The law firm of Reed Smith — which, as its Google listing reminds us, is “[o]ne of the 15 largest law firms in the world” — has been in the news a lot lately. Here’s a quick recap.
Some of the news has been good, and some not-so-good. Let’s get the bad news over with first.
Last month, a Pennsylvania state court judge gave the green light to an overbilling lawsuit brought by a former Reed Smith client — a non-profit organization, no less. From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
A Lawrence County Common Pleas Court judge rejected four of five objections by the Downtown law firm Reed Smith, which was sued by a youth foster-care foundation in a dispute over fees.
Bair Foundation, New Wilmington, Lawrence County, sued Reed Smith in November for billing it nearly $1 million — in contrast to the firm’s early estimate of $112,000 in legal costs — to defend the foundation in an employment discrimination lawsuit, according to the complaint.
The $112,000 was a revised estimate; the original estimate, according to the complaint, was $50,000. And Reed Smith’s client ended up losing in the underlying lawsuit.
According to Am Law Daily, “[t]he matter has turned into something of a public relations nightmare for Reed Smith…. The complaint paints a picture of a billing machine run amok.” For its part, the firm denies the allegations and claims that it “will prevail.”
More Reed Smith news, after the jump.
[Ed. note: This is the farewell post of FROLIC & DETOUR, who was recently eliminated from ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that picked ATL's new editor. It is marked with F&D's avatar (at right).]
I’ve speculated about whether Sophist and I know each other. Well, we do. We wrote the HLS Parody together. Now I know that Shawn Johnson wasn’t BSing when she said she was thrilled that her team finished 1-2 in the all-around. I got the silver, but they’re playing my national anthem. Shortly after Elie won his job, I accepted an offer I’d been hoping for. As soon as I wind things up at the firm, I’ll be starting a new job in the law school world. Gold on beam! I think this worked out the right way for everyone. Thanks for the ride.
Last week we covered some goings-on — or non-goings-on, to those of you who found them boring — at Shearman & Sterling. Here’s a quick update.
We reported that, according to the firm, there have been no staff layoffs. One source writes:
I’d like to know how they define administrative staff, as they laid off their entire word processing / document production center (i.e legal word processors, proofreaders, EDGAR operators, and supervisors) in February 2007. It has since been disastrously outsourced….
Outsourcing from a year and a half ago isn’t what we had in mind when we asked about recent layoffs. But we pass that along, for what it’s worth; we do aim to be accurate.
In the comments, there were some rumors about start dates for 2009 associates. We’re looking into the rumors and will report back. If you can confirm, please email us. Update: We’re still waiting for official word from the firm, but one Shearman offeree confirms that yes, start dates for incoming associates next year will be no earlier than November 30, 2009.
Finally, we wondered whether there might be an interesting story surrounding the one out of 140 summer associates who didn’t get an offer. It turns out that there is.
Find out what it takes to get no-offered by Shearman these days, after the jump.
I recently passed the bar and am currently applying for jobs. My main concern is bringing out the most charitable result. Should I work in the nonprofit section where my services are passed directly along to the most needy, or should I get the high-paying firm job and donate the difference in my salary to charity?
A certain Harvard Law School grad might say, “Do the right thing at every moment” — and avoid the Big Bad Law Firm. But Freakonomics blogger Stephen Dubner seems more skeptical of public interest work:
I am not so convinced that working for a nonprofit means that one’s “services are passed directly along to the most needy.” Here’s one reason why.
One Freakonomics commenter’s response to the question of “public interest v. Biglaw”: neither.
If you want to make the most “charitable result”, you’re too late. Lawyers rarely add any value to the economy (after all, this IS an economics blog). Lawyers don’t make anything but they consume large amounts of capital, both human and financial. Had you wanted to be a net contributor to society, an MBA or engineering degree or medical degree or some such would have been the way to go or even just start a small business. This would allow you to actually produce something of value. A law degree only allows you to add friction to the economy….
Scrap the law degree, start a company, get rich, buy a big house and a big boat, give generously when you can and do what Buffett and Gates are doing, give it all away when you’re finished. Nothing wrong with that at all. That would be a life well lived.
My name is ELIE YING MYSTAL, f/k/a SOPHIST, and it looks like I will be taking over day-to-day editorial responsibilities here at Above the Law.
