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While it’s true that things have been spiraling downwards for law schools since the Great Recession, it wasn’t until 2011 that things really got out of hand. That was when the very first class action lawsuit about deceptive employment statistics was filed against the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Little did we know that it would prove to be a harbinger of doom for the school.

About a year ago, we brought our readers the sad news that TJSL had conducted faculty and staff layoffs in an effort to free up funds. Not only had it suffered a blow to its enrollment, but it was also struggling to pay off the $133 million debt it accumulated after opening its new campus building in 2011.

To make matters infinitely worse, in December 2013, Standard and Poor’s released news that it had downgraded the credit ratings of a slew of stand-alone law schools. TJSL was one of the downtrodden schools whose credit standing was downgraded to B+, junk bond status with a negative outlook.

Now, we’ve got news that could have disastrous effects for the law school. It seems that TJSL has defaulted on its bonds, and it may be unable to remain in operation due to its financial predicament…

Please note the UPDATE at the end of this post.

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Eric Winston

Eric Winston, the current president of the NFL Players Association, has had a busy past few weeks. In addition to working with the Players’ Union to negotiate a new drug policy, Winston has had to deal with rather unprecedented discipline situations surrounding Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, among others, not to mention the questions surrounding NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

But there’s a reason he was elected. Eric is incredibly intelligent and one of the more thoughtful interviewees in sports. Eric’s been nice enough to join me for a conversation about recent developments in collective bargaining, player discipline, and due process that will develop over the course of the next few days. Check back as our conversation develops…

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* Lawyer grabbing drinks in hotel bar accused of being a prostitute by security guards. In fairness, she probably said, “I bill out at $600/hour!” a little too loudly. [The Root]

* In finance, interns are only there for sex. Probably not how the law will see it. [Dealbreaker]

* Judge Kozinski found his way into another Atlas Shrugged movie. The true accomplishment of the mega-industrialists is funding two sequels of the first putridly reviewed movie. [Josh Blackman's Blog]

* Are you sick and tired of reading about the 10 books that your Facebook friends think will most impress you most influenced them? Here’s a much better question: the 10 Rock Songs that most influenced you… [What About Clients?]

* New Jersey has a new alimony law. So before you leave your wife for your goomah, check it out capische. [Larry the New Jersey Lawyer's Cogitations]

* Meant to write this up as a full post yesterday, but time got away from us. In any event, Geuaxjudge is Geauxone. Judge Michael Maggio, best known for launching racist and sexist comments about Charlize Theron’s adoption, has been fired by order of the Arkansas Supreme Court. [CNN]

* Following up on this afternoon’s piece about lawyering from home, maybe one overlooked factor is meeting your clients, at least once, in an office. [Law and More]

* This Friday, the CBLA and the Fordham IP Institute are hosting a visiting high-level legal delegation from China, including multiple judges from the Supreme Court of the PRC, multiple members of the Ministry of Commerce. If you’re interested, RSVP. [Chinese Business Lawyers Association]

There’s no Biglaw intercity rivalry which can match that of London’s venerable Magic Circle and New York’s elite white shoe firms. Both groups of firms are the clear alpha dogs in their markets, attracting the top talent and most lucrative clients. However, there are some significant differences between the two groups in how they operate. For example, U.K. firms tend to follow a lockstep (rather than “eat what you kill”) compensation model. Last month, friend of ATL Bruce MacEwen took a deep dive into the question of the relative performance over the last several years between the Magic Circle and their New York cousins. The piece is highly recommended: it’s chock-full of data and its findings suggest the groups are moving in different directions.

Using publicly reported data for the years 2008—2013, Bruce focused on such metrics as headcount, percentage of equity partners, PPP, RPL, and profit margin. The Magic Circle firms—Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, and Linklaters—are of course a well-defined group (Slaughter and May, the only member firm without a New York office, was excluded). For New York, these firms were selected as the comparison group on the basis of “historical roots, geographic footprints, and business models”:

Cleary Gottlieb
Davis Polk
Paul Weiss
Simpson Thacher
Sullivan & Cromwell, and
Weil Gotshal

One could query the absence of Cravath, Wachtell, Skadden, etc., and we refer you to Bruce’s piece for a fuller articulation of these choices. The U.S. market for the highest end legal services is much more fragmented and diffuse than its U.K. counterpart, and which precise group of firms is the closest equivalent to the Magic Circle is endlessly debatable. But for the purposes of this comparison this group will certainly serve.

So when we look at numbers, what do we find?

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Wonder what it’s like to be the only lawyer at a company? I certainly do. Especially on those dark, brooding, gloomy workdays involving the gnashing of teeth…let’s not go there. There’s not a lot of data about how many of these solo attorneys are out there (read: that’s not available for free on Google). But back in 2011, the Association of Corporate Counsel, Southern California Chapter, did take an in-house compensation survey, which indicated that nearly 30% of their membership is solo in-house counsel.

