For the past seven years, the National Association of Women Lawyers has tracked women’s progress at the 200 largest firms in the nation by comparing their careers and compensation with similarly situated men. And for the past seven years, reading NAWL’s report has been like drinking a fifth of gin, and then watching Requiem For A Dream: it’s really freaking depressing.
For every two steps forward the legal industry takes, female attorneys seem to move two steps back. Despite Biglaw firms’ purported support for gender equity, women just aren’t achieving the same success as their male peers, either economically or in terms of attaining leadership roles. From associates to partners, women are always left holding the bag.
With that backdrop, let’s check out the excruciatingly discouraging news for women in Biglaw….
Litigation against law firms: it’s all the rage right now. Earlier this week, Sara Randazzo of Am Law Daily did a round-up of over a dozen lawsuits in which law firms have been named as defendants.
Such lawsuits come, and such lawsuits go. Let’s look at the “going” side of the ledger. A federal judge just dismissed the high-profile lawsuit filed by Yolanda Young — a pundit, published memoirist (affiliate link), and Georgetown-trained lawyer, as noted on her website bio — against the elite D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling….
I’m starting to think that staff attorneys are being discriminated against because they are staff attorneys.
Today Thomson Reuters reports that a racial discrimination lawsuit has been filed against Quinn Emanuel by a former staff attorney. The plaintiff, who is African-American, claims that she was given less desirable work than her white colleagues and that she was forced to work with a person she “feared,” as retaliation for complaining about her treatment at the firm.
I’m not sure if racism really fits into Quinn’s work hard/play hard firm culture. I feel like the only color Quinn cares about is green, as in, “You’ve billed a ton of hours today despite being all kinds of hungover, I think you’re turning green”….
Ed. note: Gabe Acevedo will be covering LegalTech for Above the Law this year. If you are interested in communicating with someone from ATL about LegalTech coverage, please contact Gabe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
The pregame show for LegalTech New York 2011 has been in full swing the last few weeks. Vendors and their PR reps have been constantly reaching out via emails, text messages, phone calls, and smoke signals, to contact industry experts, “thought leaders,” law firm decision makers, members of the media, and, perhaps most importantly, knuckleheads like me. All are doing their best to generate “buzz” before they announce their new products, alliances, services — fill in the blank as you see fit — at the conference.
Don’t get me wrong; I am sure Gabriel Buigas will give an excellent speech. But the real action will begin at 10 AM, when the doors to the exhibit hall open. That is when all hell breaks loose, and hundreds of technology vendors will be eagerly waiting to share with you the great news about their respective companies.
With that as a backdrop, here is some of what I expect to see at this year’s LegalTech….
Ed. note: Gabe Acevedo will be covering LegalTech for Above the Law this year. If you are interested in communicating with someone from ATL about LegalTech coverage, please contact Gabe at email@example.com. Thanks.
It seems that judges are no longer afraid to unleash the power of the gavel when it comes to e-discovery violations.
I like paying attention to what consultants say about the Biglaw market. It offers a fun little insight into what people think partners want to hear.
The ABA Journal reports that consultants at Hildebrandt think partners want to hear that they can still fire people — lots of people:
Writing for the blog of law firm consultant Hildebrandt, Lisa Smith makes an argument that outsourcing, efficiencies and increased hiring of staff attorneys could mean a different mix of staff and associate lawyers—and an overall reduction in head count in the next five to seven years.
Hilderbrandt expects an overall reduction of headcount of 17,500. But not partners! Just associates and staff attorneys…
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but the National Law Journal reports that partners are successfully hanging onto their jobs despite this recession.
Associates and “other attorneys” are not:
Law firms since 2005 had increased the number of “other” attorneys — a category comprising counsel, of counsel, senior counsel and staff attorneys — to help handle boom-time business.
But in 2009, they cut about 10% of those attorneys, for a loss of 1,113 lawyers. By comparison, NLJ 250 firms shed 8.7% of associates in 2009. This year, 46 “other” attorneys worked at the average NLJ 250 firm, compared to 50 the year before.
Yeah, it is not a good time to be an expensive senior counsel or of counsel that doesn’t bring in business. On the bright side, at least senior attorneys and counsel have a career track record they can market if they have been laid off.
