Biglaw

Michele Roberts

Let’s be clear: I’m sure there were people that noticed I was a girl. Having said that, I frankly wanted to address that question up front whenever I spoke with any of the members of the executive committee and the union. My sense was, the only thing people cared about was my resolve.

Michele Roberts, the Skadden Arps partner who was just elected the new executive director of the NBA players’ union, commenting on whether her gender played any role in her election. (You can read more about Roberts’s background in this prior profile.)

Whether you practice in Biglaw or a boutique, knowing how to email is a critical skill. In fact, the quality of a lawyer’s emails is an excellent indicator of that lawyer’s future career prospects (excepting those lawyers fortunate to be born with a guaranteed multimillion-dollar book of business through family connections). This should not be a surprise, considering how email is the single most used form of communication for lawyers. Yes, technology has liberated us from a full day’s work (with the help of a secretary) in order to prepare what would now be considered a routine client communication in the form of a fancy letter. But the need for a similar level of care in preparing today’s written communications has not changed. Show me an associate’s emails, and I (along with other former or current Biglaw partners) will have a very respectable success rate in guessing whether or not the associate is partnership material, even in the absence of other information about the author.

I have sent many thousands of emails in my legal career. I do not know how many of them would have been considered “good” emails, but I’d like to think that most of them were. I was fortunate, since I worked for a partner who stressed to me early on the importance of sending “good” emails.

What is a “good” email?

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Image via Getty

* The Second Circuit ruled that the World Trade Center Cross may remain on display in the September 11 Memorial and Museum. Apologies, atheists, but it’s a “genuine historical artifact.” [New York Daily News]

* Howrey going to get money back when judges keep tossing unfinished business claims like they’re yesterday’s trash? We’ll see if such claims will be laid to rest after a hearing later today. [Am Law Daily]

* Paul Weiss had a good get this week, with Citigroup’s deputy general counsel leaving the bank to join the firm — which coincidentally has served as the bank’s outside counsel for two decades. [WSJ Law Blog]

* North Carolina, a state that adopted a ban on same-sex marriage in 2012, said it will no longer defend its law in the wake of the Fourth Circuit’s ruling as to a similar ban in Virginia. Hooray! [Los Angeles Times]

* If you missed it, a judge issued a preliminary ruling against Donald Sterling, meaning that the sale of the L.A. Clippers may proceed. Don’t worry, his attorney says this is just “one stage of a long war.” [CNN]

* It seems that “weed-infused weddings” are a hot commodity in states where the drug has been legalized. Sorry, it may be better than an open bar, but it doesn’t seem like a very classy thing to do. [Boston.com]

* Cheryl Hanna, Vermont Law School professor and praised legal analyst, RIP. [Burlington Free Press]

It turns out that the Office of Career Services at Harvard Law School has been sending out weekly tips to the hordes of HLS summer associates working around the country. Because it’s Harvard, most of the tips are in Latin and can only be read with the special Crimson decoder ring every HLS student gets along with President Obama’s cell phone number and some lembas bread.

Just kidding… lembas bread isn’t real.

The tips themselves aren’t earth-shattering, they’re standard career-services speak that are useful only if you find the maxim “don’t be a f**king tool” lacking in specificity. But the progression of the tips, now that is fantastic. In a way, the tips kind of follow the life cycle of an ivory-tower babe who is thrust into the real world. Let’s take a look at how Harvard wants its students to approach their summers…

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I must have reached a certain age.

Within the last month, three different people have contacted me to say that they’re approaching retirement, so it’s time to start serving on boards of directors. These folks came to me (of all people!) to network.

By keeping my ear so close to the ground, I’ve discovered the new, new thing. And you’re in luck — I’ll share it with you!

Everyone’s getting old and thinking about retirement.

Or maybe I’ve buried the lede. Maybe hordes of baby boomers are now thinking about finding a part-time job that pays good money and keeps you entertained after you’ve stopped working full-time.

That’s not a bad strategy, really. If you’re industrious, you could serve on four or five boards, carefully analyze the board materials before each meeting, monitor the companies’ fortunes, contribute insights and ask tough questions during the meetings, and follow up after meetings in pursuit of the corporate good.

On the other hand, if you’re less industrious, you could show up for a few board and committee meetings every year, enjoy cocktails and dinner with the boys, sit like a cardboard cutout during the meetings, and pocket a few hundred grand annually for your efforts, . . .

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Alec Baldwin was such a stud.

