Advice

Tom Wallerstein

The attrition rate in Biglaw is legendary. Since the recession hit, associates are less likely to voluntarily abandon a six-figure job and more often believe that you don’t get up and go until they throw you out the door. On the other hand, since the recession hit, associates are less likely to have any choice in the matter should their firm feel the need to reduce headcount. But especially during the boom years when I began practicing, associates frequently left their firm gigs to do all manner of things, from going in-house, to starting a private practice, to hiking across the country, or moving to Nepal.

I worked in large and medium-sized firms for nearly a decade, and during my tenure, I saw an awful lot of associates come and go. Rarely if ever was I surprised to hear the news. In fact, I was usually surprised that others were surprised. In my experience, there are certain tell-tale signs that an associate is crafting a farewell email….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Biglaw to Boutique: Writing on the Wall”

For every matter that we handle, we need one “unifying mind.” We need one person at the helm; that person must either personally know everything that’s happening in the matter or, at a minimum, know where the knowledge lies. (Extraordinary cases may be beyond the capacity of a single unifying mind and may require two or more. But those situations are exceptional, and they pose challenges beyond what I’m thinking about today.)

The unifying mind might be found anywhere in the hierarchy, depending on the type of matter involved. At a law firm, the unifying mind can be a partner, if the matter is large and the partner a hands-on type. Or the unifying mind can be an associate charged with monitoring and tracking all events. But everyone on the team should know who’s at the helm, so everyone knows the person who should receive copies of correspondence, alerts about upcoming events, and reports about how things are going.

At an in-house law department, we, too, must have a unifying mind for every matter. In the litigation world, a corporation may have several line lawyers whose job is to supervise cases on a day-to-day basis. The line lawyer primarily responsible for overseeing a particular case should typically serve as the unifying mind for that matter. Outside counsel should communicate with that person, and everyone in-house should know that’s the lawyer to call if they need detailed information about a lawsuit.

That’s all fine in theory, but two things often screw this up in practice. What two things?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Creating A Unifying Mind”

Judge Jerry Smith

Above the Law readers weren’t particularly fond of Judge Jerry E. Smith’s “homework assignment” for the U.S. Department of Justice. In a reader poll, about two-thirds of you expressed disapproval of the Fifth Circuit ordering the DOJ to submit a three-page letter discussing judicial review. (The order came in the wake of, and in apparent response to, unfortunate comments on the subject by President Obama.)

But let’s say that you’re among the one-third of readers who view Judge Smith as courageous for calling out a former Con Law professor for making misleading statements about judicial review (statements that, in fairness to the president, he subsequently clarified). Let’s say that you’d like nothing better than to clerk on the Fifth Circuit for Judge Smith.

Well, aspiring law clerks to Judge Smith, there’s something you should know….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Want to Clerk for the Judge Who Took on Obama?”

Suppose you’re doing business in a country that is perceived as being corrupt. For example, Myanmar, North Korea, and Somalia take the bottom three slots in the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Okay, let me rephrase that: Suppose you’re doing business in a country where it’s actually lawful to do business, but the country is perceived as being corrupt. Cambodia or Zimbabwe might fit the bill. (On reflection, it strikes me that my own company may actually do business in those two places. If we do, then I, naturally, love the judicial systems in Cambodia and Zimbabwe. If my company is ever in court in one of those places, please don’t hold this column against us. It’s just that terribly unfair perception of corruption that gives you guys a bad name.)

How do you conduct business there?

Very carefully, of course.

As a matter of compliance, your company must implement policies that forbid payments that are customary in the corrupt place, but forbidden by U.S. law. And your company must enforce those policies, perhaps by having a regional group that approves third parties with whom you do business or otherwise strives to comply with the law.

But that’s the front end. What do you do at the back end, if you find yourself in a dispute in the corrupt place?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Doing Business In Corrupt Places”

I’m still trying to figure out the appropriate way to “take credit” for the decline in the number of people taking the LSAT. Currently, I’m consulting with a red-haired chick on the procedure for calling me Lightbringer.

