Am Law

The world keeps getting smaller, but the law firms keep getting bigger. The American Lawyer magazine just announced its Global 100, the world’s 100 largest law firms in terms of total revenue, and Biglaw seems bigger than ever.

Despite the challenging economic climate, law firms continue to grow. In three key categories — revenue, profits per partner, and attorney headcount — the top firm for 2012 boasts a bigger number than last year’s #1 firm….

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The annual Am Law midlevel associate survey came out yesterday, and for the first time in years, satisfaction among third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates seems to be up across the board. According to Am Law, this year’s average score across all firms was the highest it’s been since at least 2004.

But, as with all things in Biglaw, their happiness is relative. After all, these are the people who survived the worst of the layoffs, and the lucky few who managed to get a foot in the door during a time of reduced new associate hiring. Above all, these are the people who must be thanking their lucky stars that they weren’t midlevels at Dewey & LeBoeuf. They may have been working extremely hard on cases that were understaffed, but at least they were working.

Last year, my colleague Elie Mystal noted that the midlevels who were whining about their unhappiness were “missing the big picture” — that they’d be making serious bank for the rest of their lives if they remained in Biglaw. Given the results of this year’s survey, perhaps these midlevels have come to that very realization….

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uncle sam

...to take a survey

Later this year, Above the Law will be launching a new, expanded Career Center. The new Career Center will be a resource for students and lawyers at all stages of their careers, and in all areas of legal practice (i.e., not just Biglaw). But we can be sure that news and insight into life at firms and schools will continue to be ATL’s bread and butter. With that in mind, today we open up the ATL School & Firm Insider Survey.

I assume a common reaction will be, “What with — among others — Vault, Chambers, U.S. News, and Am Law, why the hell do we need yet another employer/school survey?” Fair enough. And yes, all of the existing surveys have their merits. All of them produce useful content for students and potential laterals.

We do believe, however, that when it comes to information, the more the merrier. Moreover, the ATL survey is distinctive in some fundamental ways, and we’re going to justify its existence….

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Keep your head down, and prepare to wait if you want to make partner.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer just published a wonderful study about making partner at the top Biglaw firms. The publication analyzed all of the new partner hires at 97 of the Am Law 100 firms, reported on how women were doing, and noted some other general trends. Here are the top-line results:

  • Only one third of new partners were women.
  • The average wait for partnership was 10.5 years.

Oh, and there’s a chart that shows which firms were really hostile toward making new female partners….

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Say hello to the Global 100 for 2011. This is the American Lawyer’s list of the world’s 100 largest law firms, ranked by total revenue.

There’s a lot of economic anxiety these days, with fears of a double-dip recession running rampant. But looking back — the list is compiled based on 2010 revenue numbers — the legal business seems to be hanging in there. As noted by Am Law, total revenue for the Global 100 increased by 3 percent last year.

Lawyers are a competitive lot. So you’re probably less interested in the overall figures than in how different firms fared in the rankings….

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Stephen Venuto

People came in wanting to work, which is a shift. Students’ primary goal three or four years ago was to ensure they had a terrific social experience. They short-changed themselves a little.

Stephen Venuto, head of on-campus recruiting for Biglaw firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, commenting on the new environment of summer associate programs during the legal recession.

This year, Orrick made offers of full-time employment to 47 of 52 summer associates. The firm’s 90 percent offer rate was at the lower end of the spectrum of the 17 national firms surveyed by Am Law.

The Am Law Midlevel associate survey came out yesterday. Satisfaction among 3rd, 4th, and 5th year Biglaw associates is down for the second year in a row.

That’s a trend people should get used to. The midlevel survey should be renamed the Survivor’s Remorse Report for the next few years. The thing will be a snapshot of the few who made it through the great winnowing of 2009, or the lucky who got into Biglaw as the industry massively scaled back new associate hiring. As demand for legal services picks up, all we’re going to be looking at here are people working extremely hard on inadequately staffed cases.

My favorite quote from the Am Law piece is from a DLA Piper associate (the associate will be played by Miranda from the Tempest in my mind) who said: “Firms got too lean [after the recession] and consequently realized that associates will work more and more if asked. Quality of life has therefore decreased.”

Oh, brave new world.

These midlevels who are whining right now are slightly missing the big picture. They might have to work long hours, but they are going to make serious bank for the rest of their legal lives….

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It’s that time of the year again: American Lawyer magazine has just released its A-List for 2011. The Am Law rankings attempt to evaluate which law firms have got the right stuff to become elite:

The A-List was created in 2003 in an effort to assess (and rank) the nation’s largest and most prominent law firms in a holistic way. It takes into account financial performance, which is represented by the inclusion of firms’ revenue per lawyer, and other important measures of law firm performance, such as attorney diversity, pro bono work, and associate satisfaction. The latter is measured by a firm’s results on our Associates Survey. Pro bono and diversity scores are also a reflection of a firm’s showing on our annual Pro Bono Survey and Diversity Scorecard.

So, which firms made the grade this year? And which firms are the true elite of the elite?

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The American Lawyer Global 100 is out. It’s the list that ranks law firms around the world by gross revenue.

And this year, there’s a new name at the top. Baker & McKenzie leapfrogged a number of firms to become the top-grossing law firm in the world (based on 2009 revenue numbers). Baker narrowly edged out Skadden for this honor.

Of course, Skadden people shouldn’t be ashamed of their second-place finish. Baker & McKenzie is huge: it leads the Am Law list of most lawyers by more than a thousand over its nearest rival, Clifford Chance. Skadden ranks #9 on the “most lawyers” list, with an attorney headcount that is almost doubled by Baker & McKenzie. Skadden gets to #2 in the revenue rankings by having a much higher revenue-per-lawyer figure.

Let’s take a look at the top ten in terms of revenue, and drool over these billion-dollar businesses…

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If you are a current midlevel associate at a top firm, that means you survived the worst of the Biglaw layoffs. In fact, it probably means you survived while friends and colleagues were having their careers ruined.

That should make you happy, right? Not according to the American Lawyer’s annual midlevel associate survey. The results, released this morning, show that midlevel associates are anything but satisfied with their careers. From the report:

Many people would consider Am Law 200 midlevel associates to be extremely fortunate. While thousands of their colleagues lost jobs, these young lawyers are gainfully employed with salaries in the six figures. The midlevels tell us that they survived the recession in part because of the quality of their work, and that they aren’t worried about losing their jobs going forward. And even though revenue and profits dipped at the majority of their firms, relative to other industries, Big Law wasn’t hit as hard during the recession. In many ways, once their student loans are paid off, midlevel associates’ prospects seem bright.

But that’s not how they see it. Maybe it’s the posttraumatic stress syndrome from watching so many associates and law firm staffers get the ax, but the midlevels who survived the great purge aren’t feeling particularly fortunate. In fact, they seem downright cranky.

Survivor’s guilt? Not bloody likely. The result are probably due to people working harder than they were before the recession for less pay and job security than they had before the recession. Add in the fact that their secretaries have probably been fired (and so the partners now treat them like paralegals), and the fact that they’re more likely to get struck by a bolt of lightning than make partner, and you can see why these people are a little disappointed with the way things have turned out.

I’ll pause now so all the members of the Lost Generation can comment on how they would change places with these disgruntled midlevels faster than one can ask “would you like fries with that”…

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