Bill Henderson

Bill Henderson

It’s kind of like the Hunger Games. You’re just trying to survive.

– an anonymous partner quoted by Professor William Henderson in a presentation today at Unlocking the Law: Building on the Work of Larry Ribstein. Professor Henderson noted that today many partners move laterally not for greater prestige or pay but for sheer survival.

(One factor that’s keeping partners up at night, after the jump.)

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[T]he only thing holding many large firms together now is money. No shared history. No shared values. Money by itself is weak glue.

William Henderson, a law professor at Indiana University, speaking to Dan Slater of the Daily Beast about how a storied firm like Dewey & LeBoeuf can fall so fast and so hard.

'Find someone else to draft your asset purchase agreement. I'm too busy smoking this pipe.'

That’s the provocative question bouncing around the legal blogosphere these days. It was raised last week by Vivia Chen of the Careerist, then picked up by Professor William Henderson on the Legal Whiteboard, and now it’s the top story on the ABA Journal.

There’s actually some data driving this discussion. According to Chen, citing research by Professor Henderson, graduates of Loyola University Chicago School of Law are six times more likely to make partner at a major law firm than graduates of the higher-ranked University of Chicago Law School, located just a few miles to the south. It seems that even though Chicago Law grads may have an easier time breaking into Biglaw than their Loyola – Chicago counterparts, the Loyola folks who do make it in the door tend to have longer-lasting law firm careers.

Let’s not pick on U. Chicago. There are other elite law schools with even higher Biglaw “washout” rates….

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He probably would have made a great modern law professor, but Aristotle would be a crappy practicing attorney.

Here’s an argument you don’t hear everyday: law firms who hire the smartest people are hurting their business.

That’s the gist of the argument by Bill Henderson, a professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law who studies the legal profession (and whom we’ve quoted often in these pages). At least if we define “smart” as people who did very well on the LSAT and go to the “best” (as in highest-ranked) law schools. Henderson says that there are a lot of different skills that go into being a profitable lawyer, and being a slightly better standardized test taker than somebody else is not the most important of those skills.

Hey, you know what Aristotle says: “I know enough to know that being able to quote myself makes me an over-educated douche who can barely balance my abacus.”…

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Late last month, we posed a question: Can Stanford overtake Harvard and Yale and become the #1 law school? We consulted our Magic 8 Ball, which gave this answer: “Outlook Not So Good.”

And it’s not just the Magic 8 Ball. Professor Bill Henderson, one of the leading academics studying the legal profession, constructed a simulation model of the U.S. News rankings. He used this model to figure out what Stanford Law School would have to do to top the list.

For starters, it would need to get its hands on at least $350 million dollars….

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100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGThe American Lawyer’s 2007 Associates Survey is now available, via Law.com. Good stuff!

A summary of the survey’s key findings, by editor-in-chief Aric Press, appears here. The WSJ Law Blog collects additional highlights here.

It seems that ATL readers and law firm consultants aren’t the only ones predicting pay raises in the reasonably near future. From Aric Press’s write-up, here’s the money quote (hehe):

This year’s famous hike to $160,000 in starting pay for first-year associates did not buy hiring firms anything in terms of separating themselves from their competition. The firms that can afford to pay more will pay more; but there is a price point that not all Am Law 200 firms will be willing to match. We’re confident that that number begins with a 2.

What Press describes is similar to this excellent analysis, by Bill Henderson of the Empirical Legal Studies blog:

[T]he Big Law market is the midst of a “separating equilibrium”. In short, a few dozen elite firms are pulling away from their BigLaw peers in the competition for premium, price-insensitive work….

So what does the future look like? BigLaw will no longer be synonymous with “large full service firms”, which was the mantra throughout the ’90s. Successful financial services and labor & employment lawyers will tend to migrate to different firms [i.e., super-lucrative and less-lucrative firms, respectively].

In terms of leading New York firms — the shops with big-time transactional practices, and profits per partner of $2 million or more — we’d speculate that a move, to a starting salary at or close to $200,000, will happen in the next twelve to eighteen months. If it doesn’t happen in time for this fall recruiting cycle, it will happen in time for the next one.

The foregoing analysis assumes, of course, that U.S. law firms chug along nicely over the next year or two. If we have a general economic meltdown, then all bets are off.

Annual Survey Shows the New Reality of Associate Life [The American Lawyer]
Associate Survey: Want to Leave? Big Law’s OK With That [WSJ Law Blog]
Howrey Associate Pay Scale: What Merit Really Means [Empirical Legal Studies]

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