Biglaw

Keith Lee

One of the first realities that new lawyers come to confront as they graduate law school — whether it be on their own or within a firm — is that clients are the life blood of practice. No clients, no practice.

This often comes as a surprise to new lawyers. Despite the the glut of lawyers, declining legal industry, and overall economic malaise, many new lawyers still think that clients will magically appear once they have received their J.D. and passed the bar. A few months into practice, they are quickly dissuaded of this notion.

Instead, they learn that clients must be developed or found.

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Good luck to all of our readers who are now going through the on-campus interview process for 2015 summer associate positions. We’re sure that, armed with Anonymous Recruitment Director’s 8 tips for OCI, you are racking up offers left and right.

Once you have the offers, how do you decide between them? How do you weigh, for example, overall prestige versus strength in a specific practice area?

To this question we now turn….

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A year ago, in writing about how major law firms performed in the first half of 2013, I wondered whether Biglaw might be the proverbial frog in boiling water. I now wonder whether the analogy might still hold, but in a good way: could we be witnessing a quiet boom for Biglaw, happening so gradually that we don’t even realize it’s here?

In the past few weeks, a slew of mega-mergers have made headlines — which will hopefully turn into contributions to law firm coffers. But even if you focus just on the first six months of 2014, excluding the busy months of July and August, there’s good news to report.

Our friends at Citi Private Bank, a leading law firm lender, just released their report on how Biglaw fared in the first half of 2014. What are the key findings?

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“Tear gas?”
“Wait, was that a flash grenade?”
“Oh, now there’s a picture!”
“They arrested journalists… just for being in a McDonald’s?”
“Now the arrested reporters are back online!”

Last night, many of us fixated on our Twitter feeds to follow, in real time, every breaking development in Ferguson, Missouri. The hashtag acted as a latter day, crowdsourced ticker tape keeping those miles away from the town — clear to Gaza — abreast as the peaceful protests brought on a symbolically striking military-style occupation, complete with the use of gas and rubber bullets and the arrest of journalists for performing their constitutionally protected jobs.

That’s what Twitter did that was awesome. Unfortunately, last night also put on display everything awful about Twitter. Everything that people mistake it to be when they set up a handle and broadcast their message to the world in 140 character segments. Others have tackled what Ferguson means in the grand scheme of criminal law and what lawyers should do in response to Ferguson. But there are also lessons to be learned from “#Ferguson” — the cyber place that conveyed the events of Ferguson — and the opinions of casual observers — to the world.

Lessons that all technologically connected lawyers, and frankly everyone, can use….

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As we noted in today’s Morning Docket, the American Lawyer just published an interesting article with a provocative title: Cleary’s Litigation Slump. In the piece, Michael Goldhaber notes some high-profile defeats recently suffered by Cleary Gottlieb, which he cites in wondering whether the super-elite law firm might be losing its courtroom mojo.

The article struck me as a bit unfair to Cleary. Here’s why….

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Say farewell to Cooley Law — j/k, it’ll always be Cooley.

* Cleary Gottlieb lost some historic cases during the first half of 2014, including one for $50 billion, but not to worry, “the firm is proud of the work Cleary lawyers do every day.” [Am Law Daily]

* The Fourth Circuit is refusing to issue a stay in Virginia’s gay marriage case, so the state will be for all lovers starting next week unless SCOTUS decides to step in. [National Law Journal]

* Thomas M. Cooley Law School has now officially become the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. If only a new name could clear its reputation. [MLive.com]

* It’s not every day that a law student with a criminal history is arrested on murder charges, but Tuesday was that day for one student. We’ll have more on this later. [San Antonio Express-News]

* “Glass is built to connect you more with the world around you, not distract you from it.” Google sure is optimistic about Glass, but several states aren’t, and have already proposed driving bans. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Maybe you weren’t excited about Hofstra Law School, but did you hear they now have bean bag chairs in the library? Well, that changes everything! [Virtual Library Cat's Eye View]

