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cap gown diploma graduate.jpgGiven the economic Armageddon happening right in front of our eyes, you might think that even your investments in your own education are depreciating faster than the Congressional approval rating.

But you’d be wrong. According to Karl Okamoto over at the Conglomerate:

Is law school a good value? That’s the question I ask my students to figure out, hoping to teach them a bit about finance. Using crude numbers, the answer looks like a resounding “yes.” As they say in the investment business, it looks like a “three bagger.” Even if you have to put $230,000 in, you get over $700,000 back!

That’s a cool $470,000 in net present value — a much better return than any American bank is likely to offer you this lifetime. The methodology is based on the Department of Labor’s statistics:

[T]he Wall Street Journal reported recently on salary statistics. While the median salary for persons holding just a BA has slipped to $47,240, those of us with professional degrees have gone up to $89,602. Even better, recent Labor Department numbers show the median salary for lawyers at $106,120. So, as I say to my students, think of your law degree as an annuity. It represents a payment stream that lasts for a career (say 40 years) that equals the spread between what you would have earned without your law degree versus what you can with it. Using the median salary numbers, that spread is almost $60,000. Discounted at 8%, the annuity has a present value of over $700,000. The present value of three years of tuition (at $40,000 a year), books and foregone salary (at the median) is about $230,000. So, as your stockbroker used to say about Lehman bonds, a “no brainer!”

Nice. Of course, that median salary is largely dependent on top firms paying their lawyers large salaries, based on the huge fees charged to wealthy clients.

Should a major economic collapse send the American economy back to the antebellum period, wealthy corporations might not be able to afford… well, everybody here understands we’re totally screwed the worst-case scenario.

If you are considering going to law school, it’s still probably a safe bet. At least it’s a better bet than being an I-banker right now.

What is the NPV of a JD? [The Conglomerate via TaxProf Blog]

Undergrads: Listen Up –Time To Think About Law School! [Millennial Money / CNBC]

recession california associate pay raises.jpgWe like to think of ATL as a place where lawyers can get together and discuss the compelling news of the day.

Well, the news of the day is that Wall Street will apparently not be receiving $700 billion dollars to cover their bad investments. The House rejected the bailout plan. The Dow is down by over 400 points as of this writing. And I think I just saw Jimmy Stewart beating the crap out of Mr. Potter.

Really, anytime Robert Reich and Newt Gingrich are agreeing on television, times are strange.

If they’re not going to pass this bailout, then what do you think is going to happen?

This post serves as my official request to start receiving my paycheck in gold bullion.

Update (3:30 PM): The Dow is now down by over 700 points, just over 6 percent. The S&P 500 is now down by almost 100 points, just over 8 percent.

Bailout plan rejected [CNN]

Cantor Blames Pelosi, Boehner Blames Jews [Dealbreaker]

Thelen LLP new logo.jpgWhat’s going to happen to Thelen? That is the question many are asking in the wake of Heller Ehrman’s untimely demise.

As we have previously reported, Thelen has not yet been able to merge with another firm, while suffering through a slew of partner defections. They’ve even canceled their 2009 summer program.

Today brings more bad news for Thelen. Pillsbury announced that they have acquired Thelen’s China practice group:

[A] group of approximately 20 attorneys, including partners Tom Shoesmith, Meg Utterback, Joe Tiano and Lou Bevilacqua, to be based in Pillsbury’s Shanghai, Washington, DC and San Francisco offices.

This may not be as crippling as losing a rainmaking IP practice group like Heller did. But the losses are adding up for Thelen.

Thelen’s attempt to quell the rumors, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Is Thelen Next?”


It takes two lawyers to schedule a deposition. And while a third-year associate might view a deposition as the most important event scheduled in a calendar year, most seasoned attorneys can be expected to show some flexibility when it comes to scheduling conflicts.

After Hurricane Ike struck Texas, attorneys at Markland Hanley and Tekell, Brook, Matthews & Limmer tried to reschedule a deposition. But the people at Markland Hanley wanted Tekell to reimburse them for travel expenses.

Hilarity ensued when Tekell attorney Jeff Murphrey responded to Markland Hanley’s request for reimbursement fees:

I am sorry that a hurricane hit Houston

I am sorry that upon returning to my home Monday, September 22, 2008, I discovered a roughly 50ft. x 6ft. swath of human excrement, used condoms, and all the other niceties that come with a raw sewage leak into one’s backyard which drains into one of the main bayous in Houston.

