Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.
Labor Day weekend is here. So let’s talk about… labor! In the Biglaw salt mines.
In response to our earlier Flashback Friday posts about associate compensationin the 1990s, we received a few requests for information about billable hours back then. People wanted to know how hard associates had to work back in the day for that $83,000 starting salary.
It’s a good question. You hear anecdotal evidence going in both directions. Sometimes people who have been in the profession for a long time talk about how hard they had to work before technology made things so much easier, recalling the bad old days of never-ending, hard-copy due diligence or document review. On other occasions, though, old timers reminisce about the good old ways when law was more of a profession and less of a business; sure, lawyers earned less, but they had lives — or , at least, better work-life balance.
Which picture holds more truth? Here’s some data….
Let’s give a round of applause to these great firms.
Earlier this week, the American Lawyer released the results of its annual survey of Biglaw midlevel associates (third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates at large law firms). We’ll start with the good news: midlevels seem to be quite happy. The average composite score for satisfaction hit 4.08 — the highest in a decade, and higher even than last year’s healthy figure.
But just like last year, which revealed a significant gender gap in terms of job satisfaction, this year’s rosy news comes with caveats. The latest survey shows, for example, that women, African-American, and LGBT lawyers are less satisfied than their non-minority counterparts in terms of measures like training, fairness of evaluations, and partnership prospects.
Now let’s move on to the juicy stuff: the firms with the happiest — and unhappiest — associates. Plus a new ranking from Am Law, focusing on which law schools best prepared their students for Biglaw life….
Yesterday, a California appellate court overturned the lower court’s dismissal of a malicious prosecution claim against Biglaw mainstay Latham & Watkins. According to the opinion, the lower court was wrong on the statute of limitations, but the opinion also went out of its way to express just how likely the plaintiffs were to prevail on the merits of their claim that Latham doggedly pursued them on a “non-viable” legal theory.
Latham still has an opportunity to defend itself, but the language of this opinion is certainly not encouraging.
The plaintiff already recovered over $1.6 million in fees from Latham’s client, let’s see how they do against the firm…
Since the launch of alt.legal, Ed and I have received a lot of very interesting emails and feedback. It is apparent that many of you read ATL literally allday love working in Biglaw, but most many have considered taking a walk onto the alternative side (sounds far more erotic than it is).
What we hope to prove to you through this ongoing column is that legal entrepreneurship is exciting, prestigious, lucrative, and, most importantly — to the many resilient lawyers out there who have remained idealistic in the face of back-to-back all-nighters — your best chance to change the legal system for the better. Moreover, despite what you think, innovation in the law is NOT just in e-discovery. Turns out, there are problems worth solving associated with almost every practice, and with each, there are entrepreneurs and innovators ready to change the game. (My co-author, Ed Sohn, is planning to write more on this underground world next time.)
Today, we profile one such entrepreneur, Adam Nguyen, who saw inefficiencies in the always-exciting process of contract review for due diligence (hey litigators, it turns out M&A lawyers have to do document review too), and leveraged $150,000 worth of Harvard Law-branded problem solving to create an innovative technology solution called eBrevia.
* Judge Posner dished out a whole lot of benchslaps at yesterday’s Seventh Circuit arguments over Indiana and Wisconsin’s bans on same-sex marriage. [BuzzFeed]
* Major U.S. and Canadian law firms chow down on Burger King’s whopper of a deal with Tim Hortons. [Am Law Daily]
* A recent Delaware court ruling on attorney-client privilege might allow in-house lawyers to speak more freely about wrongdoing at their companies, according to Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon. [DealBook / New York Times]
* The corruption trial of former Virginia governor continues; yesterday Bob McDonnell’s sister took the stand. [Washington Post]
* A favorable evidentiary ruling for Aaron Hernandez. [Fox Sports]
* And good news for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, the two law professors running for governor and lieutenant governor of New York: the Times dissed their opponent, Andrew Cuomo, with a non-endorsement. [New York Times]
* I recently spoke with one of my cousins Joao Atienza of the Cebu Sun Star, about Above the Law and the world of legal blogging. [Cebu Sun Star]
Earlier this year at the (shameless plug alert) Attorney@Blog Conference, I had the opportunity to meet Guy Alvarez and Joe Lamport, founders of Good2bSocial, a digital agency that helps law firms utilize social media and content marketing to improve their business.
Look, I will be the first to tell you how powerful a good content strategy can be for a business. I even left my cushy Biglaw salary to start a company in the content space. But #Biglaw? Even I was skeptical.
So I was shocked to hear of all the law firms who were being recognized at the conference for their work in social media. How exactly would a firm use Twitter or Facebook to drive business? I decided to invite Guy and Joe to participate in a conversation about the emerging role of social media in law firms….
The week before Labor Day is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Has been for a long time. Even during my decade-plus in Biglaw, a fact that may be shocking to those who believe that the Biglaw experience ranges from the tolerable to the miserable — and never enjoyable. But even for those who feel trapped in the ravenous clutches of the insatiable Biglaw billable hours beast, the end of August almost always offers a welcome, if brief, respite. Because late August is prime Biglaw vacation season, and offices nationwide are running on a skeleton staff.
Partners, and even some associates, are trying to squeeze in some family time before the start of school. The younger set is off for a final round of beach weekends, or just enjoying lazy days in the office, relishing the chance to kick out at a normal hour. With time to hit the gym, before a meal in a real restaurant, rather than a Seamless-delivered dinner in a takeout tray. During my Biglaw years, the end of August meant the last few days of commuting down to the Jersey Shore by ferry from Manhattan, with twilight views of the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Bridge. Moments of serenity, even in a city of perpetual motion.
The end of summer can be wonderful, and the temptation to milk the most relaxation out of the waning days of the season great. But it would be a mistake to view this period as only one of enjoyment….
Law firm swag. Ubiquitous and occasionally useful. Years later I still use a slim thermos that fits in my bike bottle holder, though the firm’s logo has long since worn off. But, I mean, who wants law firm branded stuff anyway? Maybe a Wachtell tie might be nice, or a Slaughter & May pencil sharpener, but really, the market outside then-current employees is virtually non-existent. Meaning swag is usually a relatively harmless exercise in self-indulgent corporate team building. Usually….
When a firm starts losing partners to its rivals and slowing down their hiring (or even conducting layoffs), it’s usually a bad sign. But one Biglaw firm that’s lost a number of high-profile partners over the last year is touting its new, streamlined approach. You see, they meant to suffer all those defections and lose some of their biggest clients. It’s all part of reinventing the firm for the modern business climate.
Is this just good public relations, or are they on to something?
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.