I would like to thank everybody who read anything that I’ve written over the past three weeks. I’ve always found writing to be a deeply personal experience and so I truly appreciate it when somebody bothers to read my work. Whether any of you actually liked it is a different question entirely, but one that we can work on together.
I’d also like to applaud the other contestants for their efforts. The best writing and journalism is almost always a collaborative process. I was impressed with what the other contestants were able to produce without the editors and other colleagues available to most professional writers. I hope this contest has given you all additional confidence about your own skills and talents.
I intend to rely heavily on the structures already in place here at ATL during this transition and beyond. I will learn everything I can from David Lat short of going “Sylar” with his brain. I was ecstatic to learn that many of the regular contributors to this site will be staying on. I will read as many comments as time allows, and try to draw out the “constructive” aspects hidden among the criticism.
I want to get better at this, and I will take advice on how to accomplish that in whatever form it is available.
More about me after the jump.
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is reducing administrative staff in New York and Washington. The reductions, which a firm spokeswoman said were less than 10% of the law firm’s 730 staffers firmwide, affect primarily floating secretaries, part-time assistants and paralegals and library personnel.
The layoffs, first reported on AboveTheLaw.com, resulted from the law firm’s review of its administrative resources and staffing requirements. The employees will receive severance packages based on years of service, the spokeswoman said.
Update / Correction: One source questions the claim that the layoffs affected “primarily” floaters and part-time assistants. According to this tipster, many of the laid off employees were full-time, senior secretaries — a number of them over 50, and some just a few months shy of getting their pensions. This source predicts that age discrimination lawsuits will be filed.
One tipster tells us the number of affected employees was in the range of 50 to 60, which would amount to under 10 percent of 730 staffers, and that severance amounted to one week of pay for every year of service. We also hear this:
Apparently, mail room, duplicating and facilities were told that their jobs were being outsourced by the end of the year. They could start looking for new jobs before getting laid off at the end of the year or apply with the outsourcing agencies (with no guarantees of a job or placement at Fried Frank).
New York staff were given “a few minutes to pack up and get out”; cars were provided to take people home (a nice touch — hopefully that will become “market”). One source claims that employees were laid off without regard to their seniority or their performance reviews, whether negative or positive.
What about attorneys? A spokesperson emphasized to us that Fried Frank “doesn’t do lawyer layoffs,” which was reiterated to associates by firm chair Valerie Ford Jacob at a meeting yesterday.
(Jacob also claimed that the firm has never laid off lawyers. But one source at FFHSJ begs to differ. This source claims that the firm laid off attorneys back in 1990, and then “suffered years of recruiting problems because of it,” which may explain its reluctance to go down that path today.)
More detail about the meeting, after the jump.
Former Supreme Court clerks, also known as the Elect, have no shortage of job opportunities. And a new development in state government is giving them even more. From the National Law Journal:
A trend among states in recent years to appoint a solicitor general has increased opportunities for young attorneys to get into court and ultimately return to private practice far from Washington, the traditional heart of the nation’s appellate bar.
In the past decade, a dozen states, including California, Florida and North Carolina, have added state solicitor generals [sic], many of whom oversee large staffs, said Dan Schweitzer, Supreme Court counsel for the National Association of Attorneys General. Nationwide, 37 states have a solicitor general, he said.
“There are a lot more appellate positions that attract top-notch lawyers,” Schweitzer said.
There are shout-outs to several hot young lawyers whose names should be familiar to ATL readers.
Find out who, after the jump.
[Davis Polk & Wardwell] and [Sullivan & Cromwell] do very similar work. DPW has a stronger underwriters’ practice, Sullivan is marginally better on the issuer side. DPW is much stronger than anyone at converts. Sullivan does more edgy contested M&A while DPW excels at deals with cutting edge securities components.
Sullivan is a slightly better place to work than its reputation. DPW generally lives up to its strong rep as a good place to work.
