The troubled economic environment has led to layoffs, office shutterings, and the dissolution of Heller Ehrman. Now, the Washington Post is trotting out the idea of the death of the billable hour as a potential outcome of the financial crisis:
Since becoming commonplace in the 1970s, hourly billing has been the subject of criticism by clients and debates by legal experts, who say they give lawyers incentive to work inefficiently. But law firms have been slow to embrace alternative billing.
That’s quite a definitive statement. We’re less certain. If there’s a fixed fee revolution going on, we haven’t heard about it. And as the article notes, this is far from the first prediction of the billable hour’s demise (e.g., Whither the Billable Hour?).
But these are desperate times, and everyone’s feeling the pressure. Is it enough pressure to push firms over the brink to fixed fee billing? More speculation, after the jump.
The Chicago-based firm is asking about 10 partners, both equity and non-equity, to exit with the bulk of those affected currently working out of the firm’s biggest office in Chicago, the sources said. No particular practice area is more affected than others. The departures equate to about 6 percent of Jenner’s 155 equity partner headcount and 2 percent of the overall 490 lawyer headcount. The firm declined comment.
Remember that happy-happy-joy-joy meeting Jenner held earlier this month? According to a tipster, Jenner associates were told:
not to worry about the issues on wall st- they will not adversely affect Jenner’s bottom line. Jenner is having a great year and bonus are expected to be as good or better than last year.
Well how does that statement jibe with cutting 10 partners? As one commenter put it:
A rich man doesn’t need to tell you that he’s rich.
We’ve reported on how various lawyers are wading into the California Proposition 8 battle through internal firm communication. Last week we told you about a “Yes on 8″ Proskauer associate who emailed entertainment law blogger Russell Wetanson from his Proskauer email account.
Apparently, one missive supporting a ban on gay marriage wasn’t enough for the associate. The associate has sent out another email — from his Proskauer account — to a much wider distribution list which included other Proskauer attorneys:
The Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage did not just overturn the will of California voters (over 61% of them to be exact); it also redefined marriage for the rest of society, without ever asking the people themselves to accept this decision. As a lawyer I can tell you that those Four Activist Judges in San Francisco harmed the democratic process as much as they damaged traditional marriage. [Redacted] I know you and I agree on most things and I assume you still believe that it is a judge’s role to enforce the law not create it, but that is exactly what those Four Activist Judges did. They ignored the votes and voices of 4 million Californians and replaced it with their own. For that reason alone Prop 8 should be supported. If the proponents of gay marriage wish to change the law, let them do it properly not; through the people not through activist judges.
What people do on their personal time is their own business. But doesn’t this cat have a gmail account? There are a lot of attorneys who use the Star Jones-special “I’m a Lawyer” conceit to strengthen their argument, but why drag the firm into it?
More excerpts from this Proskauer associate after the jump.
Today Dewey & LeBoeuf announced that they would be closing their Charlotte, North Carolina office as of December 31st.
Dewey appears to be in full contraction mode, having already announced the closing of offices in Hartford, CT; Jacksonville, FL; and Austin, TX.
According to a firm spokesperson:
As part of its continuing review of global office locations, Dewey & LeBoeuf will be closing its office in Charlotte, North Carolina. The decision has been made in part due to the economic conditions in the market, which has seen the consolidation of several major banking institutions and a challenging structured finance market. The Charlotte office, which has eight attorneys, will close on December 31, 2008.
The Charlotte market, a burgeoning center of the U.S. banking industry, continues to take hits to its legal market. Last week, Moore & Van Allen laid off around 20 staff members.
According to one tipster, the 8 Charlotte attorneys will receive a 12-week severance package.
Update (5:19): A Dewey spokesperson now confirms that there are 11 lawyers in the Charlotte office. The associates will be laid-off while the firm evaluates relocation options for the partners.
Apparently, the activities of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) are now a matter of national import. The group, best known for absolutely nothing prior to a month ago, is now poised to “threaten the fabric of democracy,” according to Senator John McCain.
One might have expected the Obama campaign to take the knuckleball in the dirt, but there is only one October. Last Friday, the Obama campaign called in lawyers from Perkins Coie to harass USAG Michael Mukasey into harassing McCain to stop harassing Obama.
Perkins Coie partner Robert Bauer asked Mukasey to instruct special prosecutor Nora Dannehy to add McCain’s recent conduct to allegations of partisan misconduct within the Justice Department. According to The Blog of the LegalTimes:
[The letter] alleges that Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign and the Republican Party made false claims of voting fraud as part of a Republican effort to influence the presidential election. The letter accuses Republican officeholders of calling on the Justice Department to investigate allegations of fraud, and Justice Department officials of spurring what he called “baseless” investigations.
Salaries for New York judges have been capped at $136,700 for the past ten years. We reported on their attempt to force a raise by suing the New York legislature. New York Supreme Court justice Edward Lehner ruled in favor of mo’ money in June and gave the legislature 90 days to up their pay.
The state’s chief judge, Judith Kaye, was the force behind the lawsuit. But a lesser-known judge, Philip Straniere, of Staten Island, did his part to support the movement. He grew a big, bushy protest beard. He’s been wearing it for the last 14 months.
Unfortunately for cash-strapped New York judges, neither the beard nor lawsuit have done the trick as of yet. According to the New York Law Journal, New York Governor David Paterson has appealed Lehner’s decision. The judges’ brief defending Lehner’s decision is due Friday, with argument scheduled for November.
