Paralegals

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 some discussion, 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….

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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.

Yay!

Does anybody want to hear the bad news?

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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?

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Which t-shirt will get you fired?

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….

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We know how you love blind items. And we know how you enjoy potty humor. So let’s mash up these two categories, to generate a Biglaw bathroom blind item.

If you dislike frivolous fare or if you have delicate sensibilities, please stop reading here. Otherwise, you may proceed….

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Greg Kelly

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?

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* The people at the Department of Justice really don’t want you to see Osama bin Laden’s death photos, but don’t they realize that the internet needs pics or it didn’t happen? [Blog of Legal Times]

* Déjà vu: Hustler Magazine’s nude photo spread of Nancy Benoit was back on the Eleventh Circuit’s docket this week. The porn purveyors face damages of $0, $250K, or $19.6M — what’ll it be? [ABC News]

* Poor Justice Clarence Thomas. He used to be such a “lonely kid.” Maybe that’s why he doesn’t talk much at SCOTUS these days, but he gives beautiful speeches outside the courtroom. [Worcester Telegram & Gazette]

* 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]

Your bonus is freedom.

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.

We feel your pain….

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'Who needs cash? We have these nifty red hats!'

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….

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New course offering at Miami area law schools.

Many of you will be outraged by this story, and many more of you will pretend to be outraged by this story if it comes up in front of your wife or girlfriend. And the story is outrageous. It’s sexist and clearly unethical.

But… doesn’t hiring strippers to pose as paralegals and then sending them into jail to “service” your defendants / clients sound like the most natural business strategy in the world? Supply, meet some serious demand.

Hey, rich corporate clients get this treatment all the time. I don’t just mean that figuratively. I’m sure that there have been lawyers who literally brought their clients to a strip club after they closed the deal on their representation. We all know that firms put the prettiest secretaries on the floors clients see, while the floors with associates who share offices are staffed by hagravens. T&A has been used to secure clients probably since we moved out of the state of nature.

Lawyers in the great city of Miami are just taking this natural service and extending to to criminal defendants. What’s so wrong with that?

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