For all the talk of layoffs and worries over an unstable legal economy, Biglaw just keeps getting bigger. Today, the American Lawyer magazine announced its Global 100, a ranking of the world’s 100 largest law firms in terms of total revenue. The view from the top is simple: as we learned from the 2013 Am Law 100, slow and steady does win the race, because Biglaw is at the biggest it’s been in years, and partners’ profits are headed up, up, up.
Now that we’re on the long road to recovery following the recession and collapse of the U.S. financial markets, there are some lessons to be learned from the past five years. Some firms were able to cash in modestly on their success, while other firms buckled under the pressure and were forced to close their doors for good. The game of musical chairs in the top 10 of the Global 100 reflects this economic uncertainty.
DLA Piper is the new top dog in terms of total revenue. Which firms are the leaders of the pack in other metrics, such as profits per partner and attorney headcount?
Being a summer associate just isn’t what it used to be. Sure, there are still fun parties and social events to attend, but in the back of everyone’s mind is the creeping worry that out of all the classes of 100 percentoffer rates, they might be the one to get left behind. They’re very, very worried about making the cut, especially considering the fact that others have been forced to apply for deli clerk jobs. They realize even more that they hold their own futures in their hands, and this year, they were literally begging for more work and more hours.
These were the conclusions drawn from the American Lawyer’s 2013 Summer Associate Survey. Am Law polled 3,817 law students at 134 firms about their summer experiences and used the results to rank 112 summer programs. This year’s crop of would-be lawyers were even more worried than last year’s, which speaks volumes about the unease coursing through Biglaw during a time when layoffs and buyouts — on the staff, associate, and partner level — were running rampant.
But even so, the overall rankings were positive (though perhaps the summers rated their firms so highly out of fear for getting no-offered, we’re not sure). If you’re a law student trying to figure out where to spend your summer, you’re probably asking: which law firms came out with the highest scores?
The results of the annual American Lawyer midlevel associate survey are out, and it looks like people have been taking happy pills. We thought things were going well last year, but this time around, it’s all lollipops and double rainbows for third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates. According to Am Law, these happy campers gave their firms the highest composite scores the publication had seen in almost 10 years.
These associates have good reason to be happy. They’ve secured and maintained jobs at elite firms while entry-level hiring has been swirling down the drain. Spring bonuses have come and gone, but they’ve managed to stick it out. They’ve seen the rise and fall of Biglaw empires. They’ve seen the worst of the profession’s worst, and still, they’ve survived it all. They have the right to be happy.
Of course, not everyone is as thrilled. For the first time, American Lawyer measured gender differences in question responses, and women are markedly less satisfied with their jobs than their male colleagues. Considering how difficult is is to gain entry to the Biglaw boys’ club, who could blame them?
Enough idle chatter, let’s delve into the details of the survey and discuss the results…
We’ve just entered August, so you know what that means: the start of on-campus interviewing season. If you’re a law student researching firms or a lawyer involved in your firm’s recruiting efforts, check out Above the Law’s law firm directory, where law firms get letter grades in different categories. Law firms might look alike on the surface, but there are very real differences between them, as our grading system reflects.
For example, law firms diverge when it comes to diversity. While every firm gives lip service to diversity, some firms have the goods to back up their claims, while others do not.
Let’s check out the latest diversity rankings, from two different news outlets, to see which firms are truly diverse….