Inquiring minds wanted to know more. So I interviewed five attorneys whose jobs are to be the lonely voices of legal reason at their companies. They work in the following industries: industries consumer goods, supermarket, biotech, commercial interior design, and telecom.

Three of these lawyers found their jobs using traditional methods — one went through a recruiter, the second applied through an online job site, and the third went to work for a client of his law firm…

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It’s a nice contrast to practicing law. We’re making people happy. There’s nothing adversarial about baking.

Yael Krigman of Baked by Yael, a curator of cake pops who ships her goods nationwide. Krigman is a graduate of George Washington Law, who went on to work at White & Case before opening her baking business.

At some point, while stuck in an unending traffic jam or pressed up against the throngs of humanity in an unair-conditioned train, every lawyer contemplates working from home. And any lawyer with kids thinks about working from home about twice as often. Imagine the convenience of strolling down the hall to begin the workday, dressed in your finest “whatever was laying around,” and taking a break to read Above the Law without anyone being the wiser. Living the dream.

Unfortunately, this dream is beyond the grasp of most lawyers today. The staid legal industry expects lawyers in their offices near their colleagues, even though few tasks aren’t handled electronically — even when lawyers sit mere steps away.

Fair or not, lawyering from home raises eyebrows. “If you’re working from home, people tend to assume you’re either doing it because you’re good at what you do, so you can, or because you can’t make it anywhere else, so you have to. You want to brand yourself as the former.”

One would certainly hope so. How does a lawyer go about doing that?

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A former colleague told me he spent the first few years of his career as a “soldier” for one of the powerful partners at his firm, and was ultimately driven to jump laterally at least in part to get out from under the guy’s thumb. It turns out the use of the word “soldier” wasn’t strictly a military allusion, meant [semi-] humorously to connote mindless devotion, but was actually intended more in the Sopranos vein. Or so it seemed to me anyway. Note I’ve also cast an aspersion on fraternities here, unapologetically…

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In the not-so new normal, clients continue to refuse to pay full freight for inexperienced first-year attorneys to work on their legal matters — or, as one law firm recently mused, “client demand for first year associates has declined.”

What’s a Biglaw firm to do?

It seems that one firm has found a pretty good solution to this problem: make someone else hire those lawyers to work as junior in-house lawyers, and then bring them into the fold as associates after they’ve gained some real-world experience.

Which Biglaw firm has teamed up with a big bank — the biggest bank in the U.S. — for this program?

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Good news, another law school has cut its tuition. For all of the… creative ways some schools are trying to cope with decreasing law school applications, tuition cuts still seem like the only thing that is likely to help.

But even as some schools start to cut, you wonder if tuition can ever be rolled back to the point where law school is cost-effective for the current generation of prospective law students. Law schools have been raising tuition, every year, for decades. Is cutting tuition now just like putting on perfume instead of taking a shower?

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Look, e-discovery is not going away. Doc review (at least English language doc review) will never be high paying or sexy. But, as e-discovery becomes more and more prevalent, it will continue to become a larger part of the legal job market. So, how do you get out of the rut of sitting in a windowless room, making $10 an hour (or less), typing the date of each e-mail you read into the date field of your coding software? How about taking your knowledge of the front line ESI issues (document coding) and learn a little bit about managing ESI projects, starting with how to draft discovery? As we learned yesterday, ESI discovery can be tricky and employers mostly know that, so understanding the concepts behind it can help you move through your career.

Since Bryan Garner was just in my town last weekend, and I’ve been spending a lot of time drafting ESI discovery requests and dealing with  opposing counsel’s requests, I have been thinking a lot about drafting proper ESI discovery requests, including proper wording…

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At this stage of my career, I am pretty removed from the Biglaw associate recruiting scene. So I don’t know if firms have finished hiring their summer associates for summer 2015, or whether current 2Ls are evaluating offers and deciding which firm to join. While I was in Biglaw, I was very involved in supporting the recruiting department’s efforts, whether it was serving as a summer associate mentor or interviewing lateral candidates. So I know how seriously the process is taken by both Biglaw firms and the candidates.

As serious a business as recruiting is, however, it is often difficult for students and lateral candidates to distinguish between firms. Sure, enterprising law students and associates can study PPP or “prestige” charts in the American Lawyer or on Vault, or even take advantage of the vastly improved research tools for associates on sites like this one (including ATL’s law firm directory). Even more enterprising candidates will take advantage of their networks to solicit “real-world” feedback about the associate experience at firms from current and former employees of those firms. In sum, there is plenty of information, both collected and anecdotal, for young lawyers to consider when they are lucky and accomplished enough to have earned the right to choose between Biglaw firms vying for their services.

It is great that all this information is now available. But I think what younger lawyers would benefit from most is direction as to what information is worthy of focusing on, especially when making critical career decisions.

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