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funny-pictures-hourglass-cat.jpgWe received over 2,200 responses to Monday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, which asked you how many hours you billed last year.

In fact, we received more responses than most of you billed hours.

Although today’s Am Law Litigation Daily points out that litigation in federal courts actually rose by 9 percent last year, that doesn’t appear to have done much for your timesheets.

The table below compares your 2007 hours and predictions for 2008 (from our November survey) with the actual experience you reported on Monday.

Results: How many hours did you bill in 2007 and 2008?

 Billable Hours   2007      2008 
Less than 1600     3.29%   7.93%   14.32%
1600 – 1699     2.58%   6%   5.75%
1700 – 1799     3.99%   5.61%   7.36%
1800 – 1899     8.45%   7.54%   9.37%
1900 – 1999     11.5%   16.44%   13.6%
2000 – 2100     22.54%   21.08%   18.11%
2100 – 2199     12.68%   14.31%     11.11%
2200 – 2299     11.03%   6.77%   7.98%
2300 – 2399     12.44%     5.42%   4.64%
2400+     11.5%   8.9%   7.76%

Back in 2007, roughly 70% of respondents billed at least 2000 hours last year (not counting associates with stub years), with over a third billing at least 2200. And over 11% — almost one in eight associates — were in the 2400+ zone.

But by November, almost 20% of associates thought they would fall short of 1800 hours for 2008. Even so, less than 8% feared they would not make 1600. And roughly 56% of associates still expected to hit at least 2000 hours in 2008. More than a fifth of respondents thought they would even reach 2200.

Reality was a bit less kind:

  • A crushing 14% of respondents fell short of 1600 hours, almost twice the number predicted back in November.
  • More than a quarter of respondents, 27%, could not make 1800.
  • And a little less than half of associates, 49.6%, broke 2000.

But even these numbers may paint too rosy an economic picture. As one commenter pointed out:

I billed over 2000 hours, but had over 300 pro bono this year.

Another suggested that this year’s performance will be much weaker than last year’s:

Hitting 2000 hours for 2008 was doable because the bulk of the slow-down didn’t occur until September/October. Only because I had very high hours before then was I able to just barely hit 2000 hours for the year. 2009 will be much worse. I’m worried.

Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments.

You know, as long as you’re not billing anything today.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

live free or die from taxes.jpgMonday, the New York Supreme Court upheld a state statute requiring online retailers to collect taxes from New York residents.

The law applies to companies that don’t have offices in New York, but have at least one person in the state who works as an online agent — someone who links to a Web site and receives commissions for related sales.

It seems to me that freedom loving liberals and tax hating conservatives can agree that this decision heralds the end of the internet has we know it. What’s next, collecting taxes from porn sites? Instituting an e-stamp on emails? Government has been trying to get a taste of all that internet money for a long time. Don’t fool yourself, this decision opens the door for all kinds of government levies on the free flow of information and services on the web. Today, it’s a regressive tax on consumers. Tomorrow, it’ll be a two cent per word “sin tax” on text messages.

SCOTUS? Obama? Are there any “people’s employees” that are actually going to stand up for the people on this issue?

I keep using this term because it continues to be appropriate, but what we are seeing is Shock Doctrine decision making. Power players are using the financial crisis to force decisions through the system that people would never stand for under ordinary circumstances.

Officials estimated the state would gain nearly $50 million in the next two years from the tax. New Yorkers, like residents of many states, are currently on an honor system to report their online spending when they file state tax returns.

The power to tax is the power to destroy. And the New York Supreme Court just took down the energy shield. Beware, the AT-ATs are coming.

