Rankings

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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Ed. note: This is the second column by Anonymous Partner based on his interview of a more-senior partner, “Old School Partner” (“OSP”). You can read the first column in the series here.

“It was a nice profession,” Old School Partner told me, especially for a senior partner at a white-shoe firm. Collegiality, interesting work, and a good living were his. Despite occasional internal dust-ups about compensation within the partnership, partners were generally content with what they were making.

But things were about to change, and what had been a guarded and close-knit segment of the legal profession was soon thrust into an unwanted spotlight. It was a “watershed” moment for partners.

The “watershed” that mucked things up? The launch of American Lawyer magazine….

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Who wants to do some document review?

We’re entering on-campus interviewing season. If you’re a law student going through OCI, or if you’re a lawyer involved in your firm’s recruiting process, be sure to check out Above the Law’s new law student career center, a repository job search resources, and our law firm directory, where law firms get letter grades in different categories.

One area that interviewees are always interested in is diversity. Diverse attorneys — okay, that’s a bad way of putting it — minority attorneys want to know where they’ll feel welcome. Even lawyers who aren’t minorities want workplaces that are open and inclusive. And corporate clients are increasingly keen on sending their work to firms that show a commitment to diversity.

So which Biglaw firms are the biggest on diversity? Let’s check out the latest rankings….

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Bob Morse

The main audience of the U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings is not meant to be law schools or law school deans—and the rankings should not be a management tool that law school administrators use as the basis for proving that their school is improving or declining. The rankings are produced primarily for prospective students as one tool to help them determine the relative merits between schools they are considering.

Bob Morse, rankings czar of U.S. News and World Report, commenting on a critique of the rankings found in Professor Brian Tamanaha’s book, Failing Law Schools (affiliate link). Professor Tamanaha argues that the U.S. News rankings fuel unhealthy competition between schools.

Illinois College of Law

Well, it’s not like the Penn State sanctions. But it’s not like the University of Illinois College of Law was covering up a Jerry Sandusky. The school was inflating the LSAT scores it reported to the American Bar Association.

Today the ABA fined Illinois Law $250,000. The ABA also censured the law school.

The Chicago Tribune reports that this is the first time the ABA has fined a law school for inaccurate consumer information. I guess that’s a step in the right direction. Still, considering the average salary for an Illinois College of Law full professor is $194,624, it’s hard to see the fine meaning very much to the school’s operations…

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Last year, all things considered, wasn’t a bad year for Biglaw. The law firms of the Am Law 100, for example, experienced decent growth. In 2011, for the Am Law 100 as a whole, gross revenue grew by 5.3 percent, revenue per lawyer grew by 1.9 percent, and profits per partner grew by 3 percent. It was a perfectly fine year for partners.

How did their counterparts on the corporate side fare? Alas, not as well, according to Corporate Counsel’s latest compensation survey of the nation’s general counsel. Base pay for GCs in the survey declined by 1.8 percent, to an average of $611,411. Bonuses and nonequity incentive pay slid by an even larger number, 7.7 percent, to an average of $1,125,458. Meanwhile, in terms of non-cash compensation, the average stock award fell by 10.8 percent, to $1,426,325, and the average stock option award dropped by a whopping 18.7 percent, to $732,453.

These are just the top-line figures — which, of course, conceal a lot of individual variability. Let’s take a look at some specific names and numbers, as well as the top ten highest-paid general counsel….

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Which law firms are the best law firms to work for? The ones that pay salaries (ideally in excess of $10,000 a year). In a still-challenging job market, law students and young lawyers will generally work for whichever law firm will have them.

But some prospective employees of Biglaw have the luxury of choosing between multiple employers. And for these privileged and talented few, things like quality of life — to the extent that one can have a quality of life, or a life at all, while toiling away at a top firm — do matter.

Last month, our friends at Vault issued their closely watched Vault 100 rankings, ordering the nation’s major law firms by perceived prestige. Now they’ve followed them up with their annual “quality of life” rankings, expressed as a list of the best law firms to work for.

Which firms made the top ten?

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