When it comes to law school, “Hope springs eternal.” According to a National Law Journal article entitled Hope Drives Rise in Law School Applications, for this year’s incoming class, law school applications increased by 7% and the number of applicants by 3% — despite tough times in the legal profession and the heavy educational debt that law school often entails. Some law schools saw their applicant pools grow by 30 percent or more. See, e.g., the University of Alabama (70 percent), the University of Maine (65 percent), Cornell (50 percent), and the University of Illinois (37 percent).
Regular readers of Above the Law are no doubt familiar with the argument against going to law school. It’s fairly straightforward: given the weak legal job market and the high cost of law school, which often requires students to take on six figures’ worth of debt, getting a J.D. degree is simply a bad investment.
The argument against law school is typically made in these pages by one of my colleagues, Elie Mystal. But not all of your ATL editors are so anti-law-school. Speaking for myself, I think the case against law school is often exaggerated.
Here are five arguments in defense of going to law school — or, at the very least, five arguments against an extreme anti-law-school stance….
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: 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 protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months (Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong again March 15 to 23), and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
Are you challenged by the costs and logistics of maintaining your office, distracting you from the practice of law?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Everyone is talking about the importance of Social Media in Corporate America. But it is relatively safe to say that most law firms and lawyers are slightly behind the social curve. Most lawyers, at minimum, use LinkedIn, for networking. Some even use Twitter for pushing out short, pithy content, while many have Blogs, where they write their little hearts out. The adage “it is better to give than to receive” is not always true though in the world of Social. In the Social World – it is best to listen, give back and engage.
Social Media is a communications tool that can deeply educate you about the needs and wants of your clients and prospects when used in conjunction social media monitoring and sharing tools.
Take this quick quiz and see if you know how to use Social to help you engage more with your clients or to better service the ones you have.