It’s fitting that we recently devoted space in these pages to a paralegal’s lament. This week, the last week in April, is Administrative Professionals Week. It’s a secular holiday devoted to recognizing the work of secretaries, legal assistants, receptionists, paralegals, and other administrative support personnel.
And today is the culmination of the week: Administrative Professionals’ Day. As Elie wrote a few years ago, today is “the official day on which you need to make a financial display of appreciation… but people are supposed to be nice to their secretaries for the entire year week.”
Lawyers, it’s not too late to get your assistant a card or a gift. If you’re on the West Coast, stop at a gift shop on your way into the office. If you’re on the East Coast, step out during your lunch break.
Let’s take this opportunity to reflect on the contributions of administrative professionals….
Thus far, the story of Dewey & LeBoeuf has been told primarily from the perspective of lawyers. On the whole, the coverage has been quite partner-focused, centered on which partners are defecting to which rival law firms. There has been somediscussion, but not a huge amount, of the plight of associates.
There has been even less discussion of the support staff. But if Dewey goes under, staffers will also lose their jobs. And in this day and age of law firms slashing staff, secretaries and paralegals may have a harder time finding new positions than attorneys.
Here is one paralegal’s perspective on what’s going on at D&L….
This is Elie Mystal, coming to you live from Austin, Texas, and the 2012 conference of the National Association of Law Placement. It’s my favorite annual conference, because every year, NALP just gets all the law school career services officers and all the law firm recruiters in a room, and tells them all the trends in legal hiring. We’re not talking about anecdotal evidence or law firm spin. It’s the one time each year we get to look at some hard numbers.
And in case you live under a rock, let me tell that every year since the recession, the numbers get more and more terrible. Looking at some of these statistics is as close as you can come to physically witnessing a dream die a horrible, mangled death.
This year, the numbers are worse than ever! And that’s the good news. NALP’s Executive Director, Jim Leipold, thinks that we’ve probably “hit the bottom” in terms of new associate hiring, with the class of 2011 suffering the absolute nadir of this process. While he doesn’t know if things will get significantly better any time soon, he figures they pretty much can’t get any worse.
When we last checked in with the support staff at the law firm of Elizabeth R. Wellborn P.A., we discovered that more than a dozen of them had been fired because they wore orange shirts to work. Their excuse: they all wore orange on payday so they’d look like a group when they met for happy hour. Management didn’t buy it — they thought that members of the support staff were protesting something, and fired them on the spot.
As one commenter on our last post on this issue intelligently noted, “CHECK YOU PERCEIVED CONCERTED ACTIVITY.” One week later, it’s been revealed that some of the support staff may have been protesting after all. Almost half of them have lawyered up. But what, exactly, were they protesting?
Yesterday in Morning Docket, we mentioned that more than a dozen law firm staffers in Florida had been fired because they wore orange shirts to work, but the tips kept rolling in. We’re going to give you what you want. Better late than never, right?
Given that orange is popping this spring in designers’ color palettes, people really want to know more about this apparent fashion “faux pas.” Because if looking like a walking traffic cone is wrong, then some people don’t want to be right.
But if it means that they’re going to get fired, then they might just reconsider staying on trend this season….
On January 26, we mentioned in Non-Sequiturs that Greg Kelly, the son of Ray Kelly, New York City’s police commissioner, had been accused of rape. Today, we have news that the popular television host has been cleared — he won’t even face charges.
When word of the rape accusation first hit the presses, all we knew was that it had allegedly taken place at a “lower Manhattan law firm.” Tipsters and commenters alike began to speculate about where the alleged rape could have happened. Which firm? Who was the accuser? Did they do it in a partner’s office?
Well, now we know the name of the accuser (and what she looks like), and the name of the “downtown law firm” where the alleged rape occurred.
Which downtown law firm could it be? Sullivan & Cromwell? Cleary Gottlieb? Milbank?
* Cooley Law’s Temple building in Lansing was evacuated due to smoke, but no fire. It was probably just all of the hot air the administrators blow up students’ asses about their employment prospects. [MLive.com]
* This has got to be some kind of a first. Crawford Shaw, a lawyer, is withdrawing a client’s claim to a multi-million dollar lottery ticket because he can’t be bothered to argue about it. [Reuters]
* I’m going to Disney World prison! Bonnie Sweeten, the paralegal who faked her own abduction, has been sentenced to eight years for stealing more than $1M (half of which came from her law firm). [Daily Mail]
Here at Above the Law, we spend a lot of time talking about bonuses to associates working in Biglaw firms. As you might have noticed from our bonus coverage over the past month or so, the size of these payouts is underwhelming to many who are receiving them.
But that coverage only deals with those few, those happy few, who are lucky enough to receive any type of bonus whatsoever. For many in and around Biglaw, their bonus this year will be $0. Their spring bonus will not exist. And they won’t even have Cravath to blame for it.
We’re talking about paralegals. We’re talking about secretaries. We’re talking about government lawyers and law clerks and a bunch of other people who worked really hard in 2011 and might get no bonus at all.
Over the weekend, I had dinner with a friend of mine who used to work as a paralegal at a small law firm. She told me about how one year, for the holidays, all the lawyers chipped in to get her a gift certificate to a spa, so she could get herself a massage.
I said it sounded like a nice gesture. This was not the reaction my friend was going for in telling the story; she viewed the gift as an insult. Her view: Christmastime is the time to show me the money.
I can understand that perspective for secretaries or administrative assistants. As we’ve discussed before, if you’re an attorney you should give your secretary a holiday gift that’s either cash or a cash equivalent (like an AmEx or Visa gift card). As a legal secretary once told us, “if you decide on giving gift certificates [to specific stores], I sincerely hope your next bonus will be paid in the same currency.”
But paralegals, at least at large firms — my friend who got the massage certificate worked at a small firm — are a trickier proposition. Over the course of a year in Biglaw, a lawyer might work with many different paralegals, on a wide range of matters. Are you expected to give gifts to all of them?
So what should a lawyer do with respect to holiday gifts for paralegals? And, of course, what’s the “going rate” for holiday gifts for secretaries in 2011?
Let’s conduct some reader polls, and open up the comments for discussion….
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!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.