Straniere has not given up the protest, but he has given up the beard, in order to look less like Father Christmas while he runs for a state Supreme Court judgeship. His shave made the news. From the Staten Island Advance:
Straniere scores points for his Family Guy reference with a shout-out to Peter Griffin’s bird-infested growth. Negative points for the barber for butchering Straniere’s chin.
On Saturday the American Civil Liberties Union elected a new president, Susan Herman.
She’s a constitutional law professor at Brooklyn Law School and had served as the ACLU’s general counsel prior to this promotion. It has been a long time since ACLU leadership changed hands:
Herman’s selection gives the organization a new public face for the first time in nearly two decades. Nadine Strossen, the ACLU’s longest-serving president and the first woman to hold the job, had led the group since 1991, overseeing a substantial rise in formal membership and national staff.
Herman intends to spearhead the organization’s outreach to the African-American community, and she believes that her professorial background will help encourage young people to become card-carrying members.
A quick recap of “Naughty” Nottingham’s misadventures: being too drunk to remember how he spent $3,000 at strip clubs over two days, calling 911 on a paralyzed lawyer in a wheelchair after she confronted him for parking in a handicapped space, and having his name show up on a list of clients of a Denver prostitution business.
Well, he’s back in the news, folks, and though we’ve retired him from Judge of the Day, we’ve decided to give him a nod at the request of many tipsters. The Department of Justice has launched an investigation of “Naughty” for asking a prostitute to lie on his behalf. He wanted her to say they met at a restaurant in Denver and went out a few times and that they were only “good friends.”
The woman claims she had sex with Judge Nottingham for $250 to $300 an hour once a week from February 2003 through November 2004 at the former escort agency Bada Bing of Denver….
[T]he former prostitute says Judge Nottingham asked her to help fabricate a story to tell investigators.
“We just decided to agree that we met at a bar. I don’t remember which one. We decided to say that we just, over the years, had become friends and on occasion would go out on dates,” the woman told 9Wants to Know. “The truth is that I met him when I was an escort for an escort service and he did visit me regularly and he did pay to be with me.”
“It just seems ridiculous that someone in his position would ask someone to lie,” the former prostitute said. “He’s there to uphold the law and he’s breaking it.”
Such a sweet sentiment. Obviously, this former prostitute is not a regular reader of our Judge of the Day feature.
Several newspapers have reported that Nottingham is expected to resign any minute now. But as of Monday at noon, the Colorado District Court’s Clerk Office had not heard anything from him.
So far this year, we’ve found that an awful lot of ATL readers get in the billable spirit over the holidays. Back in January and February, we learned that about a quarter of you worked on Christmas, almost a third of you worked over New Year’s, and more than half of you worked on Martin Luther King’s Birthday. This summer, we found that 42% of you worked over the Memorial Day weekend, and 40% of you put in patriot hours over the Fourth of July weekend. And just last month we learned that 45% of you labored over Labor Day Weekend.
In today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, we continue our exploration of the holidays. Last week, a number of commenters were even more scandalized than usual when ATL took Columbus Day off. But were all of you really working that weekend?
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.
Remember the barely watchable movie Major League II? Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn arrives at spring training with an assortment of off-speed curveballs and change-ups, abandoning his 100-mph-plus fastball essentially because he’s gone soft.
That (terrible) plot is being carried out by the nation’s top law schools. We’ve reported on HLS and SLS moving away from letter grades. We scuttled a poll by Columbia Law School trying to ascertain whether students there wanted to move to a modified pass/fail system. Now, despite earlier protestation from some members of the student body, NYU Law is now moving towards their own version of grade reform. The hope, apparently, is sterling transcripts for all, academic competition for none:
In Fall 2007, the Executive Committee of the faculty re-evaluated the NYU grade curve as part of a broader charge. The Committee concluded that the curve appears to be somewhat out of line with peer schools, and expressed concern that an unintended effect could be that it systematically disadvantages our students applying for clerkships and some other jobs.
Is there no end to this madness? In essence, that letter represents a bunch of students saying:
Whaaaa. Law school is hard. I want my clerky-ships. How come Johnny gets all the good grades? Whaaaa!
And NYU is caving. They’re throwing a curveball in a 3-1 count instead of having the guts to throw a hard strike.
Getting good grades is not a right. And it shouldn’t be a gift. Some people have the talent and focus to get good grades, other people have the social skills to get laid. What precisely was wrong with that system?
Professor Joel P. Trachtman has developed a unique, practical guide to help lawyers analyze, argue, and write effectively.
The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win is a highly readable 200-page book, available for about $10 in paperback or e-book. Chapters focus on foundational principles in legal argument: procedure, interpretation of contracts and statutes, use of evidence, and more. The material covered is taught only implicitly in law school. Yet, when up-and-coming attorneys master these straightforward tools, they will think and argue like the best lawyers.
For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
Take this opportunity to learn what it takes to streamline your accounting and get the most out of your time. The webinar agenda:
● The basics of accounting for lawyers.
● How legal accounting differs from regular accounting.
● Report and reconciliation issues surrounding trust accounts.
● How to pick and integrate the best accounting tools for your practice.
● Steps to prepare your tax return for your firm’s income.
Do not miss this crucial chance to optimize your accounting practices. Save time and get back to billing!
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!