Money

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United. I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, explaining the reasons why she thinks Citizens United was one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of recent times, after being asked her opinion in a wide-ranging interview with Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic.

(What do you think is the worst SCOTUS ruling in recent memory? Tell us.)

Hallelujah and rejoice, for there are new Biglaw rankings upon us. Today, the American Lawyer magazine announced its Global 100, a ranking of the world’s 100 largest law firms in terms of total revenue. As we learned from the 2014 Am Law 100, the super-rich among the world’s Biglaw firms are only getting richer, and the latest rankings serve only as confirmation of this fact.

Last year, there were some surprising moves among the top 10 global firms, with DLA Piper swooping in to steal Baker & McKenzie’s thunder as the top-grossing firm in the world. Did the global mega-firm manage to reclaim its glory in the Global 100?

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She’s not a porn star, she’s a law student. We could see where you might be confused by that one.

* Now that we know Eric Holder is resigning, there’s been speculation as to where he’ll go next. The obvious choice is a return to Covington & Burling, but he could still surprise everyone. [National Law Journal]

* “Judicial campaign cash is burning a hole in the Constitution.” State court judges are pumping money into their election campaigns, and some have been left to wonder about its true price. [New York Times]

* Details have emerged as to conditions that must be met for Bingham McCutchen’s proposed merger with Morgan Lewis: partner promises, de-equitizations, and forgivable loans, oh my! [Reuters (sub. req.)]

* In the wake of Dean Makau Mutua’s decision to step down at Buffalo Law, a “deep rift” among faculty has been brought to light. The school’s future doesn’t seem as “bright” as we were once told. [Buffalo News]

* A former law student who was falsely identified as a porn star on the radio had her day in court and pulled out a win. Here’s the money shot: she’s walking away with $1 million in damages. [Kansas City Star]


Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Bad Therapist: A Romance, is available on Amazon, as are his previous books, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist and Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

My client — a second year corporate associate working in a foreign office — compared remaining at her Biglaw firm to eating cockroaches.

“You know, on one of those reality game shows where they dare you to eat a bucket of cockroaches and they’ll pay you a million bucks if you do.”

I requested she elaborate.

“My point is, at some juncture you stop and think — and this is probably a rational part of your brain: Hell, for a million bucks, I’ll do it. I mean, for a million bucks, you’ll do anything, so long as you can get it over with in a minute or two. The plan is to keep repeating in your head a million dollars a million dollars a million dollars until — bingo! — all done, and you’re rich.”

Alas, there’s a wrinkle…

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Every firm has its big book partners.  And the size of the book doesn’t always correlate in an obvious way to the skills of the lawyer, or even to relationships.  There are other ways to get rich…

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* The lawyers fighting against marriage equality say “[w]hether [they] win or lose in lower courts doesn’t matter that much,” because everything will be up to the Supreme Court at the end of the day — but so far, they mostly lose. [National Law Journal]

* On the other side of the coin, the lawyers fighting in favor of marriage equality are sounding more and more like used car salesmen, always bragging about the quality of their “vehicles” just to get their cases in front of the justices. [New York Times]

* In the meantime, Justice Kagan officiated her first same-sex wedding this weekend for one of her former clerks. Only the women of SCOTUS, sans Sotomayor, have performed such ceremonies. [Huffington Post]

* In a landmark decision, Arab Bank PLC was found liable for supporting Hamas in a civil terrorism-finance case. There will be a second trial to determine damages, but the bank plans to appeal. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Here’s advice for those of you considering reapplying to law school during a time of educational crisis: rewrite your app in crayon, you’ll probably get in. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

Early last week, we broke the news that the Thomas Jefferson School of Law had missed a payment on its revenue bonds, triggering a default event under its current Loan Agreement. Luckily for the school, it was able to strike a deal with its bondholders to delay the unseemly business of ceasing its operations, at least until October 17, 2014. In the interim, TJSL is discussing “various potential structures and restructuring alternatives” with its bondholders, and is “confident” that it will be able to reach an accord in the near future.

When we last checked in with this overly optimistic law school, TJSL was hoping that it would be able to “continue to prosper” after settling up with its creditors. But how is the law school supposed to reach this happy fate when its credit rating with Standard & Poor’s keeps getting downgraded lower and lower?

Perhaps it’s time for Thomas Jefferson Law to remove its rose-colored glasses and embrace the fact that it shares the same financial woes as its own namesake. Will the school die in debt like our former president?

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Corporate Counsel just released its annual list of the law firms that Fortune 500 companies utilize as outside counsel (as noted in Morning Docket). Not surprisingly, the nation’s biggest corporations turn to some of the biggest names in Biglaw for legal services.

But as we noted last year, the most-mentioned firms aren’t necessarily the most prestigious or the most profitable. The rankings prioritize quantity, and they’re dominated by firms that excel in a particular practice area. See if you can guess which one….

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Bruce Stachenfeld

This is a continuation of the article I published in ATL two weeks ago. My previous article gave my view that the profitability metric of “Profits Per Partner” becomes in effect a master (rather than a servant) and is destructive and a root cause of some serious problems for Biglaw. In this article, I put forth a different way of doing business.

A long time ago, we at Duval & Stachenfeld decided that we would not make partnership decisions in our law firm based on a “numbers game.” Instead, we would look at the quality of the associates, and if they were qualified, we would make them partners irrespective of the effect that had on our firm economics. We have stuck to that view rigorously.

Over time we came to some realizations:

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While it’s true that things have been spiraling downwards for law schools since the Great Recession, it wasn’t until 2011 that things really got out of hand. That was when the very first class action lawsuit about deceptive employment statistics was filed against the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Little did we know that it would prove to be a harbinger of doom for the school.

About a year ago, we brought our readers the sad news that TJSL had conducted faculty and staff layoffs in an effort to free up funds. Not only had it suffered a blow to its enrollment, but it was also struggling to pay off the $133 million debt it accumulated after opening its new campus building in 2011.

To make matters infinitely worse, in December 2013, Standard and Poor’s released news that it had downgraded the credit ratings of a slew of stand-alone law schools. TJSL was one of the downtrodden schools whose credit standing was downgraded to B+, junk bond status with a negative outlook.

Now, we’ve got news that could have disastrous effects for the law school. It seems that TJSL has defaulted on its bonds, and it may be unable to remain in operation due to its financial predicament…

Please note the UPDATE at the end of this post.

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