Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, Biglaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.
One of the stopgap measures adopted by firms was deferring associates. Most of the deferred will end up at their firms, albeit more than a year after their expected start dates. Some have lingered on, with perpetual deferrals and no updates on start dates. And some have had their offers rescinded.
We called BS on that back in February. We can’t imagine any firm is going to be so penny-wise pound-foolish as to go after a lawyer they don’t have to hire (cheap severance!) and who found her calling in public service (good PR!).
After the jump, we catch up on the latest activity in BigLaw — including another week with layoff news — and try to sort through the mixed signals.
The recruiter calls are picking up, and I want out. However, it’s August, and that bonus payout is getting very close. I have an option to get out of here just after Labor Day, but the position might not be open in February.
Should I leave now, or should I hang on, get my bonus, and restart my search in the new year?
– It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
Dear It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,
A few months ago, I would have said some Chicken Soup for the Soul crap, like “your bonus cannot buy you happiness.” That was before my associate friend bought an amazing NYC apartment, and I spent three weeks in a jealous rage…
People are talking about an interesting Slate article entitled “Leaving Big Law Behind: The many frustrations that cause well-paid lawyers to hang out their own shingles.” It’s currently the most-read piece on the site. But it’s actually quite similar, even down to some of the sources, to an article that appeared a few days earlier in Crain’s New York Business:
A lawyer’s hourly billing rate used to be a badge of pride — the higher the number, the more valuable (and supposedly brilliant) the lawyer. But over the past 18 months, a strange phenomenon has been sweeping the legal arena: Partners at major law firms are quitting because they want to be able to charge less for their services.
This is, of course, not a new development. Kash and I wrote about it in a December 2009 cover story for Washingtonian magazine, in which we interviewed a former member of the $1,000-an-hour club who left a large law firm and started his own shop so he could offer clients better value. But all the recent coverage — in Crain’s, Slate, and elsewhere — suggests that the trend is picking up steam.
Which kinds of lawyers are leaving Biglaw to hang up their own shingles? Why are they doing it? And how’s it going for them?
Readers, we’ve reached the end of the road. After this post, we will have exhausted the Vault 100 law firms — the one hundred most prestigious large law firms in the country. We’ve been doing a series of open threads on these firms so that readers can discuss, in the comments, how these firms stack up against each other.
We were impressed by the quality, but not the quantity, of the comments on our last law firm open thread. Will the final 20 generate as much discussion? Here they are:
In a follow-up to Kash’s post on Monday regarding the newly formed Big Law Society, I volunteered to check out their first happy hour Tuesday night at the BlackFinn American Saloon in D.C. At first I thought it would be amusing to see the type of people who would attend such a gathering. But by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, I was tired and doubted whether I should go at all.
Moreover, I had reason to be suspicious, considering what the group posted about itself on its About page:
Big Law Society organizes social networking events for a very select group of legal professionals, with the aim of creating a community of talented, dynamic individuals. Memberships and invites to the Big Law Society events are limited to individuals with a unique professional background; however, qualified members are welcome to bring guests.
Seriously, I almost felt like I was crashing a middle school party for the “popular” kids, except with less interesting people….
Now this is a list that matters. Corporate Counsel (an American Lawyer publication) has complied its annual list of the firms that Fortune 100 companies use as outside counsel. This is a list of which firms are getting work from clients with deep pockets. If you care at all about the business end of the law, then you care about this list.
And while the firms that are tapped for this kind of work won’t surprise anybody, it’s always good to take a look at who clients want to be with.
For general corporate law, these are the firms that were mentioned most by clients reporting to the magazine:
Greetings, loved ones. Hello there, California girls (and boys). We hope that you’re doing well. Gay marriage might be on hold for now, but there are other unions to celebrate on the West Coast.
Like unions between law firms and job-seeking law students. As we’ve discussed in these pages before, on-campus interviewing at law schools seems to be on the upswing.
And it’s not just in New York, where schools like Columbia and NYU report increased interviewing activity. It’s happening in California too, as reported by Sara Randazzo and Kari Hamanaka of the Daily Journal:
Career counselors around the state are reporting that the number of employers signing on to the recruiting process this year is either steady or up slightly. The mood, however, is still tempered by the reality that the recruiting climate is nowhere near the fever pitch preceding the downturn when there were barely enough top law students to go around for associate-hungry firms.
“When I talk to lawyers in the field, it seems things are busier, but given all the excess in the hiring pipelines they are still very conservative,” said Terrence Galligan, assistant dean of career development at UC Berkeley School of Law.
Well, conservative can be good (and not just politically). The conservative hiring of summer associates for 2010, for example, seems to have resulted in very high offerrates.
For 2011, some firms that stayed on the sidelines in 2010 are back in the game….
Here at Above the Law, your editors always avoid the black cars / livery cabs that populate the city. Instead, we trust yellow medallion cabs. This preference dates all the way back to our days in Biglaw. Lat would often take yellow cabs, even if he was entitled to a Fone-A-Car thanks to pulling ridiculous hours at Wachtell. I took livery cabs all the time coming home after-hours from Debevoise, until one night, coming back from Brooklyn — on non-firm related business, unfortunately — I was robbed by a driver.
These cars just aren’t to be trusted. Take the case of one NYU law student from back in 2000. Returning home after a night out in lower Manhattan, she claims she was raped by a friend of the black-car driver taking her home.
Thankfully, yesterday the alleged assailant was arrested. DNA evidence he turned over after more recent criminal activity matched up with the rape kit the NYU Law victim filed a decade ago….
With fall recruiting gearing up, and the lateral market warming up, we continue our annual series of open threads about the law firms featured in the Vault prestige rankings. These threads provide ATL readers with a forum to discuss the different firms and their various strengths and weaknesses.
The end of the Vault 100 is in sight. We’re covering the firms in batches of 20 now. Here are the firms ranked #61 to #80, which will provide today’s discussion fodder:
We call it Skaddenfreude: taking pleasure in the misfortune of others who work at large law firms. Today’s tale of Skaddenfreude involves a contract attorney working a project in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
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