NY Court Clears Way for Taxing Online Sales [TaxProf Blog]

Court to Amazon: Keep Collecting Sales Tax [New York Times] v. New York State Department of Taxation.pdf

funny money.jpg

* The Madoff case will garner lawyers lots of money in fees. “This is a financial 9/11 for our clients” said a Proskauer Rose litigation partner, licking his lips. []

* Meanwhile, the U.S. is challenging the New York Judge’s decision to keep Madoff free on bail. []

* Legislators in Maine are introducing a bill that would recognize same-sex marriage. [The Boston Globe]

* Obama and Biden will visit the Supreme Court this afternoon to meet with the Justices and get a tour. The elephant in the chambers: Obama and Biden voted against Roberts’ confirmation. [The Washington Post]

* Al Franken asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to let him get to the Senate without waiting for the resolution of opponent Norm Coleman’s legal challenge. His lawyers argue that Senator’s will need Franken for comic relief in the midst of our trying times (just kidding). [The Associated Press]

* Dozens of suspected terrorists released from Guantanamo have returned to terrorism says the Pentagon (gulp). [CNN]

Nixon Peabody logo.JPGWith all the layoffs rippling through the Biglaw community, we are likely to see more lawsuits from attorneys directed at their former employers.

Right now, Nixon Peabody is in the spotlight. A former associate is suing the firm. The National Law Journal reports:

Henry Har, now an associate in Holland & Knight’s San Francisco office, claims that he was wrongly fired from Nixon Peabody in 2008 because of his sex and gender, and because he is Asian-American. …

Har, a graduate of New York University School of Law, originally worked in Nixon Peabody’s San Francisco office and moved to the Los Angeles location in September 2007. His complaint states that the Los Angeles office had a “drastically different working environment” from the San Francisco office and that attorneys in the office “demonstrated inappropriate and offense behavior towards ethnic minorities, women and homosexuals.”

The firm responds after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “San Francisco Attorney Sues Nixon Peabody Los Angeles for Sexual Discrimination”

Dewey logo.JPGMore bad news coming out of California this evening, this time from Dewey & LeBoeuf.

Multiple tipsters tell us that the firm laid off 8 associates from its Los Angeles office. As one tipster puts it:

The attrition at Dewey & LeBoeuf continued yesterday as the firm laid off almost 30% of the associate corps in its Los Angeles office. Eight attorneys were let go, ranging from newly minted second years to more senior associates.

Our figures suggest that 30% is a little bit high, but eight associates does represent a significant chunk of Dewey’s L.A. associate presence.

A firm spokesperson confirmed that eight associates were no longer with the firm.

While our Dewey sources in New York are worried that their office might be next, it’s worth noting that Dewey already let go of 11 New York associates at the beginning of December. The worst might be over.

Dewey has not frozen salaries for the associates that remain.

These are the kinds of choices that Biglaw is facing right now, freeze salaries, fire associates, or come up with other ways of spreading the economic pain around.

Good luck to the recently unemployed.

Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Dewey & LeBoeuf Lays Off 12 Associates

Prior ATL coverage of law firm layoffs

prank monkey.jpg* Well, well. It looks like my monkey, has evolved into a man. A poor man. [Swordplay]

* Governor Paterson is ready to name a new chief judge to replace Judith S. Kaye. It’s Caroline Kennedy … no, sorry, wrong wire feed. It’s Jonathan Lippman! [New York Law Journal]

* Liberal blogger of some note, Matt Yglesias, is in on the whole Sidley pro-bono, anti public transportation issue. [Yglesias]

* We’ve mentioned David Mills’ funny “Courtoons” site before. I guess we’re not the only ones watching. A Russian blog has picked up one of the drawings, begging the question: there’s a Russian Biglaw blog!? If anybody can translate the Russian we (and David Mills) would be interested. [Courtoons via Юридический блог]

* You need to hear to be on a jury? Really? ‘Cause you don’t really need it for law school, Biglaw, being a law professor, courtroom litigator, or judge. But if a juror can’t locate the jury box using high pitch sonar we should kick him out of the pool? [Simple Justice]

* Lateral Link has undergone a complete site redesign. [Lateral Link]

* Just to be clear, we are pretty sure this Craigslist job listing is a joke. The riff about vacation time is really where it unravels. Then again … just because it’s a joke doesn’t make it devoid of truth. [Craigslist] [Ed. Note: It looks like Craigslist took down the link, but now Google Cache can finally be used for something other than catching my former typos. Check here]

* Meet David Lat tonight at the Bel Air Bar and Grill and learn about all the gossip we can’t publish on ATL. [Above the Law]

pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgAfter saying nice things about top Texas firms yesterday, our inbox was flooded today with news of a salary freeze at Fulbright & Jaworski.