* “I don’t care if it’s legal, it’s wrong.” President Obama is pointing the finger at companies using cross-border mergers to avoid U.S. taxes, and he wants to put an end to corporate tax inversions. [Bloomberg]

* Thomas Christina of Ogletree Deakins is the lawyer behind the recent circuit split on Obamacare’s state versus federal health insurance subsidies. Blame him or praise him, it’s up to you. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “I think I missed being in the courtroom more than I missed politics.” John Edwards, acquitted in 2012, is making court appearances again, but this time as a lawyer, not as a defendant. [Am Law Daily]

* A lawyer from Georgia hunts alligators in his spare time, and keeps the taxidermied head of one he caught right on his desk. He says it’s “a great conversation piece,” but that’s a pretty nasty paperweight. Eww. [Daily Report via ABA Journal]

* In a face-off with Alec Baldwin, a judge asked the actor to apologize. The combative Baldwin said he’d rather pay a fine, but if he can “[b]e a good boy,” his biking charge will be dropped. [New York Daily News]

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Michael Allen is Managing Principal at Lateral Link, focusing exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

Of the roughly 36,000 partners in Biglaw, roughly 6,800 (18.8%) of them are within a few years of or have surpassed (and then some) the mandatory retirement age. Lawyers 55 or older make up about 1/3 of the practicing partners in the Am Law 200, a figure that will likely hold steady as the tail end of the baby boomer generation ages. Am Law 200 law firms have on average about 34 chairs, executive members, and senior partners whose 35-plus years of experience, client relationships, and leadership must be transferred to a new generation of rising stars. The process is hardly ever smooth and often involuntary.

Most partners in senior vintages begrudge the practice of mandatory retirement; some bemoan that it is an overcautious safeguard or the epitome of ageism. Some claim the practice is supported by scientific studies that link cognitive decline with advancing age — especially after 65, which is about the average for mandatory retirement. However, with advancing medical standards the idea of being forced to retire at 65 may soon seem ludicrous, but for now, how many law firms are prepared to deal with the void left by these partners?

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Bruce Stachenfeld

“Low overhead is great!” That is one of our sayings. We recite it all the time — yes, even out loud at meetings — as it is a powerful competitive advantage for a law firm. It seems pretty obvious, but if so, why doesn’t everyone get with this concept?

There is a term informally used to describe how overhead impacts a law firm called “Implied Overhead.” The “Implied Overhead” of a law firm is the cost of everything except the lawyers divided by the number of lawyers. So if you have 50 lawyers and the cost of “everything” except the lawyers is $10,000,000, then you have implied overhead of $200,000 per lawyer.

Our Implied Overhead for last year was about $165,000. Anecdotally I believe that Implied Overhead for major law firms averages about $300,000. (I admit I don’t really have this data for sure; it is just what I have heard.) If your firm has 100 lawyers and implied overhead of $200,000 and the average for major law firms is $300,000, then you have a $100,000 per lawyer competitive advantage over your major law firm competition. Multiply that by 100 lawyers and you just made $10,000,000! And this flows right to the bottom line! If there are, say, 30 partners at this firm, then each partner just got a check for $333,333!

Yikes — did I do that math right? Was that $333,333 per partner merely by reducing the implied overhead?  I just double checked and $10,000,000 divided by 30 partners does indeed equal $333,333. That’s a sizable number, so maybe you should read the rest of my article….

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Joe Francis

* The day after the Supreme Court lifted a stay on Joseph Wood’s execution, it took nearly two hours for Arizona authorities to kill him using the very drug cocktail he contested on appeal. [New York Times]

* So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu: Spencer Barasch, the lawyer at the center of some blowback due to his dealings with Ponzi schemer R. Allen Stanford, is now leaving Andrews Kurth. [Am Law Daily]

* A dead body was found inside of this West Texas law firm, and the man who was pegged as a suspect claimed he lived at the firm, along with his recently deceased friend. This seems sketchy. [KCBD 11]

* Suffolk Law is hosting a contest where students, coders, and entrepreneurs will try to figure out a way to hack the justice gap. Start by creating an app to help new lawyers earn a living wage. [BostInno]

* Donald Sterling isn’t going to let the fact that he’s already involved in one contentious lawsuit about the L.A. Clippers stop him from filing another contentious lawsuit about the L.A. Clippers. [Bloomberg]

* Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild infamy is in some trouble with the law. He just got hit with a $5,000 per day fine until he returns two luxury cars to the pornography company’s bankruptcy estate. [WSJ Law Blog]

Dr. N. Robert Riordan

Dr. N. Robert Riordan is a graduate of NYU School of Law and a former U.S. securities attorney for London- and Sydney-based Herbert Smith Freehills. After 10 years of practice in New York, London and Rome, he made the switch from corporate law to private practice as a clinical psychologist. Dr. Riordan now acts as a therapist to dozens of NYC attorneys. The following is the second of a two-part interview with Dr. Riordan. (You can read the first part here.)

ATL: In addition to professionals like attorneys, whom do you see in your private practice?

The remainder of my practice focuses on couples. I work with two distinct types of couples. First, I see couples whose romantic relationships are in crisis. The goal here is to improve their bond to one another. I happen to see many couples where both parties are professionals, and, most often, each member of the couple is struggling to balance personal and professional demands.

ATL: I would imagine that couples come to treatment for a variety of reasons.

I work with many couples whose connection to one another has been strained by things like demanding careers, childrearing, or an unexpected financial hardship. These couples are looking to recapture the connection that originally brought them together and to start working as a partnership again. Also I work with a handful of couples who are facing specific challenges, like infidelity or the loss of a child.

ATL: Has your training as an attorney prepared you for the conflicts that presumably arise in couples’ therapy?

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