NALP

Is this guy loving Citizens United or what?

* Is a Ropes & Gray attorney behind a shell company that gave $1 million to the Romney campaign? [The Docket / Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly]

* Working on the matter pro bono, Skadden wants greater cooperation from the NYPD in the case of a missing eight-year-old boy. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Breaking down the Alex Rodriguez poker scandal. [Legal Blitz]

* Can’t the ABA and NALP just get along? [Law School Transparency]

* How is that we have more lawyers than we can shake a stick at, but not nearly enough judges? Ian Millhiser looks at the numbers. [Think Progress]

Know who this guy is? Click on the picture to find out.

* Can’t all the people in same-sex marriages facing deportation just move to New York? [Stop the Deportations]

* Who is “the most important American you’ve never heard of”? Read a well-reviewed new book, Michael Toth’s Founding Federalist (affiliate link), to find out. [Ricochet]

* Great job Tea Party, no really. You guys sure you won’t want any social spending when you are living in the wonderful economy you’ve wrought for us? [Huffington Post]

* Don’t forget to sign up for our chess set giveaway. Or join us on Linked In. [Above the Law]

Performance on the LSAT is negatively correlated with networking ability.

– Vice Provost and Professor Sheldon Zedeck of UC Berkeley, at a panel entitled Beyond Grades and Scores: Factors Predicting Lawyer Success and Effectiveness, at the annual NALP conference (which concluded yesterday).

The official title of the NALP conference panel that I attended on merit-based compensation contained a playful shout-out to Sarah Palin: “How Is That Performance-Based Compensation System Working for Ya?”

The panel was originally supposed to have featured a representative of the now-defunct Howrey law firm. So the snarky answer to the question presented might be, “Not well.” (In fairness to merit-based compensation, however, Howrey’s dissolution didn’t have much to do with its model for training, promoting, and compensating associates.)

No mention of Howrey was made during the introductory remarks (or anywhere else in the discussion, for that matter). Rather, the panel focused on the positive — and offered useful advice for firms that are contemplating adoption of performance-based systems….

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Is your law firm this transparent?

Greetings from lovely Palm Springs, California, home to the 2011 annual education conference of the Association for Legal Career Professionals (better known to many of you as NALP). The setting is beautiful, the weather is fabulous, and the conference panels have been stimulating thus far. Who needs SXSW?

Yesterday I attended a very interesting session, covering a topic near and dear to the hearts of many Above the Law readers. The apt title of the panel: “From Black Boxes to Glass Houses: Evolving Expectations of Law Firm Transparency.”

The lively discussion covered a wide range of topics — and also offered some advice for law firms for dealing with the increased transparency of the digital age….

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On January 22, 2007, Above the Law reported that Simpson Thacher & Bartlett raised starting associate salaries in New York to $160,000.

That was almost four years ago — 1,326 days ago, to be exact (2008 was a leap year). But here we are, in the fourth quarter of 2010, and a new NALP report is telling us top Biglaw salaries in New York have re-established themselves at $160K. Partner profits haven’t generally remained stagnant for four years, at least at certain firms. Law school tuition certainly hasn’t remained stagnant for four years. But the upper end of associate compensation has been stuck in the mud. Back in 2007, I could go to a movie for $10.50. Now it goes all the way up to $11! I’m outraged!

I’m not actually outraged (well, I am about movie prices, but that’s because at $11 you’d think something besides Inception wouldn’t blow). And you won’t find too many associates outraged that their compensation hasn’t kept pace with growing partner profits at some firms. That’s because most associates are recovering from the terror of layoffs and salary deflation. NALP explains it this way:

NALP’s 2010 Associate Salary Survey shows that, although the $160,000 salary for first-year associates still prevails at large firms in a number of markets, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC, in other markets, such as Boston and San Francisco, the median has dropped back to $145,000, reflecting salaries ranging from $110,000 to $160,000.

Sorry about your tiny pink paycheck, Boston and San Fran.

For the rest of us, let’s take a look at the full salary scale according to NALP’s research…

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Back in February of this year, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) announced a minor change to its recruiting guidelines. I was underwhelmed. New associates are graduating law school in a terrible job market, firms are sick of being forced to hire people two years before they know their staffing needs, and NALP is fiddling around with the open offer period? Make sure those deck chairs are properly arranged before we all drown!

A wise man once said: “This town needs an enema.”

Back in February I called for a complete overhaul of the fall recruiting process, and only the crickets heard me cry myself to sleep that night.

