Money

Bruce Stachenfeld

Bruce Stachenfeld

Many years ago in college I was a math major. Today I remember absolutely none of it; however, I remember why I liked it. It is because, if you don’t mess up your calculations, math tells you the truth.

Today, much has been written about the concept of “making partner” for an associate. I believe there was an article (I don’t remember where) that talked about the fact that at some firms 100 first-year associates are hired and the long-term process of “making partner” is like the Hunger Games (affiliate link), where associates are winnowed out until only a very few actually make the cut at the end.

The thought that some of the most brilliant people in our country would work themselves incredibly hard in high school to get into a great college – then work themselves even harder to get into a top law school – then work themselves even harder still to land a job at a top law firm – only to play the Hunger Games against other people who are as brilliant as they are for nine years to “make partner” defies logic. Why would any super-smart person do that? It also defies logic why major law firms, which have achieved the holy grail of any industry (namely, the ability to attract the greatest talent in the world), would squander (winnow) that talent away.

I will put those questions aside for the moment (and maybe address them in later articles) and here just talk about the math of “making partner” — and how there is really no reason for either of the foregoing issues to exist….

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hungry unemployedLaw school has been a wild ride for recent graduates since the beginning of the recession. Would-be lawyers’ employment woes have been chronicled in detail in almost every major publication since 2011, when the New York Times focused on the grim job prospects that awaited people after law school graduation.

This was not the case for all law school graduates, though. Those who were lucky enough to graduate from top-flight law schools often found themselves with jobs at large law firms. If graduates of the so-called “T14,” the upper echelon of law schools, somehow found themselves hopeless and jobless, their schools were quick to create public interest fellowship programs that would employ and pay them for a time. When those jobs ended, they were left to fend for themselves and struggle like the rest of their peers. Some graduates of superior law schools have continued to struggle for years after not being able to get their footing following the conclusion of their school-funded jobs.

Can you imagine what it must be like for one of these people to pass multiple bar exams and be unable to hold down a job? Can you imagine what it must be like to be a degree-holder from a prestigious law school drowning in so much debt that you’ve been forced to apply for food stamps and receive public assistance?

This is exactly what happened to a recent graduate of one of the best law schools in the country…

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empty-pocketAt the risk of stating the obvious to this audience, the American middle class is in serious trouble. But why am I taking the time to state the obvious? Because it isn’t what we know, it’s what we do with what we know to reposition our solo/small firm practices for survival that matters most. Most solo/small firms are consumer-law driven. Since so much of the success of many a lawyer has been predicated on a stable middle class with disposable income, how a solo/small firm responds to their disappearing wealth is intimately tied to their professional success.

The middle-class share of national income has fallen and continues to fall, dropping many who were normally categorized as such into the lower middle class, even upper lower class. Middle-class wages are stagnant even though productivity time has increased dramatically, and we no longer have the world’s wealthiest middle class. I don’t even have to quote any sources on this information because you just have to Google it and you’ll get hundreds if not thousands of pages and articles on this alarming topic.

As painful as this squeeze is individually, multiply this by millions of families (your potential clients). Then aggregate this demand across all areas of the economy (obviously, the law), and you see why this will inevitably trickle down to cripple the following generations (also your potential clients).

But the story is much bigger than this and has another very important side….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Squeezing The Middle Class For Legal Fees Is Like Trying to Get Blood From A Turnip (Part 1)”


Financial data analyzing. Counting on calculator.We can write about how financially imprudent it is to go to law school until we’re blue in the… fingertips? I guess? But for some of you, it’s just not going to sink in until you see it in cold hard numbers. Enter this handy student loan calculator that allows the user to enter their planned indebtedness and it’ll spit back the salary you need to earn in order to justify your decision.

Spoiler: law school is rarely justified…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Student Loan Calculator Is Brutally Honest About Law School”

Better than Biglaw? Obviously.

Better than Biglaw? Obviously.

* “I think we have to be concerned that almost all of us are from two law schools.” Justice Clarence Thomas thinks that the Supreme Court bench ought to be more diverse. [New York Times]

* The DoJ expanded its recognition of gay marriage by adding six states to its roster of those newly entitled to federal benefits — now more than half the country. Yay! [Bloomberg]

* Former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler has withdrawn from consideration as a nominee for Eric Holder’s job as AG. She and her shoe collection will remain at Latham. [WSJ Law Blog]

* [I]t’s profound that we have not made much progress on that front in the legal profession.” There’s still an income gap between men and women in the law, and it gets worse over time. :( [National Law Journal]

* Come sail away, come sail away, come parasail away with me. This former Biglaw associate found that life slaving away at a law firm wasn’t her paradise, so she decided to move to the beach. [Am Law Daily]

Righteous-IndignationThis week, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) announced that it accepted a hefty donation from Koch Industries.  According to NACDL, the grant will fund an initiative to better train indigent defenders and study best practices of current state level indigent defense delivery systems.  The organization points out that over 80 percent of criminal defendants must rely on indigent defense systems for representation, though the systems are “chronically underfunded and overburdened and, as result, in many instances are unable to effectively deliver adequate representation.”  NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer also said, “[W]e are honored that while Koch is providing this significant funding to support NACDL’s efforts, Koch is deferring to NACDL’s expertise in this arena for the grant’s effective deployment.”