But my work is clearly not done. The big news today is that the new numbers released by LSAC show that the decline in LSAT takers disproportionately affects top performers on the LSAT. Basically, fewer high scorers are taking the LSAT, while the number of people who can’t even break 145 remains strong.

Doesn’t that really match our anecdotal beliefs that people applying to law school in 2012, with all the data and the publicity about the bad deal you get at an American law school, are just dumber than those who came before?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “If You Are Still Applying to Law School, You Might Be an Idiot”

I have spent many hours talking to others about the future of the legal profession. My Biglaw friends (at least the one who remains) proclaim that the future of legal practice is not that different from the past — by which she means that Biglaw is the future. The attorneys I meet from small law firms, in contrast, predict that Biglaw is out and small firms will prevail. My unemployed lawyer friends believe that they, along with a bunch of other unemployed lawyers, will toil away as hourly document review attorneys in the future. I believe that the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. Oh, sorry, that is Whitney. RIP.

Corporate Counsel recently published an article, Bye Bye Big Firm, that predicts that while small law firms will not overtake Biglaw, they will be a major part of the future of legal practice. The article offers several reasons for predicting this future trend:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Are Associates at Small Law Firms Screwed?”

Lawyers don’t like to be honest about not making money. (Unless you’re Jordan Rushie.)

I went out on my own in March of 1998. I did no advertising. The first month, I made three times what I was making monthly at the small firm I worked at for nine months. I was well on my way.

April was about the same, and so was May.

This was awesome. No looking back. Who said starting your own firm would be hard?

Then came June.

Nothing. No new cases, no money. The phone didn’t ring.

It was over. Three good months, and now I was done. I, of course, freaked out.

A few days into July the phone rang, and I was back. Whew. So I had one slow month. Now it would all be fine.

Then it happened again, and again, and again….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Practice: When Things Are Slow”

Lat here. Not long ago, Elie and I debated the merits of Harvard Law versus Yale Law, in response to a request for advice from a prospective law student lucky enough to be choosing between HLS and YLS. Then we opened up a reader poll, in which about 60 percent of you urged the 0L in question to go to Yale.

As we move deeper into spring, more aspiring law students will have to make up their minds about matriculation destinations. Today we’ll look at the case of a student who’s choosing between a trio of very fine schools: Georgetown University Law Center, the University of Texas School of Law, and UCLA School of Law.

Let’s hear him out, weigh the competing factors, and vote….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Decision: Georgetown v. Texas v. UCLA — An ATL Debate”

I occasionally take advantage of my little megaphone here at Above the Law to vent about poor quality drafts. When I do, “commenters” or correspondents routinely suggest that I’m tilting at windmills: “If you receive a poor quality draft, send it back to the person who wrote it, and tell that person to make it better. There’s no reason why you, Mark, should be saddled with improving the thing.”

Wrong, wrong, and wrong again!

I’m absolutely saddled with improving the thing. It often makes no sense at all to return a bad draft to the author and ask for a better draft. In fact, I submit that there are only two situations in which it does make sense to ask the original author to improve a draft . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: When You Do Not Ask For A Better Draft”

Someone in the company is going rogue: The person proposes to do something brazenly illegal, or slightly illegal, or perfectly legal but sufficiently immoral that the conduct would turn any reasonable person’s stomach. The rogue is not listening to logic. The person is ignoring everything that your local in-house lawyer is saying.

When the local lawyer calls the headquarters law department for help, these are the words that headquarters must be able to speak: “Local lawyer, you win. This is not a close call; we should not be doing this. In this situation, I guarantee you that you hold the trump card. Who do you need to make a call to solve your problem? The general counsel? The chief financial officer? The CEO? Someone else? We will cause that call to be made in a heartbeat. What do you need?”

Is that what people mean when they talk about “tone at the top”?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Knowing That Law Wins”

Page 49 of 881...454647484950515253...88