Staff attorneys cannot say the same thing. Their troubles have been well documented. Staff attorney programs getting pinched because of the recession generally. And the increased reliance on outsourcing is a double whammy to staff attorney job security.
But after the jump, the NLJ reports that partners appear to be safe.
One casualty of the economic recession could well be the position of “staff attorney.” We’ve reported that Skadden and Covington & Burling have had major cuts to their staff attorney programs. Above the Law is now able to report that similar reductions have happened at Paul Weiss. Sources report that at least a dozen staff attorneys have been let go by Paul Weiss over the past couple of months. UPDATE: We are now hearing reports that the number is significantly higher than a dozen, perhaps as high as 45 (since November 2008). “This can all be confirmed by the lawyer lists that are sent out at the start of each month,” said our source.
A tipster puts it this way:
PW has sneakily let go [a number of] staff attorneys. There have been … cuts in the past few months and it is getting more steady and consistent in the last few weeks. They are letting a few people go every week. It is so ridiculous that they haven’t told anyone what’s really going on and everyone is just waiting around for the call.
Apparently they need to cut all the staff attorneys so they have some work for 80 or so first years that just started who are already doing nothing but doc review and who should expect to be doing nothing but doc review for the foreseeable future. Some of these staff attorneys have been there for seven and eight years and they are not even offering severance. They say it has nothing to do with performance but are letting some of the good people go first.
Paul Weiss declined to comment for this story. But we understand that no associates have been let go.
Are junior associates the new “staff attorney”? More from our tipsters after the jump.
Yolanda Young is back with a vengeance, and an amended complaint against Covington & Burling.
The brief synopsis on Young is that she was a Covington & Burling staff attorney who sued the firm for racial discrimination. Covington has denied the charges at every point. The firm briefly got the suit tossed, but it was reinstated.
Young’s basic allegations remain the same:
Through its pattern and practice, Defendant, Covington & Burling LLP, systematically relegates its black attorneys to its lowest rung of practicing attorneys — the position of staff attorney. Firm policy bans the promotion of staff attorneys to the position of associate and, ultimately, to partner. This prohibition adversely impacts Defendant’s black attorneys by consigning the majority to earning less money, performing less challenging work, and enjoying less opportunity for professional growth than Defendant’s nonblack attorneys.
This time around, Young argues that black staff attorneys at Covington are more qualified than their white colleagues:
Young points out that while Covington uses a combination of law school grades, journal membership, and clerkship experience to determine the assignment of its attorneys, many of their partners — who decide how an attorney should be assigned — lack such credentials, but presumably are able to perform adequately at partner-level.
Young also asserts that black practicing attorneys, as a group, typically graduated from higher ranked law schools than their white colleagues and that, more often than their white counterparts, black staff attorneys attended law schools from which Covington’s partners, counsel, and associates graduated.
I think I know what is going on here. See, this is a revenge fantasy lawsuit. And Covington has been typecast in the role of Major King Kong.
After the jump, Young brings charts to back up her claims, and announces her full intentions exclusively to Above the Law.
Only staff attorneys that were “integral” to ongoing matters have been kept on. And there is no word on whether those people will have any job security after their matters wrap up.
It appears that Covington & Burling is also undergoing a major reduction of its staff attorney program.
Tipsters (including some recently laid off staff attorneys) report that firm management has decided to effectively discontinue its staff attorney program. The firm has been letting go of staff attorneys at the rate of a couple per week over the last few weeks. As we understand it, as staff attorneys finish up their active matters, they are being let go.
Our sources tell us that the decision was made by firm management some weeks back. At the time the decision was made, the staff attorney manager was out of the office on vacation. When she came back, she allegedly told Covington’s staff attorneys that they should start circulating their resumes.
In some cases, laid off staff attorneys are being given a one week severance option. One week, if they sign a form promising not to sue the firm over the circumstances of their termination. Some Covington personnel that spoke to Above the Law believed that clause is proof that Covington decided to move out staff attorneys as a response to the lawsuit filed by former-Covington Staff Attorney Yolanda Young.
After the jump, we have statements from Covington & Burling, and Yolanda Young.
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
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The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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