dearly departed grandmother urged us to enter. She was firmly convinced that when a couple splits up, the divorce lawyers end up with all the couple’s money.
But not everyone is a fan of this practice area. Dahlia Lithwick, Slate’s fabulous and funny Supreme Court correspondent, previously practiced family law at a small firm in Reno, Nevada. It seems that she found divorce law depressing rather than enriching.
Here’s what Lithwick said during a talk at UVA Law School last year, when we asked what led her to move from practicing law to writing about it:
“One thing that really helps is doing doing divorce law.” After representing clients in their “bickering over the pots and pans,” she said, everything else starts to look much more attractive.
That seems like a rather negative take on the field, doesn’t it? In fairness to family law, it has its upsides.
Find out the advantages of this field — and check out the inside of this greeting card (above right), courtesy of the folks at Pig Spigot — after the jump.
Today we turn our attention to what’s widely viewed as a hot field: INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. The reader who requested IP law as a subject offered an overview of the field:
IP is a very variable, different, and often forgotten practice of law that is mostly inhabited by engineers and science geeks who have no problems wearing Cosby sweaters and bad shoes around their workplaces.
More serious reflections, plus some questions, after the jump.
Today we resume our series of open threads about small law firms focused on different areas of practice. For background on the series, see this post.
We’ve received lots of positive feedback on the series. Here are some representatives comments from the last thread, on insurance law:
54 – This is a GREAT GREAT GREAT thread – please do more. I’d be interested in seeing threads on immigration practice, real estate practice, prosecution and public defense (state/municipal, not federal – reality check here – the DOJ is not an option for 99% of attorneys).
86 – [K]eep open threads on small law like this coming! They’re informative for everyone, whether or not they are interested or not in working in such an area.
94 – This is a good thread. (I can’t believe it.) Thanks to the veterans who are providing substantive info and advice.
Our latest practice area for focus: PERSONAL INJURY LAW.
If this subject interests you, read more after the jump.
The comments on last month’s post about small law firms were uncommonly good. Readers shared valuable insights and information about life beyond Biglaw, including discussion of the pluses and minuses of working at a small — or smaller (size is relative) — law firm.
One commenter — after pointing out that non-Biglaw firms come in many shapes and sizes, making it hard to generalize — had this excellent suggestion:
You know what would be really helpful? A variety of open threads on different types of small firms. Do one or two threads a day getting people’s input on salaries in boutique regulatory firms, other types of transactional, plaintiffs firms, insurance defense, class action boutiques, whatever.
As someone that’s focusing my search primarily on small firms, it’s been really difficult trying to get a sense of what my salary demands should be. Short of asking my friends how much they make, the information really doesn’t exist in any useful form. A variety of open threads focusing on specific practice areas and what people can expect for salaries and benefits would probably be really beneficial to many readers.
Salary demands? How about just hoping that you have a salary?
But we like this idea for an occasional series of open threads, focusing on small firms with different specialties. Today’s topic: firms that practice INSURANCE LAW.
If this interests you, read more after the jump.
As super-big law firms suffer through the recession, many midsize and small firms are thriving. Back in June, we discussed these firms as a viable alternative to Biglaw. (A number of smaller firms — e.g., Stone & Magnanini, Silver Golub & Teitell, and McKool Smith — are even hiring, with the help of job postings on Above the Law.)
But are smaller firms all they’re cracked up to be? We try to present both sides of the story. Check out this letter, from the ATL mailbag:
I’m an Ivy League law grad with a couple of years in big law. I got laid off and eventually found a job at a smaller firm. Like, way smaller. Unsurprisingly, I know a couple of people to whom this has happened (and a couple who haven’t found jobs as well, of course).
The commonly held wisdom is that the trade off in big law is money for your time and soul, while smaller firms pay less, but ask less. I’m not finding this to be really true, and neither are my friends.
So what exactly are we talking about, in terms of hours and compensation at small firms?
Akerman Senterfitt is a Florida based firm, so — given the economy in Florida — it’s not all that surprising that the firm has decided to join the salary cutting party.
Multiple tipsters independently confirm that Akerman has instituted an across the board, 10% pay cut on all class years. Here is the internal email about the salary cuts obtained by Above the Law:
We are announcing today a 10% reduction in all associate salaries, effective immediately. This action is being taken in response to market conditions, which I know you are all aware of and which I need not belabor. I want to make it clear that our firm’s financial condition remains very strong, and even clearer as to how much we appreciate all your hard word and effort on behalf of the firm.
As previously announced, the associate bonus hours grid that we have used during the past few years has been eliminated. Instead, we will be carefully reviewing each associate’s performance at the end of this year as we consider paying merit-based discretionary bonuses to those meeting the established minimum qualitative and quantitative requirements.
As the email suggests, everybody is well aware of the terrible situation happening in the legal economy. But is the terrible economy forcing Akerman into this situation, or is the firm simply taking advantage of the difficult economic situation to roll back salaries?
After the jump, tipsters who have seen Akerman’s books claim that this is a salary cut of choice, not necessity.
Ed. note: Welcome to the latest installment of “Notes from the Breadline,” a column by a laid-off lawyer in New York. Prior columns are collected here. You can reach Roxana St. Thomas by email (at firstname.lastname@example.org), follow her on Twitter, or find her on Facebook.
At the Big Law Firm where we used to work, my friend Giovanna was the kind of associate that every partner dreams of. She spent nights and weekends at the office. She took on the most tedious tasks without complaining. She did the work of three people. She was conscientious. Sometimes, the partner for whom she worked would call her late at night, at home, with a frantic last-minute request for something that probably could have been done earlier in the day; Giovanna would turn around and go back to work to get it done.
Giovanna survived working for this partner for four years, but she did not survive the round of layoffs that eventually trimmed the herd at the Big Law Firm. In the months before she was “let go,” she had been certain that the figurative guillotine was poised above her waiting head. So, when she was summoned to the managing partner’s office to hear her fate, she said later, she was shocked, but not particularly surprised. She cried when she got the news, but then she gave them a piece of her mind and cleaned out her desk. A few days later, she left without looking back.
For the first few weeks, Giovanna and commiserated about life in the breadline. “I’ll never find a job!” she wailed, and threatened to cash in her 401(k). “Don’t do it,” I told her repeatedly, picturing her out on a ledge, cell phone in hand, ready to take a financially unwise leap.
“This is infuriating,” she said at one point. “No matter how many times I explain that more than 6000 people were laid off from firms, I swear people still look at me and think, ‘You suck, and that’s why you were let go.’ But AT&T lays off 50 people and it makes the CNN scroll and everyone empathizes.” I complained that Cliff didn’t understand that lawyers had emerged as the lepers of the new job market. She complained that her boyfriend, Tony, kept telling her to get a job at the local diner.
But Giovanna is one of the lucky ones. After a few weeks of unemployment, which we spend planning our eventual relocation to the shantytown which, she insists, is bound to spring up in Central Park, a former colleague passes her resume along to a friend of a friend and … before we know it, she has a new job.
Read about Giovanna’s new gig, after the jump.
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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: email@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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