But today we’ve received word that a firm most of you have never heard of, and a school more known for its women’s basketball team than its law school, are teaming up to come up with a truly new approach to hiring law school graduates. Will it work? Will it catch on? At this point, who cares?

It’s a new idea — not some twice-baked, refried, reheated idea that wasn’t all that good the first time around….

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Greetings, loved ones. Hello there, California girls (and boys). We hope that you’re doing well. Gay marriage might be on hold for now, but there are other unions to celebrate on the West Coast.

Like unions between law firms and job-seeking law students. As we’ve discussed in these pages before, on-campus interviewing at law schools seems to be on the upswing.

And it’s not just in New York, where schools like Columbia and NYU report increased interviewing activity. It’s happening in California too, as reported by Sara Randazzo and Kari Hamanaka of the Daily Journal:

Career counselors around the state are reporting that the number of employers signing on to the recruiting process this year is either steady or up slightly. The mood, however, is still tempered by the reality that the recruiting climate is nowhere near the fever pitch preceding the downturn when there were barely enough top law students to go around for associate-hungry firms.

“When I talk to lawyers in the field, it seems things are busier, but given all the excess in the hiring pipelines they are still very conservative,” said Terrence Galligan, assistant dean of career development at UC Berkeley School of Law.

Well, conservative can be good (and not just politically). The conservative hiring of summer associates for 2010, for example, seems to have resulted in very high offer rates.

For 2011, some firms that stayed on the sidelines in 2010 are back in the game….

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I’ve been critical of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) in the past, but you have to give them credit for at least one thing: they have been tirelessly trying to make people understand that most lawyers do not make $160,000 a year straight out of law school.

In fact, NALP has been at the forefront of educating prospective lawyers on the dangers of focusing on “average” starting salaries. The average is meaningless. The median is just slightly more helpful, and NALP has been begging people to pay attention to the bimodal salary distribution curve that tells the true story of how much lawyers are likely to get paid.

And the bimodal curve is only useful if you are actually lucky enough to secure full-time employment. If you have to work part-time, God help you…

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This isn’t going to come as a galloping shock to anybody here, but the new NALP numbers confirm that the job market is terrible for young lawyers (aka the “lost generation”) :

Analyses of the NALP Employment Report and Salary Survey for the Class of 2009 reveal an overall employment rate of 88.3% of graduates for whom employment status was known, a rate that has decreased for two years in a row, decreasing 3.6 percentage points from the recent historical high of 91.9% for the Class of 2007. The employment figure for the Class of 2009 also marks the lowest employment rate since the mid-1990s.

“There are dozens of reasons why the employment report for the Class of 2009 will be different than those that preceded it, and dozens of reasons why the data that has been gathered will require special explanation and analysis to make sense of it,” said NALP Executive Director James Leipold in commentary accompanying the Selected Findings. He noted that while the employment rate of 88.3% may seem stronger than expected, when the statistic is teased apart, it begins to reveal some of the fundamental weaknesses in the job market faced by this class.

Please, prospective law students, do not look at the 88% figure and start wetting yourself. There are a number of reasons to explain why employment statistics look as basically decent as they do…

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I’m back in New York City — a place that has infinitely more Puerto Rican culture than a Hilton in Puerto Rico. But I still have a few more write-ups from the 2010 NALP Annual Education Conference. I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring back a little information for the hordes of lawyers laid off or shut out of Biglaw during the recession. Rest assured, you are not alone.

On Friday afternoon, I attended a panel called “The State of the Legal Economy and the Legal Employment Market.” This should have been the highlight event for the conference. The only panelist was James Leipold, Executive Director of NALP, and he was slated to talk about the hard numbers NALP has put together describing the recession. The panel was booked for the largest conference room in the hotel — the room easily sat 250 people.

Jim Leipold, of NALP

Total attendance = 12 people (I counted). The lesson: do not hold your executive summary panel at 3:30 on Friday in Puerto Rico.

Why was I there? That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m actually confused as to how I ended up covering a panel with 11 other attendees. The room was so cold (air conditioning for 250) that I’m convinced that when conference room air met the Puerto Rican humidity, it caused the tropical depression that hammered the Gulf Coast over the weekend.

In any event, I received some hard numbers for my trouble. And I got to hear Leipold’s thoughts on just how screwed the “Lost Generation” of would-be Biglaw associates are. Not good times, my friends.  Try not to finish your cup of hemlock before you hear the numbers…

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