As we understand it, the firm is only freezing salaries through the first quarter of 2009, so it’s a Slurpee freeze.

So much for Texas being the beacon of hope for the legal industry.

But, perhaps more surprisingly, Perkins Coie is also freezing salaries:

The 2009 economic picture remains extremely uncertain. Although we continue to have no debt and the firm is in excellent financial shape, we have determined to take a number of significant steps to ensure the firm’s financial health in 2009 for the benefit of all personnel.

The firm’s budget contemplates approximately a 10% reduction in average partner income in 2009, and partner draw percentages for January and February were significantly reduced in order to avoid any need to borrow funds. We have also frozen salaries for senior administrative staff who are evaluated on a calendar year basis. Most staff have salary adjustments on July 1 and no decision will be made on compensation adjustments applicable to them until that time.

We have also decided to hold associates at their current base salary levels. Associates will remain at their 2008 base salary for 2009, subject to two limited exceptions. Adjustments will be made to productivity build-ins for affected associates in the Bellevue, Seattle and Washington, DC offices, and changes will be made to address a few unique compensation arrangements previously scheduled for adjustment in 2009. New compensation memos will be distributed within the next few weeks.

I guess having partners that are tight with Obama isn’t enough to stave off a “solid ice” freeze. So much for unicorns.

But, after the jump, some positive news to report.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Freeze Watch: Perkins Coie And Fulbright Freeze, Schulte Does Not”

milbank logo.jpgAs we’ve pointed out in the past, it’s difficult to tell the difference between “normal business practices” and “stealth layoffs” in these difficult economic times. Milbank has made a change in their annual review process, but what that means — if anything — is anyone’s guess.

At this point, we don’t know if Milbank is planing any attorney reductions. But our tipsters report these early warning signs:

Milbank sent an email around to all junior and senior associates that the performance review cycle would begin tomorrow. They moved the review up by 6 months. The reviews are normally done annually and the normal review period for juniors and seniors is June. Apparently the firm can’t wait that long to shed attorneys. …

Milbank has laid the groundwork for stealth layoffs.

But Milbank told us that this change has been a long time coming. A firm spokesperson told ATL:

We did an overhaul of our evaluation system in late 2007 to early 2008 that was part of a broader firm excellence initiative. The new review process was designed to encourage excellence and provide more meaningful feedback, forward-looking career guidance and greater focus to the professional development of our associates. The roll-out of our new evaluation process was communicated to our associates in April 2008. This included split timing with a cycle for junior and senior associates commencing in January and another cycle for mid-level associates commencing in August. Last year, we started our junior/senior cycle in April simply due to planning and timing issues. The January start we are doing this year was the exact timing contemplated by our announcement to our associates last April.

Either way, we’d encourage Milbank associates to take the review process seriously this year.

Earlier: In This Market: Are You Getting Laid Off or Fired? A Kaye Scholer Case Study

Kentucky law facebook.JPGIt’s been a tough year for Kentucky. They were on the wrong side of the Obama-wave. They killed a horse. Rick Pitino isn’t walking through that door.

And it’s not like University of Kentucky College of Law students are immune from the larger problems in the legal market. But unlike Churchill Downs, the UK Law administration is looking for creative ways to deal with emerging realities. In response to the cratering job market, UK Law’s interim dean has suggested that students spend more time on Facebook:

We want you to know that you can sign up for the UK College of Law Alumni group on Facebook. Even though you are not technically yet alums, you will be soon and I thought that participating in our Facebook page might help you make contacts that would assist you with your job search.

I realize that your class is graduating into a difficult job market. It’s my intention for the Dean’s Office to do whatever we can to make your job search less stressful and more productive. One idea is that you could sign up on Facebook and use your profile to describe your interests, including the fact that you are looking for a job after graduation.

Well, every great idea looked a little bit ridiculous before it worked right?