* An interview with Peter Kalis on the future of Biglaw, in which he states, “I cross bridges and burn them behind me.” Flame on! [Forbes]

* This essay sums up so much about the state of America through the lens of the killing of Michael Brown. [The Concourse]

* While we focused on the tale of Judge Mark Fuller, who spent some time in jail on a domestic violence accusation, he may be part of a trend — Judge Lance Mason was charged with felonious assault after allegedly punching and biting his wife while they were driving. Biting? [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

* Have you ever wondered how every law school can give its students “excellent” educations? [The Legal Watchdog]

* Failed Mississippi candidate Chris McDaniel is challenging a bunch of votes. Including his own lawyer’s. [Wonkette]

* Tim Corcoran, President of the Legal Marketing Association, chides state bar associations for meddling with the evolution of the legal profession. Video after the jump…. [Mimesis Law]

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Ed Sohn and Joe Borstein

Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnists, Ed Sohn and Joe Borstein of Pangea3, who will be writing about the alternative legal services market and the future of the legal profession.

Stop what you’re doing! Take a journey with us to the alternative side of the legal profession for the next few minutes (and through our ongoing column). There is a revolution happening in the practice of law. And you should join it. Or, at the very least, break out the fanny packs and the binoculars and watch. For now, stop your SmartTimer and get off the clock… because as it turns out, reading this is NOT billable. Maybe try your favorite non-billable code, like “professional development.”

Here’s the newsflash: entrepreneurs and innovators are changing the legal profession for the better, having fun, and making real money in the process. The unstoppable forces of modern business — technology, globalization, the need for sleep/food/conjugal visits — are at the gates and climbing the highly defensible ivory tower….

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According to the latest Am Law 100 rankings, Wachtell Lipton had profits per partner of nearly $5 million in 2013.

Meditate on that for a moment. Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth.

Five million bucks per year.

Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth.

I lost the slidy-thing from my slide ruler so I have to do this in my head, but I think that’s about $100,000 per week per equity partner. A little less than a newbie associate makes in a whole year outside of the major metropolitan areas.

Imagine all the things you can buy with that kind of money. A mansion that looks somewhat familiar every time you visit it. Luxury vehicles for your nanny. Dream trips for your spouse. The finest private schools for your kids. An iPhone for your son so he can talk to you every day. A high-end camera your wife can take to your daughter’s soccer game so you can watch her play through live streaming video. Oh, the joy that kind of money you can bring your family. It’s not Powerball, but it’s most certainly a lottery win per year.

How much do Canadian law partners earn?

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I spent ten hours in a deposition on yesterday in the office of a large law firm in Los Angeles. Just looking around the room, I noticed two things: 1) they were better dressed than we were, and 2) our computers were so much better than theirs. I stepped out into the hallway and noticed that a lot of their hardware was stuff that a public school would auction off. It reminded me of the first few years of my legal career when I worked in a large law firm. We had all the amenities you could want. All of our legal pads were branded with our firm’s logo, and we wrote on them with pens that had our firm’s logo branded on them. I ate lunch every day in our break room that looked over the ocean. But, when lunch was over, I would go back to my desk and work on Office ’97 on my bulky CRT monitor. This is because large law firms are very big, slow-moving beasts, especially when it comes to technology.

My fellow columnist Nicole Black wrote an article last week about how a small firm is using technology to keep up with Biglaw firms. This is not a fantasy. When I was working at the aforementioned large law firm, my boss told me a story about a solo practitioner. By way of background, we represented a Fortune 500 company, had an army of Ivy League attorneys, and almost unlimited resources. Despite all that, this solo practitioner was able to run circles around us. He was better organized and was able to do things more efficiently. The case we had against him was before my time, so I had no idea if it was true, but the important thing was that, having seen how the sausage was made there, I knew it was absolutely possible.

Here’s why:

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