I am sorry that I had to threaten City of Houston officials with lawsuits and local news exposure in order to get them to even agree to meet with me about cleaning up the problem.

I am sorry that these city officials chose a date that interfered with our deposition and gave me no other options.

Murphrey goes on to explain the extraordinary steps that were taken to cleanse his backyard. He also claims that he agreed to pay reasonable travel expenses.

Murphrey then adds:

I am sorry that you think the judge should be involved in this matter. I wonder if the judge will be sorry about that, too.

We don’t know all the details of the back and forth between Markland Hanley and Tekell. But maybe they need to add a “hurricane aftermath” section in the MPRE.

Read the full memo after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Houston: We Have A Problem.”

funny-pictures-cat-hopes-you-kept-the-receipt-for-the-baby.jpgWe have some bad news for this year’s incoming associates. Based on last Wednesday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, attorneys at your new firm like you even less than they liked summer associates.

We received 765 responses, and the number of practicing attorneys who said “First-year associates, hate ‘em” beat the number of practicing attorneys who said “First-year associates, love ‘em,” by a margin of 25.55% to 21.88%. In comparison, summer associates had managed a more even 25.06% to 24.82% love-hate response in an earlier survey.

Like ‘em or not, respondents sure did think there were a lot of ‘em.

  • Overall, 58% of practicing respondents said that their firms had hired too many new associates, with 29% saying “way too many.”

  • Only 10% thought their firms had hired too few.
  • And just under a third of respondents, 32%, thought their firms had hired just the right number.

In comparison, about 53% of practicing attorneys thought that their firms’ summer programs were too big this year, with 21% calling them “way too big.”

Alarmingly, the people most likely to think there are too many first-years were also the people most likely to be making hire-and-fire decisions. While 57% of second-year associates thought their firms had hired too many new associates, that number exploded to 74% among attorneys who had been practicing since before 2000.

So, if you think that partner you’re working with right now might really want to fire you, you’re probably right. Have fun at work today!

Similarly, the more seasoned the respondents, the more likely they were to actually dislike their newest colleagues. 30% of second-year associates actually said “love ‘em” to the new first-years, and only 15% said “hate ‘em.” But among attorneys who had been practicing since before 2000, only 11% said they liked first-years, while a whopping 48% declared, “hate ‘em.”

So, if you think that partner you’re working with right now might really want to fire you, you’re probably right. Seriously, have fun at work today!

Read more, below the fold.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Life Survey: Welcome To The Firm! Or Not.”

Department of Justice seal DOJ seal Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgThe Office of the Inspector General has released its final report on the removal of nine U.S. attorneys from the Department of Justice.

The 392-page report can be downloaded here.

This morning, the New York Times reported:

[O]fficials with knowledge of the inspector general’s investigation and defense lawyers who have been involved in it said they did not expect that the investigation would recommend that criminal charges be pursued at this point against Mr. Gonzales or other officials. The report was expected to recommend that investigators continue to pursue some elements of the case, meaning that the legal questions around Mr. Gonzales would continue.

Enjoy your hard working tax dollars.

An Investigation into the Removal of Nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 (.pdf) [DOJ]

No Charges Expected in Dismissal of Attorneys [New York Times]

Not Hiring sign.jpgSince the last time we took a look at fall recruiting there have been a few interesting economic developments: Lehman collapsed, Heller Ehrman collapsed, and apparently we now live in a socialist republic.

But is all the dour economic news affecting law students in search of summer employment?

Yes. Big time. One tipster reports:

Harvard OCI is NOT going well. People with good grades are not getting callbacks from mid-level firms (e.g., White [& Case]) and people with average grades aren’t getting callbacks from blah firms (Proskauer [Rose], Clifford [Chance], etc.) Chadbourne canceled their whole Harvard OCI program. And people with great grades are getting callbacks at, say, Cravath but not Simpson.

Correction: Apologies. From a Chadbourne spokesperson:

In an item on Abovethelaw.com today headlined “Open Thread: How is the Fall Recruiting Season Shaping Up?” you say that Chadbourne & Parke has cancelled “their whole Harvard OCI.” This is wrong. We are continuing to recruit for our summer program at Harvard Law School. In fact, Chadbourne recruiters are at the Harvard OCI taking place today.

