Ed. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.
Jay Edelson is the founder and managing partner of Edelson LLC, a national consumer class action firm. Edelson LLC focuses on consumer technology, privacy, and banking litigation, and has secured settlements valued at over $1 billion in the last five years. Jay also serves as an adjunct professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he teaches class actions and negotiations. The American Bar Association has called him one of the “most creative minds in the legal profession” for his views on associate training and firm management.
1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?
It’s one of the things that separates professionals, who exhibit the essence of a professional, from those who are in a profession, but have the reputation of “being all over the place.” This can be the result of having a practice where organization takes a back seat to being busy, or having a life where there’s just too much going on – too many cases, as well as too many committees, too many networking events, too much going on at home – no ability to cut out the things that need to be cut.
There is that phrase that “it doesn’t matter what happens to you, but how you react.” In other words, life either happens to you, or you control it to the best of your ability. As you go through life, especially as a lawyer, saying “yes” becomes routine. “Yes” I’ll take that case pro bono, “yes” I’ll help organize that CLE, “yes” I’ll serve in a leadership position, “yes” I’ll coach Little League. There are only so many hours in a day, yet we as lawyers are routinely finding ourselves overcommitted to both professional and community endeavors. We’ll say “no” next time, or resign from that committee in a few months….
Tied up in the office? You might as well make the most of it.
As the old saying goes, time is money. And in the land of law firms, where the billable hour is king, the saying is literally true. The pressure to churn that bill, baby rack up thousands and thousands of hours is one of the toughest aspects of legal practice. It drives lawyers towards drink and away from their families. (See reasons #7 and #8 of the 10 Reasons To Leave Biglaw.)
But what if you have the opposite problem? In some ways, not having enough in terms of billable hours is worse than having too much. If you’re billing, say, 75 hours a month as an associate, you could find yourself in the breadline before too long. (Partners have more leeway, but even they are hungry for hours nowadays.)
If you’re stuck in the office with nothing to do — and this applies not just to lawyers but to support staff, who are getting laid off partly because there’s not enough for them to do — how should you pass the hours? Here are seven suggestions….
There is not nor probably will there ever be a definitive novel or film depicting the law firm experience. Law firm lawyers viewing The Firm or Michael Clayton or Ally McBeal are not going to identify with what they see on the screen. Novels like The Partner Track by Helen Wan or Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman might be the closest thing (affiliate links).
A truly realistic portrayal of that particular white-collar salt mine would surely be too boring for the public. On the other hand, the comments from the ATL Insider Survey (14,000 responses and counting; thanks everyone) constitute a sort of undistilled document of the Biglaw hive mind. So what do we hear from this depressing, inspiring, contradictory chorus of lawyerly voices?
The ATL Insider Survey asks practicing lawyers to evaluate their employer in terms of compensation, training, culture and colleagues, firm morale, and hours. The survey also asks, “What would be useful or interesting for a law student or potential lateral to know about your firm?”
Reading through all the responses to this question, a handful of recurrent themes emerge….
When the iPad came out, legal technologists did what they always do to try and appear relevant — they went crazy. If you don’t read anything written by legal technologists, let me summarize: 1. New shiny toy or software or app comes out; and 2. Legal technologist feverishly writes that it’s a “game changer” for lawyers.
Although anytime a new Apple product comes out it creates a feverish vibe, bringing unemployed lawyers and other Mommy’s-basement-dwellers and their lawn chairs and tents to Apple Stores everywhere, the iPad, nothing more than a big iPhone, was different. Books would be written, and CLE seminars for which no state Bar would ever consider giving CLE credits — “iPad for Lawyers,” or “How Lawyers Can Use an iPad,” or “Using the IPad, for Lawyers” — sprouted up all over the country. We were all told we had to have one because… because.
I, hoping it wasn’t true that the legal technologists trying hard to find a way to make a living telling everyone that law practices would “die” without one, ignored the hype and continued to try and get by with a laptop. I first saw an iPad in court when a lawyer showed me his and said, “Look, you can watch movies on it.” Having never had the thought of watching a movie in court, I didn’t see the urgency to get one, plus, of course, I hate technology. Hate it.
