Biglaw

For most people, there comes a time when you realize you have gone about as far as you can go in your chosen career. It’s a jarring moment if, like many lawyers, you have always had success in school and work and imagined you can go as far as you want. Sometimes it is also called a midlife crisis.

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With the kids heading back to school, it’s a good time to think about how education is changing — especially for lawyers. Our profession prizes continued education, and of course mandates it for those lawyers who otherwise would be too focused on billing or finding clients to learn. Both the way lawyers learn and for some the way they teach have been completely changed by technology. It may be trite at this point, but this is really the golden age of access to information and learning opportunities for everyone, lawyers included.

While on balance the development of the technology that has created the current state of information access has been a wonderful human achievement, there are downsides. Information overload can be paralyzing, and the speed at which information can be found and deployed creates stresses for those required to keep up. But if someone wants to learn something new, they can. And more than ever, for free.

As easy as it is to learn using today’s technological resources, that same technology has changed how a lawyer can teach others just as dramatically. When I gave my first CLE less than ten years ago, it was for lawyers within my firm, in one of the conference rooms, perhaps with some lawyers from other offices “joining” by speakerphone. For many years in Biglaw, that was how CLE was given and consumed. The biggest differences between sessions was the speaker and the size of the conference room. That changed over time, as firms started subscribing to audio or even video recordings of CLE from outside providers. With that development, it became easier than ever for lawyers to “consume” their CLE, often at group lunches sponsored by the firm. “Come for the food, stay for the CLE,” or something like that. Those lunches were a good way to make a dent in CLE requirements, especially if you aimed to get to one every month or two.

As busy as Biglaw lawyers often are, it was not uncommon for my colleagues and me to encounter a “CLE scramble” as registration deadlines approached….

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Judge Jill Pryor

* Mathew Martoma, the former Harvard law student who fabricated his transcript when applying for clerkships, gets nine years in prison for insider trading. [DealBook / New York Times]

* If Bingham McCutchen moves forward on merger talks with Morgan Lewis, a bunch of Bingham partners might bail. [American Lawyer]

* Congratulations to Judge Jill Pryor, who will join Judge Bill Pryor on the Eleventh Circuit. [Fulton County Daily Report]

* Can you be fired for medical marijuana in Colorado, where the drug is legal even for recreational purposes? [ABA Journal]

* Dewey have some good news for the embattled ex-leaders of the defunct law firm? [New York Law Journal]

* Home Depot is the latest major retailer to be hit by a data breach. [Washington Post]

Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

We’ve been enjoying the occasional trip back in time to look at Biglaw in ages past. In prior Flashback Friday posts, we’ve covered such topics as the most prestigious law firms in 1998 and billable hours in the 1990s.

And, of course, we have covered compensation. We’ve done two posts so far looking at associate comp in the 1990s, in New York and in other cities — Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles.

Today we’ll close out the series with an overview of associate pay in the remaining markets of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco/Palo Alto, and Washington, D.C….

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Won’t somebody please think of the children?

That quote comes from the contemptible Helen Lovejoy and probably a bunch of other sanctimonious folks trying to dupe the public into backing some BS agenda armed with the logical fallacy of an emotional appeal. The devil of it is these empty emotional pleas are so convincing to a lot of people. Sadly, lawyers aren’t above pulling this card to snowjob judges and the media.[1]

After the Vergara v. California decision there was a brief volley of commentary before everyone moved on to the next big event. The decision struck California’s teacher tenure law as unconstitutional because granting tenure to experienced teachers could possibly, maybe mean that a “bad” teacher couldn’t be fired fast enough. The decision earned the praise of a bi-partisan peanut gallery from the dwindling posse of Republicans in California to Secretary of Education and NBA Celebrity All-Star MVP Arne Duncan.

Everyone seems to want in on the “education would be peachy if it weren’t for the teachers” movement — including a metric s**t ton of Biglaw bigwigs. Gibson Dunn’s Ted Boutrous and Randy Mastro spearheaded the Vergara case. Ted Olson advised. David Boies is the chair of the Partnership for Educational Justice, a group fronted by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown bringing a similar lawsuit in New York fronted by Kirkland’s Jay Lefkowitzpro bono, of course. Now even Professor Larry Tribe is in the mix.

Stop the sanctimonious love-in. They aren’t championing children, they’re either starstruck or shilling or both. I mean, the Republicans have always wanted to kill unions because it’s easier to gut public schools for fun and profit. Democrats have jumped on board more recently because they want to suck up to tech billionaires like Bill Gates who preach that fixing the public education system that they never really participated in themselves is as simple as building an internet browser (which it is, if you want Internet Explorer).[2]

And all these legal luminaries throwing their reputations behind this effort just highlights how flimsy it is, as a matter of law and policy….