The California market is dealing with its own kind of callback hell. See, e.g., Heller Ehrman.

What are your experiences out on the trail? Last summer, firms claimed that their summer programs were oversubscribed. Are they “correcting” the problem, or is it last call at the Overlook Hotel?

Share your stories in the comments.

Earlier: Fall Recruiting Open Thread: 3Ls

More on On-Campus Interview Cancellations

parent trap.jpg*The bailout plan was hammered out this weekend, and will be voted on this week. Lawmakers will give Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson a bunch of money to clean up the mess that is our economy. Hopefully, Pennsylvania Avenue fares better than Wall Street. [Washington Post]

*No criminal charges expected in DOJ attorney firings. [New York Times]

*Williams & Connolly’s $180k starting salary announcement last year is the last increase we should expect to hear about for quite a while. Pay will stay stagnant… but hours are a different matter. [Legal Times]

*It’s the Italian legal version of The Parent Trap. A part-time judge in Milan had her non-lawyer twin sister step in to advise clients. [Reuters]

*Lawyer going after Wal-Mart in Massachusetts over missed meal breaks wakes the state up by telling it the megastore owes $600 million in back fines for the lunch-denying practice. [Boston Herald]

*Good news for celebs with legal problems. [New York Times]

*Model sues magazine because he wants to be a “dapper college man” and not a gay pin-up boy. [Daily News]

* Shana tova. Happy Rosh Hashanah.

court_front_med.jpgWhile everyone spent the weekend talking about who bested whom in the McCain-Obama match-up, the New York Times magazine turned away from all that to focus on the really important policy makers in Washington: the Supreme Court. SCOTUS played cover model for Sunday’s NYT magazine, with HLS prof Noah Feldman’s lengthy piece, When Judges Make Foreign Policy.

We love the Star Wars-esque article preview: “When the next justice is appointed, our place in the world may well hang in the balance.” In case you didn’t get the magazine this weekend, and don’t feel like clicking through ten pages online to read it, we’ve got a rundown for you.

Feldman writes that the justices have become “the oracles of our national identity.” We like this analogy. The Greek oracles wore white. The Justices wear black. Advice seekers went to temples to consult Greek oracles. People go to the white gleaming temple at One First Street to address the Justices. The Greeks had hallucinogenic fumes rising from the earth, enhancing their prophetic powers. The Justices have caffeine and the sweet, sweet smell of the pages of the Constitution. But we digress.

Feldman says the defining issue of our time is globalization, and that SCOTUS wields incredible power as it establishes the place of the U.S. in the world through its rulings on international law. Listen up, law school folk, perhaps that international law class is not such a waste of time after all. Conservatives and liberals feel differently, of course, about how the Constitution applies internationally:

In recent years, two prominent schools of thought have emerged… One view, closely associated with the Bush administration, begins with the observation that law, in the age of modern liberal democracy, derives its legitimacy from being enacted by elected representatives of the people. From this standpoint, the Constitution is seen as facing inward, toward the Americans who made it, toward their rights and their security. For the most part, that is, the rights the Constitution provides are for citizens and provided only within the borders of the country…

A competing view, championed mostly by liberals, defines the rule of law differently: law is conceived not as a quintessentially national phenomenon but rather as a global ideal. The liberal position readily concedes that the Constitution specifies the law for the United States but stresses that a fuller, more complete conception of law demands that American law be pictured alongside international law and other (legitimate) national constitutions.

Feldman argues that new appointees for SCOTUS spots that are sure to open should be evaluated based on their thinking about the Court’s role in shaping American foreign policy. The SCOTUS newbies will determine whether the Constitution will be a shield, or will be a blanket shared around the global campfire while everyone sings Kumbaya.

More on this after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “SCOTUS… ‘The World May Well Hang in the Balance’”

Kannon Shanmugam Kannon K Shanmugam AboveTheLaw Above the Law.jpgAs the old saying goes, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a lawyer to be hired as a lateral partner at Williams & Connolly.” The last lateral partner to be hired by the super-elite litigation shop, which people and corporations turn to when they’re in the deepest of doo-doo, was Gerald Feffer, brought into the fold over two decades ago.