Three years and a couple hundred clients later, I asked my daughter if the iPad 2 sitting in her room collecting dust was available for Daddy to use. It was time to see the miracles that would come my way by carrying around a big iPhone with a pink cover…
* U. Penn. Law doesn’t need to toot its own horn about kicking off its visiting jurist program with a Supreme Court justice — we’ll do it on the school’s behalf: toot f-ing toot for Justice Kennedy. [National Law Journal]
* President Obama nominated former OLC attorney and current HLS professor David Barron for a First Circuit vacancy, and a Western New England alum for a district court judgeship. Congrats! [Boston Globe]
* The Senate confirmed Todd Hughes for a seat on the Federal Circuit without any opposition. This is what progress looks like: Hughes will be the first openly gay federal appellate judge in U.S. history. [BuzzFeed]
* Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is pretty pissed that federal budget issues are allowing his office to get outgunned by wealthy financial firms. [DealBook / New York Times]
* “It seems a very coordinated effort of smugness.” As we reported previously, lawyers from the small firm representing Michael Jackson’s family think O’Melveny & Myers is full of d-bags. [Los Angeles Times]
* Sorry, but you can’t bang your clients. Well, that’s not completely true. You can bang your clients, but you have to bang them before there’s a legal relationship to keep banging them ethically. [Daily Report]
In our last story about Alexandra Marchuk’s lawsuit against Faruqi & Faruqi and one of its top partners, Juan Monteverde, we noted the acrimonious nature of the dispute: “The case just seems so heated and so personal, and both parties are litigating it in a no-holds-barred style.”
When we last checked in on the case, Marchuk’s lawyers announced their intent to seek sanctions against the defendants. The basis for that move: the defendants’ counterclaims against Marchuk, alleging that she defamed the defendants by creating or helping to create an anonymous Gmail account that was used to disseminate her lawsuit over email. Marchuk’s lawyers denied that their client emailed her complaint around and said that they would seek sanctions from the defendants for the “frivolous and abusive” counterclaims — which sought a whopping $15 million from Marchuk.
Until now, the stakes have only gotten higher and higher. But today brings word of a possible de-escalation in this hard-fought battle….
I was raised to never hit a girl. I was raised at a time when you had no concept of a girl doing that. In the 1950s, girls didn’t snatch purses. They wore petticoats.
– Jonathan Damon, a Michigan lawyer, in remarks made after subduing Mikayla Danielle Hull, an alleged purse snatcher. During the course of the struggle, thinking that Hull was a man, Damon punched her in the face repeatedly after she bit his wrist, breaking the skin. Damon will not be charged for hitting Hull.
(Want to see the video of this lawyer’s heroics? We’ve got it, after the jump.)
The news continues to be bad for the impatient “just get me on the internet” types regarding the development of relationships. Regardless of how many times your name appears on the first page of Google, developing meaningful professional relationships still takes time, and it always will. Sorry.
I recently read of a lawyer who closed up shop, a prominent reason being that after dropping from the first page to fourth page of Google, “the phone stopped ringing.” Google doesn’t develop relationships that bring referrals. Some learn that that hard way.
I spoke at a local breakfast last week. It was a kick-off of a new chapter of a monthly “lawyers” group. There were 20 lawyers. One guy was in his 70s and is now of counsel to a firm after a long career, another just graduated law school and drove two hours to meet some Miami lawyers. Not sure why he drove so far to meet lawyers instead of sitting at home and poking around on LinkedIn. Anyway, a few said they were with firms I knew, and there were a bunch of solo practitioners, some just a few years in, and others who have been at it for a while.
I know, you’re thinking, “Sounds like BNI.” Kind of, but BNI is weekly, and not limited to lawyers.
As this was the first meeting of the second local chapter, everyone was there to check it out, to decide whether they would attend a second meeting. After going around the room and introducing themselves to each other, and then ending the meeting by walking around and exchanging business cards and “do you know so and so…” some will apply, while others will see getting up for a 7:30 a.m. breakfast once a month as the most awful thing they could think of and never come back.
The host of the meeting said something that may cause some not to return: “No one in this room is required to refer clients to each other.”
Wait, what? You can’t just sit there, eat eggs, and the cases will come?
Business development sometimes seems like an impossible task. Winning new clients, or generating new business from existing clients, isn’t easy. If you doubt this, check out in-house columnist Mark Herrmann’s excellent column, Nothing You Can Say Can Cause Me To Retain You (explaining all the strategies for trying to obtain his business that won’t work). The challenge of getting new clients explains why so many firms resort to effectively trying to buy clients, by luring lateral partners and hoping their books of business come with them.
But still, every now and then a law firm does get hired by a new client. And every now and then a law firm gets fired by an existing or even longstanding client (even though it’s not easy to displace incumbent counsel, especially if they’re decent).
Why do clients hire and fire their outside counsel? A new survey offers some answers….
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 six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
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