Koch Industries is, of course, the Kansas-based, privately-held corporation of Charles and David Koch, often known to their many liberal critics as “the Koch Brothers.”  (Sort of like the Wachowski Brothers but with more money and without the transitioning.)  Critics such as Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid and increasingly agitated AlterNet writers decry the Kochs, who are reportedly each worth $36 billion, for their donations to the GOP and conservative causes.

So, should we be skeptical of the Kochs’ recent gift to help poor folks get adequate legal representation?  After all, how could a Google search for “Koch Brothers Evil” turn up so many seemingly pertinent results, if they were up to any good?  So, how can an organization like NACDL accept money from the ne’er-do-well billionaires who funneled money into such ultra-conservative, oligarchy-preserving causes as . . . the United Negro College Fund?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A High-Dollar Koch Habit: Should Defense Lawyers Accept Money From The Koch Brothers?”

Fire* Thanks to this Government Accountability Office ruling, the company that cleared NSA leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis may lose a $210M contract. [Legal Times]

* After being acquitted on insider trading charges, Rengan Rajaratnam agreed to settle the civil suit filed against him for a cool $840K. At least he’s not in jail like his brother. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Those interested in going to law school may want to know that Philadelphia is purportedly home to some of the cheapest law schools in the country — not Penn Law, though, sorry ’bout that. [Main Street]

* Professors at WUSTL Law held a “teach-in” to discuss the Michael Brown police shooting case. According to them, the likelihood Darren Wilson will be federally charged is “slim to none.” [Student Life]

* Attack of the aggrieved ex: a man drove a burning pickup truck loaded with explosives into a law firm, destroying much of the building. He had apparently dated one of the firm’s former clients. [Virginian-Pilot]

Gilberto Valle: Your new law school classmate?

Gilberto Valle: Your new law school classmate?

* Everyone knows Bingham McCutchen is considering a merger with Morgan Lewis, but not many know bankruptcy may be an option. It’s a remote option, but still an option. [Boston Globe]

* When Kaye Scholer moved offices, it left behind most of its library. “It tells you everything you need to know about law firm libraries”: they’re no longer as necessary as before. [New York Times]

* Everyone loves the Sixth Amendment: Thanks to money from Koch Industries, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers will offer better indigent defense training. [WSJ Law Blog]

* The judge in Adrian Peterson’s case won’t be replaced, despite the fact that he called the lawyers involved in the case “media whores.” Meh, Peterson’s attorney says he’s been called worse. [Bloomberg]

* Gilberto Valle, better known as the “Cannibal Cop,” really wants to go to law school. He’s apparently scored quite well on LSAT practice tests. Do law school ladies look delicious or what? [New York Post]

29-11-2011When it comes to choosing a law school, conventional wisdom dictates that one should attend the best school possible — that usually means a law school that’s perched atop the prestigious heights of the U.S. News rankings. Conveniently, going to an elite law school also means that one’s salary will usually be quite high, but just how high are we talking?

According to the latest salary rankings produced by PayScale, the answer is “pretty damn high” — so high, in fact, that at the midpoints of their careers, alumni of certain law schools beat out graduates from almost every other graduate school in the country.

So which law schools were ranked the highest? You may be surprised by some that made the cut…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Best Law Schools For Making Money (2014-2015)”

Bruce Stachenfeld

This is a continuation of the past three articles I published in ATL over the past month or so. My first article argued that Profits Per Partner is a great servant for a law firm but a bad master. In my second article, I set forth our Profits Per Partner Emancipation Plan as an alternative. In my third article, I set forth what I believe is the highest level in law firm profitability analysis, which is to “embrace” the volatility inherent in the practice of law. In this final article, I will give some thoughts on how a law firm could indeed Embrace Volatility.

Before getting to that, I will mention as an aside that I wrote a few weeks ago in this column an article entitled “Are Lawyers Only Happy When They’re Miserable?” That article largely dealt with how an individual might in fact Embrace Volatility. This article is directed not at individuals but at law firms.

If you have been reading my past articles, you may be open to at least considering how Embracing Volatility might be a good thing for a law firm. But is this whole concept just a fantasy, like it would be nice to not be afraid of snakes but you can’t help it and just reciting “I am not afraid of snakes” isn’t going to work? I don’t think so. I think the following simple steps would do it quite nicely:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Reinventing The Law Business: Embracing Volatility For A Law Firm”

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