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?
For months, we talked to counsel about our prospects in the case. He was sanguine:
“There’s nothing to worry about here. The plaintiff put a huge number in its prayer for relief, but you can’t possibly lose that much. Plaintiff’s liability case is thin, and the damages are inflated. You’ll probably win. If you lose, you’d lose no more than $1 million on an average day. On the worst day known to man, you can’t even theoretically lose more than $5 million. I wouldn’t offer more than a couple hundred grand to settle.”
A few months before trial, we ask counsel to put some skin in the game: “It’ll be expensive to try this case, and you feel good about our prospects. We’d like you to propose an alternative fee agreement that aligns your interests with ours. We’d like to pay you less than your ordinary hourly rates in the months leading up to trial, but we’ll give you a success fee if we win. Please think about it, and let us know if you have any ideas.”
A couple of weeks pass, as counsel discusses the case with his firm’s “senior management.” When the alternative fee proposal arrives, the goalposts have miraculously moved! In the course of just two uneventful weeks, our prospects for success have changed entirely!
* First things first, she’s the realest: In light of the ongoing situation in Ferguson, Missouri, of course Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged that we have a “real racial problem” in America. [National Law Journal]
* Cooley Law has experienced legal troubles over its job stats for the past few years, and a great deal of it has been handled by Miller Canfield. It raked in almost $1M from the school from 2011 to 2012. [Am Law Daily]
* Yesterday, a federal judge in Florida struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional. The latest opinion is one of nineteen in favor of marriage equality. The decision was stayed, but yay for Flori-duh! [CNN]
* Half of Concordia Law’s third-year class will not be returning to school this fall because they’d rather wait to receive word on whether the school will be accredited than waste more of their time there. [Boise State Public Radio]
* Thanks to JudgmentMarketplace.com, a dentist was finally able to collect on a a years-old default judgment against Kim Kardashian — but only because a lawyer bought it from him. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Judge John D. Bates wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committee leadership “on behalf of the Judiciary” explaining why it’s important to keep FISA an opaque Star Chamber. Chief Judge Kozinsky, um, disagrees with that “on behalf” part, and calls out Judge Bates in this letter for mouthing off where he has absolutely no authority. [Just Security]
* The twisted, contradictory, desperate logic behind Halbig. In GIF form!!! [Buzzfeed]
* Two InfiLaw schools, Florida Coastal and our Twitter buddies at Charlotte, are offering refunds to students who perpetually fail the bar as well as a refund to students who don’t get clerkships or externships. That’s nice. A whole $10,000 for failing the bar twice and $2000 for not landing a position. Don’t bother comparing that too how much the students shelled out for their degrees because it’s too depressing. [JD Journal]
* Do you want to know how to survive Biglaw? [2Civility]
* Interesting advice on how to best take advantage of the more informal rules of mediation — let your clients build the narrative. [Katz Justice]
* Judge gives a speech and suggests a woman should become a phone sex operator. That’ll work out well for him. [Journal Gazette]
* Maybe we should be getting law degrees as undergrads? That way we might have minors that employers will care about. [Chronicle of Higher Education]
* Geez, lots of judges in trouble today — here’s an elected judge accused of lying about where she lived to get elected. She denies it, but her filings list three different addresses. Oops. [Times-Picayune]
We were facing increasing financial pressure. So we undertook a substantial restructuring, and that restructuring put us on a solid economic and financial footing, allowing us to do a combination to meet our strategic needs.
Many if not most of the U.S.-based law firms in the 350 to 600 or 700 lawyer-range are feeling a great deal of financial pressure. We felt it more than many because we had a number of very large cases—totaling, at the end of the day, nearly $80 million of a $330 million budget—settle and wind up through normal course. That dramatic decline in revenue exacerbated the pressure on us, but the financial pressure on all law firms today are very significant.
There – I always wanted to write an article that had such a strange title that people would look at it and wonder what I was talking about. So here goes….
