Biglaw

At large law firms around the country, associates and counsel are eagerly awaiting their bonuses. But partners and chief financial officers have their minds on other things: namely, collections. The fourth quarter is when firms step up their efforts at shaking down clients for cash.

As we all know from the law-and-economics reasoning that was taught to us in law school, people — yes, this includes lawyers — respond to incentives. At one leading law firm, bonus anxiety is being shrewdly harnessed in service of collections efforts.

CHECK YOU TIME SHEETS….

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When we write briefs, we show — we don’t tell — the reader that we win. Thus, we do not tell the reader: “This case is barred by the statute of limitations,” which is mere assertion. Instead, we show the reader why we win: “The accident in which plaintiff was hurt occurred on June 1, 2008. The two-year statute of limitations therefore expired on June 1, 2010. Plaintiff did not file his complaint, however, until August 15, 2011. This lawsuit is time-barred.”

At trial, it’s the same routine: We do not simply assert in an opening statement or closing argument: “My client should win.” (Nor do we beg: “Please, please. My client should win.”) Instead, we present the facts, and we let the jury conclude from the facts that our client should win. Show; don’t tell. It’s more persuasive.

What’s the equivalent for demonstrating legal expertise? What should law firms write (and say) on résumés and in responses to RFPs to show, not tell, their competence? And, as in-house counsel, what questions should we ask to investigate whether a firm is blowing hot air (which is what “telling” permits) or may actually be competent (which is what “showing” may suggest)?

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* I guess it really doesn’t matter how much lawyers love Ron Paul if Biglaw firms keep emptying their seemingly overflowing coffers into Obama’s re-election campaign. [Washington Post]

* Congratulations to Yale Law School graduate Ronan Farrow, son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow. Ronan probably isn’t shallow and empty with no ideas and nothing interesting to say, since he’s just been named a 2012 Rhodes Scholar. [ABC News]

* National drinking age laws: keeping women from killing themselves or being murdered since the 1980s. Now where’s the study on how many people actually obey these laws? [USA Today]

* A Florida woman has disappeared after battling it out with her ex-fiancé over an engagement ring on The People’s Court. As if you needed another reason not to be seen on that show. [Daily Mail]

* According to a new law in England, water might be wet, but that doesn’t mean it’ll fix dehydration. Not elementary, my dear Watson, but “stupidity writ large.” [International Business Times]

* The fall of the Third Reich fourth tyke? Poor little Adolf Hitler’s parents have lost custody of yet another child thanks to the state of New Jersey. [New York Daily News]

Tom Wallerstein

Yeah, some people thought I might be nuts for leaving litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel. But the prospects of starting my own firm and building a practice from the ground up were too compelling to ignore. Nearly two and a half years have passed since Colt Wallerstein LLP opened its doors, and still not a day goes by when my partner and I aren’t humbled by our good fortune and our decision to “trade places”: that is, move from Biglaw to start a litigation boutique in Silicon Valley that focuses on high-tech trade secret, employment, and complex-commercial litigation.

I graduated from law school in 1999, and the legal market was very different then. Getting into a “top” law school pretty much guaranteed a job, and most of my law school friends and I had multiple offers and no real concern about landing a Biglaw job, if that’s what we wanted. Offer rates hovered around 100%, and of course the lucrative summers consisted mostly of long lunches at five-star restaurants, luxury box seats at baseball games, open bars, and very little work.

Those were the days….

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Last year, on November 17th, I asked where the Biglaw bonuses were. Cravath announced five days later.

So if the firms are waiting for a personal invitation to announce their 2011 bonus payments, they should feel free to RSVP to this post. We’re ready for the bonuses now.

The firms aren’t scared, are they? They’re not worried about Occupy Wall Street protesters objecting to mere five-figure bonus news, are they? Haven’t the Occupy people proven that they aren’t even paying attention to the Wall Street lawyers?

So let’s get on with the process of spreading the wealth around Biglaw….

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With Thanksgiving just a week away, turkey may already be on your mind. But hopefully so are family, friends, and a time to reflect on what you are thankful for this year. If you’re having trouble with that last part, the Career Center has put together a list of the top 4 reasons Biglaw associates can be thankful for their jobs this holiday season.

1. Next up, bonus season. Most of you have actually been feeling quite optimistic that bonuses will be bigger than last year’s combined year-end bonus plus spring bonus. Of course, we’ll have to wait until Cravath makes the first move to see whether there’s any truth to those predictions, but at least you know there will be bonuses to be had.

So what else made the list?

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I’m one this week! Happy birthday to me!

Though it feels like only yesterday, I published my first column at Above the Law on November 18, 2010. I’ve published two posts every week since then (except when Monday holidays excused my labors), so I’ve cranked out about 100 of these little ditties over the last 52 weeks.

I’m tired. But I’m one!

How can I celebrate?

It seems like a good day to reminisce. What did I do right over the last year? What did I do wrong? And what have you, my readers, contributed that I can share with the world on this, my happy day?

Let me tackle the issues in that order….

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Back in June, we wrote about Lisa M. Johnstone, a corporate associate in the Los Angeles office of Skadden who passed away in her home.

At the time, we didn’t have the autopsy report (as we noted in our story). But I, and some of Johnstone’s Skadden colleagues, used her passing as an occasion for reflecting on nature of working in Biglaw.

The autopsy is out now. While the cause of death is inconclusive, the toxicology report found no trace of drugs….

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The $215,000 engagement ring.

Voter turnout in our October Lawyer of the Month poll was not high: only 453 votes were cast. In the end, DLA Piper partner Laura Flippin, who allegedly blew a .253 on a breathalyzer test, narrowly edged out Cadwalader partner Ira Schacter, who reportedly bought a $215,000 engagement ring for his Playboy-bunny ex-fiancée — while refusing to pay for his teenage daughter’s $12,000 hearing aids.

A mere 11 votes separated the winner and the runner-up. Given the closeness of the vote, maybe Laura Flippin should have focused more on voter turnout, to boost the tallies of her rivals.

It seems that Ira Schacter did just that. Check this out….

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We hope you’ve enjoyed following the Career Center’s Top Partners series through which we’ve recognized Biglaw partners from around the country who exemplify what it means to be an exceptional partner who associates are actually happy to work for. Thanks to all the readers who took the time to submit such glowing nominations and give some well-deserved recognition to the 60 partners highlighted in this series.

Today we conclude with the best partners in the smaller legal markets of Chicago, Dallas, and London. While the markets in which they work may be smaller, their firms are some of the biggest names in Biglaw: Winston & Strawn, Sidley Austin, Katten Muchin, K&L Gates, SNR Denton, and Latham & Watkins.

Let’s see who the final six partners are….

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