Real Estate

When I started my law firm twenty years ago, there were just five things that I knew.

I knew I didn’t have any clients. I knew that my husband and I could scarcely afford the loss of my paycheck, let alone come up capital for me to invest in my practice. I knew that I was way too mortified at having been laid off from my former firm to share the real reason for starting my own firm.  I knew that when I finally opened for business, in truth, I was just putting on a game face every day, biding my time until something else came along or until I got pregnant and could, like some of my other law school classmates, gracefully exit the law.  But I also knew, somewhere deep down, that I had it in me to be a good lawyer.

Those five things are all that I knew for sure when I started my law firm. Clearly I had a lot to learn.  And while there was plenty of information on the black-letter, nuts-and-bolts aspects of starting a firm, the kind of advice that I really wanted to know to jump-start my practice — specifically, whether the solo option was actually feasible — was in short supply.  Moreover, as an attorney with a traditionally big-firm practice (energy regulatory law and litigation), I was even worse off because attorneys familiar with my field and doing what I hoped to were particularly rare.

So to spare those of you starting out from what I went through, here are five things that I wish someone would have told me when I started out:

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Let’s play a game of law firm word association. What words come to mind when I say Skadden Arps?

Prestigious? Yes.

Profitable? Definitely.

Sweatshop? Perhaps; some sources say the hours can be “long and unpredictable.”

Funky?

Yes, you heard me: funky….

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The court will not countenance the gross overreaching evidenced under the facts and circumstances of this case in which the client is not even being billed for legal services. To move any court to put its imprimatur of approval on such practices is simply intolerable.

– Judge Frank Nervo, denying a Biglaw firm’s request for more than $126,000 in attorneys’ fees in a lawsuit over a $6,400 security deposit. Judge Nervo added that the firm spent “a grossly unnecessary amount of time” on simple tasks, including “research on the most basic and banal legal principles.”

(Which firm was on the receiving end of this benchslap? Find out after the jump, where we’ve posted the full opinion.)

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[T]he defendant’s practice basically consisted of him showing up at the office every now and again to do a closing and then leaving to go drinking or sleep with his paralegal. You can’t do $33 million in business in real estate closings if that’s what your practice consists of.

– Rhode Island Assistant Attorney General Ron Gendron, commenting on former state Sen. Patrick Timothy McDonald’s conviction for conspiring with his paralegal and sometimes mistress, Kimberly Porter, to embezzle more than $160,000 from his real estate clients.

Let’s play the game where we spot unenforceable contractual clauses and laugh at people who are afraid of modernity.

Actually, let’s play the game where we marvel at how good it must be to be a university president, even at a small school that most people have never heard of. Then we can imagine all the personal freedoms we’d willingly give up if we could in order to have such a life. Because I can think of a number of unmarried women who would cede control of their bedroom to the state in order to have such a sweet job….

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I like to say we traded in an old Camry for a new Mercedes, and the Mercedes is cheaper.

Paul Thompson, partner-in-charge of McDermott Will & Emery’s office in Washington, D.C., joking about the firm’s new office space. MWE’s D.C. office recently downsized from 189,000 to 165,000 square feet in real estate.

‘They showed me the money, Xenu!’

* Judge Richard Leon’s decision in the NSA surveillance case is ripe for review by the D.C. Circuit, and given the court’s new make-up, we could see a very interesting result. Oh, to be an NSA agent listening in on those calls. [National Law Journal]

* With seven business days left until 2014, law firms all around the country are still desperately trying to get paid. Lawyers are working hard for the money — 83.5 cents to the dollar — so you better treat them right. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Who you gonna call? Your local bankruptcy attorney. Alston & Bird, currently housed in Heller’s old digs in Silicon Valley, will head to a new office whose former occupants include Dewey, and Howrey, and Brobeck, oh my! [Am Law Daily]

* Four were arrested in the tragic murder of attorney Dustin Friedland, and each is being held on $2 million bond. One of the alleged assailants has a history of putting guns to other people’s heads. [NJ Star-Ledger]

* “I think it would be wise for the NCAA to settle this now.” Thanks to the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, the world of college sports will be forever changed, so all those video games you’ve got are now antiques. [CNBC]

* Tom Cruise settled his defamation lawsuit against a tabloid publisher over claims that he’d abandoned his daughter during the pendency of his divorce proceedings. Xenu is pleased by this announcement. [CNN]

Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnist, Gaston Kroub of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique here in New York. He’s writing about leaving a Biglaw partnership to start his own firm.

When you work in Biglaw, you are pretty much assured you will have a nice office to go to everyday. Of course, you are also expected to spend the vast majority of your waking hours in that office, particularly as an associate.

My personal Biglaw experience when it came to offices was probably the norm. When I started at Greenberg Traurig, the IP department was located just above some of Bernie Madoff’s offices in the Lipstick Building on Third Avenue in Manhattan. A few years in, we joined the rest of the firm within the MetLife (former Pan Am) Building right over Grand Central. In the summers, and after the partners I worked with relocated more frequently depending on our case load, I would spend time working out of Greenberg’s New Jersey office. While not Manhattan, that office had nice suburban views and was easily accessible off the highway. And when I lateraled to Locke Lord, I got to enjoy a very easy commute from Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan, and some beautiful views from my office of the Hudson River and New York Harbor.

Biglaw does office space right. In some respects, though, that is changing….

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Stanley B. Stallworth

The allegation is completely unfounded, and we look forward to defending vigorously Stan’s good name and reputation. Stan is a pillar of the community, and he has tirelessly worked on behalf of young people for the past 25 years.

– The Stallworth family, in a statement issued to Am Law Daily regarding the sexual assault charges filed against Stanley Stallworth, a real estate partner in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin, and his nephew, Therrie Miller.

(The full statement and additional commentary, after the jump.)

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* Stan Stallworth, the Sidley partner accused of sexual assault, has hired a prominent criminal defense attorney to represent him in the case while the firm stands by its man. [Am Law Daily]

* Wall Street regulators are considering approval of a formidable version of the Volcker Rule that would ban banks from proprietary trading. Voting occurs later today. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Skadden Arps has asked a judge to toss an FLSA lawsuit filed against the firm by one of its document reviewers. Aww, silly contract attorney — there’s no way you’re getting overtime pay. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* Weil Gotshal is still leaking like a sieve. This time, Bruce Colbath, a partner from the firm’s New York office, defected to the Antitrust and Trade Regulation practice group at Sheppard Mullin. [Market Wired]

* Lawyerly Lairs, China Edition: Raymond Li, chair of the Greater China practice at Paul Hastings, just purchased a townhouse for about $95 million — and paid “mostly in cash,” homie. [Wall Street Journal]

* They’re extremely tardy to the party, but if the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar gets its way, law schools will be subject to random audits of their employment stats. [ABA Journal]

* It’s a tough job that “can really beat you down,” but an organization called Gideon’s Promise just made it a whole lot easier for law students to secure jobs as public defenders in the South. [National Law Journal]

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