Everyone just loves to beat up on the big law firms. I keep reading articles everywhere that say:
They are overpriced.
They are inefficient.
Their partnerships destroy innovation.
They are terrible places to work – sweatshops – associates are worked to death until they quit.
Their business model is broken.
There was even a book that came out a year or so ago with a great title, The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis (affiliate link). To me the book described the law business as part of a dying profession that is enmeshed in a conspiracy to ruin the lives of all in it — except the fat-cat senior partners at the top of the pyramid. I admit I read it a while ago and it is a bit hazy in my mind, but the author, a former Kirkland & Ellis partner, clearly is not a fan of the current state of Biglaw….
* Clearly we’ve got some problems, Cleary: Following Argentina’s default, the country is being advised to drop the law firm that said it was a good idea to default in the first place. [The Guardian]
* Lawyers have been flocking to Ferguson, Missouri, left and right to serve as “the eyes and ears of those who protect and guarantee civil rights.” That’s nice, but it’s kind of not working. [National Law Journal]
* “I really don’t know how the people who work there can keep a sense of sort of personal dignity.” American Law plunged in the rankings because of its “dubious employment prospects.” Ouch. [Washington City Paper]
* In case you’ve been wondering what the NFL’s response to all of the cheerleader wage-and-hour complaints are, here it is: “Labor law? LOL. The NFL is immune from state labor law.” [NBC Bay Area]
* Apparently there’s a national court-reporting championship that the world has been missing out on — until now. There was a major upset this year, and a new winner was crowned. Congrats! [WSJ Law Blog]
* Full, fair, and independent: In a St. Louis Post-Dispatch op-ed, Attorney General Eric Holder promised “robust action” in Ferguson, Mo., in light of Michael Brown’s killing. [National Law Journal]
* Biglaw firms have taken notice of the crowdfunding scene, and some have started up their own practice groups dedicated to the cause. Goodwin Procter just got in on the ground floor. [Crowdfund Insider]
* Who will be honored with induction to the American Lawyer’s Legal Hall of Fame in 2014? Take a look at a list of past winners of the title to see if you can guess which legal luminaries will be next. [Am Law Daily]
* “We are actively investigating. We will not rest until we bring this case to a close.” Police still have no leads or suspects in the tragic murder of FSU Law Professor Dan Markel. Sad. [Tallahassee Democrat]
* Is your fantasy football league legal? Like the answer to all questions of law, it depends. Not for nothing, but we’re willing to bet that you won’t really care if it’s legal if it’s going to impede on your fun. [Forbes]
Last week’s column discussed the underappreciated role that second chairs play in modern litigation practice. But how best to fill the role, once it is earned?
The easy answer is fanatical preparation. Meaning you will need to prepare for every hearing, no matter how minor, as if you were going to be handling the argument yourself. Or if you are at trial, and supporting another lawyer on the testimony (be it direct or cross) of a witness, preparing as if you were conducting the examination. Apply the “laryngitis test” if you need motivation, as in what would you do if the first chair woke up that morning without a voice? Knowing that you could be thrust into the spotlight on short notice should be motivation enough for thorough preparation.
But you also need to put that preparation to good use. Arguing in open court is difficult, for even the most seasoned advocates. If you are being asked to sit at counsel table, the idea is not for you to admire the wood paneling in the courtroom. The expectation is that you will put your knowledge of the case to work, by anticipating the flow of the argument, and making sure that whoever is arguing has any needed information readily available for immediate use. When your partner is speaking, that means keeping track of whether they will need to refer to a document along the way. Or whether they have forgotten to raise an important point. For that latter reason, working out a non-intrusive note passing system in advance can be worthwhile. The key is not to disturb the flow of the argument, but to enhance its effectiveness. If you have nothing to contribute, you should not be sitting there wasting the client’s money. The need to be “active” does not give license to hijack the hearing or cause distraction, of course. Engaged listening at all times and sparing active participation are the better approach in almost all cases.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.