Somehow, it’s not murder. Somehow, the crime people are most worried about does not include death. Or rape. I don’t believe in gun ownership, and I live out in the all-too-quiet suburbs, which means I’ve got a very expensive security system, motion sensor lights, a dog, and baseball bats and other blunt force trauma weapons strategically placed around my home, ALL for the prevention of murder and rape.
Apparently, I’m not normal. Apparently my fears, while ancient and steeped in evolutionary development, are not what scare Americans the most.
Last night, in the beautiful D.C. offices of Arnold & Porter, Above the Law held its second annual Supreme Court round-up event. I discussed October Term 2014 with two of the most distinguished advocates practicing before the Court today, Lisa Blatt of Arnold & Porter and Tom Goldstein of Goldstein & Russell (and SCOTUSblog fame too). Although this Term is not the most thrilling Term ever — which could change, based on the cases that get granted certiorari over the next few weeks — Blatt and Goldstein produced a sparkling conversation full of ample insight and laughter.
Thanks to Lisa Blatt and to Tom Goldstein for participating, to our readers for attending, to Arnold & Porter for hosting, and to Special Counsel eQ for sponsoring. Keep reading to check out photos….
At the risk of stating the obvious to this audience, the American middle class is in serious trouble. But why am I taking the time to state the obvious? Because it isn’t what we know, it’s what we do with what we know to reposition our solo/small firm practices for survival that matters most. Most solo/small firms are consumer-law driven. Since so much of the success of many a lawyer has been predicated on a stable middle class with disposable income, how a solo/small firm responds to their disappearing wealth is intimately tied to their professional success.
The middle-class share of national income has fallen and continues to fall, dropping many who were normally categorized as such into the lower middle class, even upper lower class. Middle-class wages are stagnant even though productivity time has increased dramatically, and we no longer have the world’s wealthiest middle class. I don’t even have to quote any sources on this information because you just have to Google it and you’ll get hundreds if not thousands of pages and articles on this alarming topic.
As painful as this squeeze is individually, multiply this by millions of families (your potential clients). Then aggregate this demand across all areas of the economy (obviously, the law), and you see why this will inevitably trickle down to cripple the following generations (also your potential clients).
But the story is much bigger than this and has another very important side….
I just read Shannon’s article from last week about solo practice (and the comments, which got pretty weird pretty fast). It was a familiar story. I have been a solo for a little over three years now. There certainly are lawyers who make more money than I make, but for most of the last three years, I have been so busy that I refer away most of the cases that come my way. I have watched a lot of my lawyer friends who have different personalities and different skills meet the legal market with varied success. Here’s what I have learned as a solo, as someone who has worked in a firm, and as an employer:
Understand That No One Owes You Anything
I went to a top-ranked university for undergrad. I got into the highest-ranked law school in my area so that I could keep my part-time job at a 200-lawyer law firm. I felt poised to make good money as a lawyer. After law school, I went to work for a small but successful business litigation firm. It was successful because my boss understood that the practice of law is still a business. When I passed the bar, I came into the office Monday morning and had a talk with my boss about how much more money he was going to have to pay me now. His response was that he was not going to pay me anything more at all because my value to him had not changed. I quit a few weeks later and opened up my own practice, using that talk as one of the foundations of my practice.
It’s not that the pay is necessarily worse — though when all is said and done, it almost assuredly is — it’s that the job is a delicious cocktail of overwhelming responsibility and bad public policy. Every day on this job would require the lawyer to struggle to uphold the basic ethical obligations owed to a client while incrementally undermining the justice system as a whole. For peanuts. And no benefits.
The New York Board of Law Examiners has been releasing bar exam results earlier and earlier every year. Last year, for example, bar candidates received their results on October 30. Once again, it’s not even November, and some nervous test takers received emails from the New York BOLE before midnight on October 27 with their results from the July 2014 administration of the exam.
This news bears repeating: it’s not even November, and we have the New York bar exam results. As one of the most-taken exams in the country — about 12,000 people took the test last July — this is big news. It’s almost like the BOLE wants recent law school graduates to be able to start working as attorneys sooner — or trying to, at least. We’re living in crazy times, folks.
So much for that mid-November release date everyone was talking about, huh?
We are living in a feedback culture. Traveled lately? Uber wants to know how your ride to the airport was. Your airline? An emailed survey is waiting for you on arrival at your destination. Checking out of your hotel? Have a goodbye survey on the house. Had a meal? Make sure you take the opportunity to complain (on Google, Yelp, etc.) about the server who accidentally brushed your shoulder while pouring your overpriced Malbec. Or rave about the innovative creme brulee and brioche hybrid that is the heir apparent to the cronut as a worthy “queue them up” for hours artery-clogger. It’s easy. Just a few clicks, and the world will be enlightened with your opinion. And your service provider can “improve the experience” for the legions of satisfied customers to follow.
In fact, service providers in multiple industries are quite busy turning your technological toys into “review generation machines” — because they can. Purchase an item online, and be prepared to answer questions about the item, the purchasing experience, and even the process of returning “crappier in real life than it looked on my Retina Display iMac/iPhone/iPad” item as well. While you are at it, maybe you have some thoughts on the packaging too. If so, the good folks who supply online retailers with corrugated cartons of all shapes and sizes would sure appreciate hearing about it.
There is no doubt that technology has fostered this “connectivity” between consumer and service provider in a quite mind-boggling way. And that those service providers are not shy about exploiting it. Many times, we do not even realize just how much our thinking has changed on this issue….
As part of a nationwide tour, Above the Law is coming to the great city of Chicago.
Join preeminent law firm management consultant Bruce MacEwen, Katten Muchin Chicago managing partner Gil Sofer, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. assistant general counsel Jason Shaffer for a panel discussion (sponsored by Pangea3) on the evolutionary and market forces bearing down on the law firm business model. Come on by Thursday, November 20, at 6 p.m., for thought-provoking discussion, food, drink, and networking.
Space is limited and there will be no on-site registration, so please RSVP
Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.