Rankings

‘I never look at those rankings.’

* Hey, “regular students” with “regular backgrounds,” you may be able to get a job as a SCOTUS clerk, because Justice Clarence Thomas is the Supreme Court’s honey badger in that he doesn’t give a sh*t about rankings. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

* Because $1.05 bill wasn’t quite enough, Apple is asking for additional damages in its patent war lawsuit against Samsung. Ohh, come on, Judge Koh, it’s just an extra $535 million. Everyone else is doing it, come on. Just give us the money. [Bloomberg]

* The D.C. Circuit suit about White House visitor logs is kind of like a recurring issue we see with law schools, in that transparency here means “[w]e will disclose what records we want you to see.” [National Law Journal]

* Skadden is teaming up with local legal aid groups to start a pro bono initiative in D.C. We hear they’ll be handing out gift cards as a show of appreciation to those who sign up. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* Sumner Redstone recently donated $18M to BU Law. Will his successor be as charitable? From Columbia Law to Shearman & Sterling to media mogul: meet Philippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom. [New York Times]

* “The employment statistics really are the collective impact of individual choices.” And one of them was attending law school anyway, despite all of the negative media attention they’ve received. [Cincinnati Enquirer]

* Remember the Harvard Law student who ran for Student Government President and pledged to resign after rewriting the organization’s constitution? Well, he graduated, but at least he got a draft in. [Harvard Crimson]

If you were a billionaire, you could sleep on a pile of these.

For whatever reason, this week has been heavy on stories about money. We’ve written about starting salaries for law firm associates, average pay packages for partners, and which countries have the highest paid lawyers.

So let’s stick with the theme. Today let’s take a look at the richest lawyers — or, to be more precise, the richest law school graduates — in America. (As we noted last year, many of these moguls never practiced law, or practiced only briefly, before making their fortunes in business.)

Our friends over at Forbes just released the Forbes 400, their annual ranking of the 400 wealthiest Americans. As in years past, the list contains a number of lawyers and law-degree holders. How many?

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Sneaking…

Recently, I was talking to the managing partner of a top, global law firm about our new Career Center, and mentioned that Above the Law readers would be filling out surveys to rate their firms. I mistakenly gave him the impression that somehow the firm would have to be involved in distributing and collecting the surveys (they are not). When he thought that I was asking him for that, his eyes turned a demon shade of red, his hair stood on end, and he bellowed, “Not another survey,” as the earth quaked.

I might be exaggerating slightly, but you get the point. Law firms are inundated with surveys to fill out. Am Law this, Vault that. Super Duper Lawyers of Jurisprudential Awesomeness. Most of the information we have about law firms come from self-reported sources.

Of course, law school deans have taught us a thing or two about relying on self-reported data. Some of the rules can be bent, others broken. Considering the fact that the American Bar Association can’t even make sure that its member institutions tell it the truth, you can best believe that some Biglaw firms have become very skilled at massaging the surveys that they do get.

They don’t lie, but firms can be very tricksy….

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Professor John C. Yoo

Some liberals view Professor John Yoo as a sadist. They cite Professor Yoo’s involvement in the so-called “torture memos” during his time as a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

But I think Professor Yoo is a masochist. Only a masochist would try to develop a citation-based system for ranking the relevance of law professors.

Relevant law professors? Yes, they exist!

Let’s learn about Professor Yoo’s ranking system and see who comes out on top. An added bonus: he also has a list of the top 50 most efficient law professors. Yes, law professors are efficient too!

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Less ‘mentally taxing’ than social events?

Things have definitely changed since the summer associate days of yore. There are no more Aquagirls, no more lesbianic lip-locks, and no more Katten kreeps. These days, we’re looking at a group of law students who were so scared about being no-offered that they actually wished their firms would’ve worked them harder instead of forcing them to have mandatory fun.