Now on to the next five from Vault, with their prestige scores in parentheses:
* Obama and McCain name their least favorite Supreme Court justices. McCain hates four of them; Obama focused his hatin’ on just one. [Legal Times]
* The legal battle over the 2008 presidency gets started in Ohio. “The Ohio Republican Party yesterday threatened legal action if Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner allows Ohioans to simultaneously register to vote and cast absentee ballots…” [Toledo Blade]
* Senators want to delay new rules for FBI national security investigations, because everyone’s a little bit racist. [Associated Press]
* Princeton Review joins the ranks of companies that have exposed customers’ personal information. The test scores and personal data of thousands of Virginia and Florida students were inadvertently made accessible online for weeks. [New York Times]
* Self-described “antifeminist” lawyer goes after Columbia University’s department of women’s studies. [City Room / New York Times via Jezebel]
* Our favorite American-themed international headline of the day: “US lesbian wins fertility battle.” [BBC News]
Apologies for the delay. We had to wait for Vizu to certify the poll results as anomaly-free, which they just did.
Congratulations to the winner of our ATL Idol “reality blogging” competition, who will become Above the Law’s new editor-in-chief: SOPHIST!!! With almost 1900 votes cast, SOPHIST (avatar at right) prevailed over your other finalist, FROLIC AND DETOUR, by a 60-40 margin.
In a subsequent post, Sophist will introduce himself to the readership in more detail. The handover of day-to-day editorial duties will take place sometime later this month.
Based on some of your comments, we’d like to clarify two things.
First, we will continue to write for Above the Law and to play an active role in its development. As reported in the Legal Times and FishbowlNY, among other places, we’re moving into the position of Managing Editor for Breaking Media, ATL’s parent company. Part of our new job includes overseeing Above the Law. So we’ll be working closely with Sophist to take Above the Law to ever greater heights (or lows, as appropriate). We will continue to blog for ATL, perhaps in a column of some sort, as well as on other occasions (e.g., coverage of events we attend; additional support during busy news periods; filling in for Sophist when he goes on vacation).
Second, your faithful Associate Editor, Kashmir Hill, will also still write for the site. Although she did not wish to be considered for the EIC position — for more on why, see her personal blog — she will remain as an active presence here. The same is true of ATL’s other contributors, including our surveys guru, Justin Bernold, and our Legal Eagle Wedding Watcher, Laurie Lin. Many of the things you enjoy about ATL will remain unchanged.
As we previously mentioned, the ATL Idol contest was a huge hit here at ATL, by a variety of measures (including traffic / pageviews, reader comments, and revenue). We thank our six finalists for their excellent efforts, as well as everyone else who expressed interest in the position; our three guest judges, Ann Althouse, Tom Goldstein, and Dahlia Lithwick; and you, our readers, who enlivened the contest with your commentary — and who picked the winner, with your votes.
Once again, congratulations to SOPHIST. He survived three weeks of grueling guest blogging, including tough love from the celebrity judges, hard knocks from the commenters, and formidable competition from the other finalists. He is clearly ready for the challenge of taking ATL into a new and even more glorious era. (And since you picked him, you are estopped from criticizing him in the comments.)
Please extend a warm welcome to SOPHIST — and to Above the Law 2.0! Earlier: Prior ATL Idol coverage (scroll down)
If legal novelist John Grisham and Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown were to get together and make a literary baby, it would look a lot like our lawsuit of the day. From London’s Daily Telegraph:
The heirs of the Knights Templar have launched a legal battle in Spain to force the Pope to restore the reputation of the disgraced order which was accused of heresy and dissolved seven centuries ago.
The Association of the Sovereign Order of the Temple of Christ, whose members claim to be descended from the legendary crusaders, have filed a lawsuit against Benedict XVI calling for him to recognise the seizure of assets worth 100 billion euros [$150 billion USD].
They claim that when the order was dissolved by his predecessor Pope Clement V in 1307, more than 9,000 properties as well as countless pastures, mills and other commercial ventures belonging to the knights were appropriated by the church.
1307? It seems like the statute of limitations has run out on that one. (Or “prescriptive period” per Spain’s civil law system.)
The Pope has the Vatican to blame for inspiring the lawsuit:
The legal move by the Spanish group comes follows the unprecedented step by the Vatican towards the rehabilitation of the group when last October it released copies of parchments recording the trials of the Knights between 1307 and 1312.
The papers lay hidden for more than three centuries having been “misfiled” within papal archives until they were discovered by an academic in 2001.
Apparently, the Knights hope the suit will help improve their reputation, sullied by age-old accusations of worshipping Satan, denying Jesus, and practicing sodomy. It seems more likely that they’ll have a new accusation added to the list: filing frivolous and unsuccessful lawsuits. Knights Templar heirs in legal battle with the Pope [Daily Telegraph via NPR]
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.
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.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.