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Judge Richard Posner

* A unanimous Seventh Circuit panel, in an opinion by Judge Posner, just struck down Wisconsin and Indiana’s bans on same-sex marriage. The result isn’t surprising in light of the blistering benchslaps delivered by Judge Posner at oral argument, but the timing is faster than usual (for a federal appellate opinion in a high-profile case, not for the prolific Posner). [BuzzFeed]

* Bad news for Cahill Gordon: the Third Circuit just revived a fraud case against the high-powered firm and one of its clients, a unit of BASF. [WSJ Law Blog]

* And badder news for BP: a federal judge just concluded that the oil giant was grossly negligent in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. [New York Times]

* Freshfields gets fresh talent, adding former Wachtell partner Mitchell Presser and former Skadden partner James Douglas to its ranks. [American Lawyer]

* The dean of Seton Hall Law, Patrick Hobbs, will step down from the deanship at the end of the current academic year. Congratulations to Dean Hobbs on a long and successful tenure. [South Orange Juice]

* And congratulations to John Grisham and Jason Bailey, winners of, respectively, the 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and the 2014 ABA Journal/Ross Short Fiction Contest. [ABA Journal]

* Brittany McGrath, Brooklyn Law class of 2014, RIP. [TaxProf Blog]

Bruce Stachenfeld

This is the first of a four-article series focusing on the following matters:

  • First Article – Profits Per Partner: A Good Servant But A Bad Master
  • Second Article – A Profits-Per-Partner Emancipation Plan
  • Third Article – Beyond Profits Per Partner – Embracing Volatility
  • Fourth Article – How to Embrace Volatility as a Law Firm

Those of us running law firms have two sets of clients:

  • Clients – parties that hire us for legal work.
  • Lawyers – parties that do the legal work for the clients.

One without the other is pointless, obviously – they are yin and yang. However, despite this almost symbiotic relationship, most law firms are set up to attract great clients a lot more than they are set up to attract great lawyers. That is how law firms define “marketing.” The other function is called “recruiting.”

Indeed, let me ask you — in your firm, which is cooler: to be on the marketing committee, or to be on the recruiting committee? Which one is more likely to result in success at your firm, including money, power, fame, a big office, etc.?

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The ALS Association’s “Ice Bucket Challenge” has been wildly successful, raising more than $107 million to support the nonprofit and its great work fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The success even prompted the association to file trademark applications for “Ice Bucket Challenge” and “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” (ultimately withdrawn, so as not to stop other worthy causes from using the challenge).

As we reported last month, the Ice Bucket Challenge has been very popular within the legal profession. Even your Above the Law editors got into it. I was challenged by Travis Lenkner of Gerchen Keller Capital, the litigation finance firm, and I responded to that challenge by making a donation in lieu of icing myself. I then challenged my colleague Staci Zaretsky, who responded by dumping ice on herself (and contributing too).

We were joined by many other lawyers and law students in this endeavor. Here’s a round-up of Ice Bucket Challenges from around the legal world….

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Our law firm does not have a Twitter account. But our consulting and patent monetization firm, Markman Advisors, does (@MarkmanAdvisors) — an active one, where we post about patent litigation-related events that are of interest to our followers. Twitter has become our number-one way of interacting with the investment community that is the target for our consulting and patent monetization services.

Yet our law firm still does not have a Twitter account — and I am not convinced it should. As a practicing litigator, I am reluctant to give out my opinions on legal issues through such a broad-reaching medium. Lawyers on Twitter either need to have a lot of guts, or follow the typical boring Biglaw marketing model. I am not interested too much in either approach.

Our engagement with Twitter is relatively recent, dating to the launch of our law firm and consulting practice. Prior to Twitter, our focus was on demonstrating our patent litigation bona fides via investor-focused articles on websites like Seeking Alpha and Harvest. The goal of that work was to demonstrate that Markman Advisors offered investors, inventors, and companies interested in patent situations a unique analytical approach, informed by our collective experience litigating big-ticket patent cases while at Biglaw firms. We were fortunate to build a following on those platforms, which led to meetings with the type of clients we were interested in representing. In the course of those discussions, we found out that for the investment community — traders, hedge funds, whomever — Twitter is a necessary and powerful communications tool.

Being lawyers, our first reaction was skepticism….

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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 compensation in 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….

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