And there’s some salient Facebook pimping advice for those inclined to try it out:

I’ll be sending a “wall” message to those alums who are already participating, asking them to help us with placement for our grads. You never know who might know about the perfect job for you, so be sure to make your profile and any comments you post something that is “professional.” Yes, I know that some grads put up pictures of their dogs—and far be it from me, of all persons, to criticize dog photos—but I think that if you are using this as a marketing opportunity you want to be careful what you post.

Read the Dean’s full Good Will Hunting-esque message after the jump. And remember you can share this post on Facebook with other job seekers friends.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “University of Kentucky College of Law Updates Facebook Status”

2008 Weblog Awards finalist badge Best Law Blog.jpgDespite our late start, our readers are leading a furious ATL comeback in the 2008 Weblog Awards. On Friday ATL was getting slammed, but now we’re running a strong second with almost a third of the vote.

If you’ve already voted for ATL, thanks. If you’d like to vote again, that would be wonderful.

Sure, we know that critics will say something along the lines of “Above the Law is an inaccurate, typo-ridden, unfunny, TTT legal blog.” But based on our strong showing in the ABA Journal Blawg 100 Awards, we know that there is a silent majority of people who think “Above the Law is an inaccurate, typo-ridden, unfunny, TTT legal blog that I read every day.” Voting closes as 5 p.m. EST today.

The ATL community is strong and growing. Thanks for all of the support so far.

2008 Weblog Awards

staff attorney contract attorney doc review.jpgBack in the golden days of Biglaw (in the before times, in the long, long ago), associates were fired all the time. Getting laid off for poor performance or low hours is nothing new.

Of course, back when we had a functional American economy, getting fired was a temporary bump in the road. You could always work at a smaller firm or for the government. Back in the day, you could even work as a contract attorney if you needed something to tide you over.

Now … everything is different. And contract attorney jobs are great gets in this market. Yesterday, the National Law Journal ran a piece about the curious case of paying off law school debt while making $35 an hour:

As law firms downsize, laid-off attorneys and new law school graduates unable to find jobs have been turning to an option they may never have imagined at law school: becoming contract attorneys — hired guns for $35 an hour.

Yet in the past couple of months, even that field appears to be showing signs of a slowdown.

People who waited too long to swallow their pride and confront the reality of the financial crisis are finding that contract work has already been snapped up by less prestige conscious job seekers.

And it probably isn’t helping that just as the American legal market is starved for low level work, the ABA has made it easier to outsource doc review to other countries:

Also cutting into their business is the growing popularity of outsourcing to India. Hudson Legal has countered with an ad campaign that encourages law firms to “onshore,” and choose U.S. staffing companies where there are no security or privacy concerns and where they operate in the Eastern time zone.

Even if you land a contract attorney job you never thought you wanted, the working conditions remain just as bad as you remember them.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Contract Attorneys: Good Work If You Have No Other Option”

Gonzales.jpgLast year was the year of layoffs, and 2009 is not looking much better. Law firms are not the only ones hurting. From the Wall Street Journal [subscription] via the Daily Beast.

A December survey of US-based employers found that 23 percent expect to lay off workers in the next year and more than 15 percent expect to freeze salaries or hiring, cut spending on travel or training, or increase employees’ contributions to health care premiums.

We often wonder how those who were let go over the last year are faring in this dismal economy. The Austin American-Statesman brings us news from one of the more recognizable legal faces currently found in the unemployment lines: former AG Alberto Gonzales.

We’ve been following Gonzales’ desperate search for a job since last August. The latest news: still unemployed. He tells the Statesman:

“It’s a rough economy right now, and it’s a tough time for a lot of law firms right now. Obviously they are very careful about bringing on new people, and they are going to be careful about bringing on people where there are questions about things that may have happened in their past,” he said. “Over time, I’m confident those things will be resolved, and things will work themselves out.”

So he’s going to do what so many of us who are good for nothing else do: write. The tale of his forthcoming tale, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Still unable to find work, Alberto Gonzales turns to the writerly craft”

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