To judge by the accoutrements of “the profession,” lawyers, as a group, maintain an inflated self-image. They think they’re all that. It’s easy to get sucked into this mindset – especially fresh out of law school. Perhaps, when you’re not “thinking like a lawyer,” you’ve spent a few minutes admiring the little “Esq.” printed after your name on an envelope from school or a law firm — or some company in Parsippany trying to sell you a genuine mahogany and brass pen holder featuring a statue of “blind justice” for only $59.99 with free shipping.
Back when I passed the bar, I was offered the option by New York State to purchase a printed document – “suitable for hanging” – to memorialize the event. I figured what the heck and blew the twenty-five bucks. The “parchment” arrived in a cardboard tube, and it was huge – like a royal proclamation. I felt ridiculous, rolled it back up and stuck it in a closet, where it remains.
It’s hard to imagine accountants (who usually make more than lawyers), or bankers (who always make more than lawyers) laying on the pretension to quite the degree lawyers take for granted…
Some big law firms are like the mob. They do ugly things, but prefer to avoid “ugliness.” The partners, like the capos of major crime families, have delicate constitutions.
Ugliness could result from ill-considered communication. For that reason, a capo – or a partner – isn’t going to tell you what he really thinks. That would be indelicate. It could lead to misunderstandings.
You, in turn, shouldn’t tell a partner what you really think. That could lead to sleeping with the fishes.
My client recently received a lesson in partner communication…
Let’s all take a deep breath. Associate bonus season, which usually wraps up sometime in January, looks like it’s been extended well into April. This is just more proof that Biglaw firms don’t actually collude. No rational business person would want to be making decisions in April 2011 about how much to pay employees for 2010 performance.
For those trying to keep score, there seem to be the following categories of firms (roughly using a letter-grade system):
A – Firms that are paying Cravath-level spring bonuses in all offices. (Example: Cravath.) [FN1]
B – Firms that are paying Sullivan & Cromwell-level spring bonuses in all offices. (Example: S&C.)
C – Firms that are paying spring bonuses in New York but not elsewhere, like California or D.C.. (Example: Read more below.)
D – Firms that are not paying spring bonuses because their year-end bonuses beat the Cravath year-end bonuses, and they’re hoping their associates can’t add. (Example: CHECK YOUQUINN EMANUEL.)
F – Firms that are not paying spring bonuses and invite disgruntled associates to S some D if they don’t like it. (Example: Jones “We can still hear all the poors who live inside your black box” Day.)
Right now, we want to focus on Group C. Group B gets a pass because they started the spring bonus phenomenon and goddamnit we’re going to respect that. Partners at firms in Groups D & F will have to examine their own motives for why they want their associates to secretly hate them.
But Group C is weird. Why create inter-office jealousy and rage when most top firms are paying spring bonuses in all of their offices? Why look that desperate to save a little bit of money?
And you can’t spell “Weird Cost-Cutting” without White & Case…
Hipster plays in jazz band with Lawyer. They have the same academic advisor, and fall into a casual friendship.
Hipster has trouble in school. He plays drums and guitar, but struggles to maintain the grades. It’s nothing to do with behavior – everyone likes him. The academic advisor does his best, but after failing a few courses, Hipster’s expelled. He ends up bouncing from school to school, and manages to graduate, then heads to a halfway-decent state university known for partying. He spends most of his year there jamming with his buddies and soon drops out. They start a rock band, smoke dope, wear tie-dye, collect Grateful Dead tapes and call each other “dude.”
Lawyer thinks it’s a shame Hipster got kicked out of school. His own grades are A’s. He wins academic prizes, a scholarship to study in England, and advanced placement at Harvard, where he graduates magna cum laude. He heads to a first-tier law school, and places near the top of his class. An offer arrives from a white-shoe law firm.
While the real NCAA men’s basketball tournament has devolved into a three-point shooting exhibition, the ATL bracket pits an irresistible force against an immovable object: Davis Polk versus Sullivan & Cromwell, or hot versus rich.
Check out the bracket below and start mulling things over. One of these firms will be named the “coolest” in all the land…
There haven’t been any VCU-style upsets in our Coolest Law Firm Bracket. That’s probably because lawyers don’t like upsets. Lawyers get paid to make sure no “surprises” happen; lawyers like things to proceed in a predictable and organized fashion. Sure, Davis Polk (ranked #5 by Vault) topped Skadden (ranked #4) in the Elite Eight. But the real surprise there is that the gargantuan-sized Skadden couldn’t whip up enough of its own people to vote it through to the next round.
As we move into the Final Four, we’ve got some intriguing match-ups. On one side of the bracket, people will have to choose whether or not making money is cooler than being attractive. On the other side of the bracket, we’ll answer the question: Is being “first” more important than being “best”?
My tenure at Sullivan & Cromwell ended – along with my legal career – in a smoking crater. Picture scorched earth. Nuclear armageddon. The fat lady sang.
That said, I actually got off to a pretty good start. At least for the first couple weeks.
I was assigned to a rather jolly partner, fresh back from running an office in Asia. He didn’t seem a bad sort, and I was feeling on top of the world, commencing my career after a month’s vacation. Off I scrambled to the library to write a memo on a detail of securities law. The topic was complex, but I kept my cool, summarized what I found – with a touch of wit – and called it a day.
Things went swimmingly. The partner loved the memo. He deemed it clever and refreshing and pretty close to accurate. Apparently, I’d managed to lighten the mood at a key moment in a tough deal. I decided I loved him…
We will have a new winner in this year’s Coolest Law Firm contest. When Above the Law first ran this bracket back in 2008, you picked Latham & Watkins as the victor. This time around, they got… Lathamed, in the first round. Cravath crushed Latham by a 60% – 40% margin. That was the second-highest margin of victory among all of the first-round match-ups.
As we move into the Elite Eight, some of our readers are asking us to give a more clear definition of what is “cool.” We respectfully decline to do so. It’s up to you to tell us what makes a top law firm cool. Is it job security, making maximum bank, prestige points? It’s really up to you. Personally I think the coolest law firm would be the one most likely to represent bad-ass clients on the correct side of moral issues, but… eeek, that’s not really what Biglaw is all about.
So bring your own prejudices to the table when you vote in the next round of the Coolest Law Firm Tournament. Use whatever reasoning makes sense to you. Just don’t go with chalk because you can’t be bothered to actually form an opinion — don’t be boring, son….
In law, if you’re making big money, you’re working for the bad guys. That’s the sad truth.
I’m not talking about defending vicious criminals. I mean tougher cases — like representing the 1% of the world who own everything.
Deep in the recesses of Biglaw, you might not realize who you’re working for. From where you’re standing, your boss is the firm. Juniors report to seniors. Seniors report to partners. Partners report to God.
In reality, up, over the partner’s head, there’s someone called “the client” — a possessor of vast wealth. Normal people don’t hire Biglaw — the owners-of-everything do, and they don’t get uber-rich being nice. Things only get worse when they’re dealing with lawyers.
If and when you actually meet “the client,” you might feel like an Imperial Stormtrooper aboard the Death Star:
Lord Vader? Great to meet you, sir. Yes, absolutely, the torture chamber is totally under control. Yes sir, we just checked the planetary death ray this morning. One hundred percent ready to go. My pleasure, sir….
In a postcript to our detailed post speculating about the future direction of the spring bonus phenomenon, we noted “an isolated report of one firm on the S&C spring bonus scale going back and raising to the Cravath scale,” but said we required additional corroboration.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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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 email@example.com 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:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
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