At least that seems to be the conclusion to be drawn from the American Lawyer’s 2012 Summer Associate Survey. Am Law polled 4,138 interns at 138 firms about their summer experiences and used the results to rank 111 summer programs. Truth be told, it seems like they were too anxious to really enjoy their time as summers, because when asked to rank their “worry level” on a 1-to-5 scale, the average was higher than it has been since 2009′s summer of discontent.

But even so, the overall rankings were still pretty good. If you’re a law student trying to figure out where to spend your summer, you’re probably asking: which law firms came out with the highest scores?

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If you take the blue pill, you wake up in law school and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you keep reading Above the Law, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Apparently no one can be told what law school is. You have to make the mistake yourself.

The ability to learn from other people’s mistakes is a mark of intelligence, but it’s not a skill shared by your average prospective law student. Despite an internet full of information, they continue to make the same mistakes when it comes to choosing a law school.

The fact that prospective law students quickly learn the error of their ways when they become actual law students only seems to emphasize their failure. By January, I’ll start getting the first emails from 1Ls saying, “I wish I had read you before I decided to go to law school.” By springtime, people who shouldn’t have started in the first place will be asking me whether they should drop out. By the time people graduate, they’ll be experts on all the things they should’ve thought about before matriculating to law school.

Kaplan actually has a new study out that confirms this obvious reality….

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Biglaw litigators are to be feared in general, but certain Biglaw litigation departments strike fear into the hearts of their opponents like no others. BTI Consulting Group recently polled 240 in-house lawyers to determine which Biglaw firms they dread “see[ing] as lead opposing counsel in a litigation case.” Each year, after culling through all of the survey results, BTI names the “Fearsome Foursome” — the most-feared litigation firms in the country.

This year, while two litigation powerhouses remained on the list, two prominent Biglaw firms were edged out by other worthy victors. Another 15 firms were honored as “Awesome Opponents.”

So which Biglaw firms are the most feared when it comes to litigation? Let’s check out the latest rankings….

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The annual Am Law midlevel associate survey came out yesterday, and for the first time in years, satisfaction among third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates seems to be up across the board. According to Am Law, this year’s average score across all firms was the highest it’s been since at least 2004.

But, as with all things in Biglaw, their happiness is relative. After all, these are the people who survived the worst of the layoffs, and the lucky few who managed to get a foot in the door during a time of reduced new associate hiring. Above all, these are the people who must be thanking their lucky stars that they weren’t midlevels at Dewey & LeBoeuf. They may have been working extremely hard on cases that were understaffed, but at least they were working.

Last year, my colleague Elie Mystal noted that the midlevels who were whining about their unhappiness were “missing the big picture” — that they’d be making serious bank for the rest of their lives if they remained in Biglaw. Given the results of this year’s survey, perhaps these midlevels have come to that very realization….

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Who is the Godzilla of law firms?

A few weeks from now — in October, to be more precise — the American Lawyer will announce the Global 100. This is Am Law’s list of the world’s 100 largest law firms, ranked by total revenue.

As a teaser of sorts, the magazine just revealed which firm will sit atop the 2012 rankings. Can you guess which one?

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The law firm cafeteria is something of an anachronism. Having a large company mess hall where associates can grab a bite to eat without taking too much time to get lunch isn’t really necessary anymore. Nobody takes a “lunch hour” anymore. Associates can use Seamless and eat at their desks.

And we know partners aren’t eating in the firm cafeteria unless they are 80 years old and too busy to head to Peter Luger’s. No law firm cafeteria is nice enough to bring a client to; that’s why God created expense accounts.

But the cafeteria is still useful for secretaries and paralegals. At my old firm, the cafeteria was a great place to grab breakfast. At Debevoise, the cafeteria enjoys the best views of the block. We used to bring lawyers from Schulte Roth, which is housed on the lower floors at 919 Third Avenue, to show them our view (and to console them while they cried).

The point is, even as the Biglaw cafeteria has diminished relevance given our modern conveniences, you don’t want your firm perk to be disgusting. Last March, we learned that a number of Biglaw firms had received poor grades from the New York City Department of Health about the quality of their in-house cafeterias.

But it appears that Cravath’s food fortunes have significantly improved…

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