* The number of women arguing before the Supreme Court is still small, but most of its appellate practitioners follow sage advice like this: “Clerk, work, and don’t be a jerk.” [National Law Journal]
* If you were curious about whether gays and lesbians could be excluded from juries on the basis of their sexual orientation, the Ninth Circuit is about to lay down the law. [New York Times]
* Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in Windsor, Cozen O’Connor will be forced to give a deceased partner’s profit-sharing benefits to her wife, and not her parents. [Legal Intelligencer]
* Who are Biglaw’s top innovators of the last 50 years? There are many familiar names, but one of them is near and dear to our own hearts at Above the Law: It’s our managing editor, David Lat. Congratulations! [Am Law Daily]
* If you’re making a career change to go to law school, you should think about why the the hell you’d do such a thing right now — or try to leverage it in applications. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]
* In a surprise move, Wendi Murdoch, better known as Rupert Murdoch’s soon-to-be ex-wife, has hired William Zabel to represent her in the divorce. This is going to get very, very messy. [New York Times]
[I]n today’s environment, averages mislead more than ever. If anything is true about law firm performance in the post-Great Reset era, it’s that dispersion has never been wider. We have more highly outperforming winners and more poorly underperforming laggards.
But if you want to generalize? Out of ‘alive, well, and rich,’ the evidence seems to support one for three.
When times are tough for law firms, others suffer too. If a firm as prestigious and profitable as Weil Gotshal is conducting open and notorious layoffs, and rival firms are conducting stealth layoffs, rest assured that other creatures in the Biglaw ecosystem — technology vendors, legal recruiters, Mercedes dealers — are feeling pain.
Take media outlets that cover law firms. American Lawyer Media recently cut at least 35 positions from its editorial and production staffs, amounting to about 7 percent of headcount within those two groups. Kevin Michielsen, chief operating officer of ALM, said the layoffs resulted from the company’s shift to being a “digital-first” operation, not cost cutting. But considering that ALM labors under a nine-figure debt load, cost cutting might not be a bad idea.
But the Am Law layoffs pale in comparison to the cuts over at LexisNexis, at least in terms of raw numbers. The company didn’t provide numbers, but the estimates might surprise you….
* It’s just business as usual: Amid accusations of liberal court-packing, D.C. Circuit nominee Nina Pillard faced questions on abortion and religion during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. [USA Today]
* Biglaw isn’t as dead as we’ve been told and made to believe. Some of the largest firms are actually doing quite well, says American Lawyer’s editor-in-chief, who’d like her job to retain some meaning for now. [Am Law Daily]
* Fried Frank knew that it’d take a banker to pull the firm from its monetary funk, so it picked up David Greenwald, deputy general counsel of Goldman Sachs, to act as co-chair through 2015. [New York Law Journal]
* With the change in SEC policy, from allowing companies to use neither-admit-nor-deny language, to forcing them to admit guilt in “egregious” cases, lawyers may soon be very busy. [Corporate Counsel]
* Raj Rajaratnam is a firm believer in the “three strikes and you’re out” theory of law. A month after the Second Circuit affirmed his insider trading conviction, he’s asking for a rehearing en banc. [Bloomberg]
Every year, the American Lawyer trots out its rankings at about the same time — first the highly influential Am Law 100 and Am Law 200, which are then followed up by the A-List. Think of this ranking as the legal professions’s Westminster: everyone is yipping excitedly over the possibility of being named “best in show” at this Biglaw beauty contest.
The A-List differs from the Am Law 100 and 200 rankings in that there’s only one financial metric here (revenue per lawyer). The other factors involved are pro bono work, attorney diversity, and perhaps most importantly, associate satisfaction. In years past, associate satisfaction has represented only 16 percent of a firm’s total A-List score, but taking a nosedive or making significant gains in this area can turn it into a game changer.
So, which 20 firms made the grade this year? Let’s find out…
As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer recently released its Am Law 200 law firm rankings — a list that’s still closely watched, but not quite as prestigious as being a ranked member of the influential Am Law 100. Sorry, but being a part of the “Second Hundred” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
While the Am Law 100 celebrated a year of “slow growth” in 2012, it looks like the Am Law 200 will be known for its “bets on bulk.” When all of the big boys were busy playing it safe, perhaps out of fear of becoming the next Dewey, firms in the Second Hundred were gobbling up talent like there was no tomorrow.
Of course, as could’ve been expected, this kind of aggressive hiring had some pretty major effects on firms’ financial performance. So how did the Am Law 200 stack up? Let’s find out…
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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