So this latest move is fairly big news. Appellate superstar Kannon Shanmugam, one of Washington’s top 40 lawyers under 40 (see #21), is leaving the Solicitor General’s office, where he has served for the past four years as an Assistant to the Solicitor General. He’ll be joining Williams & Connolly — as a partner.

“It’s very hard to leave the Justice Department, but I’m excited about the challenge of helping to build the appellate practice at Williams & Connolly,” Shanmugam told us. “It’s arguably the best firm for litigation in the country, but what ultimately attracted me to the firm is its distinctive culture.”

“We are thrilled to have Kannon join us,” said Robert Barnett, a member of the firm’s Executive Committee (and author rep to the stars — he’s negotiated book deals for the Clintons, Barack Obama, Bob Woodward, Lynne Cheney, and Alan Greenspan, among others). “He’s our first lateral partner in 22 years, which is indicative of how rarely we have lateral partners join us.”

“Almost everyone at the firm is homegrown, coming up through the associate ranks and making partner,” explained Barnett to ATL. “Kannon, because of his exceptional qualities, is going to be a rare exception to that pattern. On a personal level, he’s a terrific individual. But we are also extremely respectful and welcoming of his legal skills.”

Word on the street is that Shanmugam received offers from about half a dozen other firms. “He was sought by many firms, and being as competitive as we are, we’re pleased to have won the Kannon sweepstakes,” said Bob Barnett.

Additional discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: Kannon Shanmugam to Williams & Connolly
W&C’s first lateral partner in 22 years

In the interest of completeness, here are a few quick postscripts to stories that we previously covered in these pages, but didn’t get around to mentioning during the craziness of last week. They come from the National Law Journal and/or the WSJ Law Blog.

Robert Somma Bankruptcy Judge Robert Somma Above the Law blog.jpg1. Judge Robert Somma: The cross-dressing former bankruptcy judge (at right), who resigned from the bench after a drunk driving arrest, has joined the bankruptcy practice of Posternak Blankstein & Lund, a midsize firm based in Boston, as senior counsel. [National Law Journal; WSJ Law Blog]

2. American Justice School of Law: This defunct Kentucky law school, which in 2007 was hit with a class action filed by some of its students, has filed for bankruptcy. [National Law Journal; WSJ Law Blog]

Alex Kozinski Chief Judge Alex Kozinski small.jpg3. L’Affaire Kozinski: The panel of federal judges from the Third Circuit investigating Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (at right) has retained Robert Heim, head of litigation at Dechert, to oversee the probe (which will be staffed by lawyers from Dechert and Morgan Lewis & Bockius). [National Law Journal; WSJ Law Blog]

4. University of Michigan’s Wolverine Scholars Program: Sarah Zearfoss, dean of admissions at UM Law, has defended the program against allegations that it’s an attempt to game the U.S. News rankings. She pointed out that the program is small, likely to result in the admission of just five to ten students (out of a class of 360), and that very few UM undergrads (about 200) would even be eligible for it. [WSJ Law Blog]

Heller Ehrman LLP Above the Law blog.JPGIt’s official: Heller Ehrman is dissolving. We have no desire to pile on, but major firms don’t close their doors everyday.

So, how does the dissolution process work exactly?

The first thing Heller is required to do by law is to give notice to all their employees under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN). Heller complied with this requirement this afternoon:

I regret to inform you that The Firm has adopted a plan of liquidation and will shut down substantially all of its operations on or about November 28, 2008. At the time of the shutdown, the employment of The Firm’s employees will be permanently terminated. Until then, please be aware that The Firm has work for you and expects you to report to work. Employees will be paid full salary and benefits until the shutdown. Where applicable, employees with accrued but unused vacation time may be scheduled for vacation prior to November 28.

You do not have displacement or bumping rights for other positions within The Firm. However, in order to conduct an orderly liquidation, The Firm may continue to employ a very limited number of employees after the date of the shutdown. If you wish to be considered for such work, please notify me by email; The Firm will let you know about past November 28 work within the next few days.

This letter constitutes notice to you pursuant to statute. As a terminated employee, you may be entitled to certain benefits, which will be the subject of a separate communication. The shutdown is being treated as a plant closing under relevant law, and includes the termination of employment of employees employed at 333 Bush Street, San Francisco, California 94104.

In the event you require additional information, please feel free to contact [redacted]

Additional analysis of Heller’s breakup, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Heller Ehrman: Anatomy of a Dissolution”

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