Chambers

No, not that kind of chambers.

I’m in-house, so Chambers & Partners — one of the outfits that rates lawyers and law firms — sent me a free copy of their 2014 guide.

If you’re profiled in that book, you get to write your own (very short) bio. You get something like 50 words to convince the world to hire you. So what did one person, from the distinguished firm of Bigg & Mediocre, write? I’ll slightly alter the bio, to disguise the guilty, but you’ll get my point:

Charles Darnay has argued more appeals in the Second Circuit than any other lawyer at Bigg & Mediocre.”

This guy isn’t competing for business with other law firms; he’s trying to steal business from his own partners! His pitch is not: “I’m better than other lawyers in the world.” Instead, it’s: “I may not be better than most lawyers in the world, but at least I’m better than any of the other clowns you’ll find here at B&M.”

Very nice. But that’s not the best of it; Chambers conceals many secrets . . .

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If you are a Biglaw partner and have only one title to hawk, I hope you are at a really top-tier firm. Because “partner” is no longer enough to impress clients. Especially in this age of multiple industry “guides” eager to anoint mortal lawyers with honorifics befitting your typical episode of Game of Thrones. (I am sure there is a female head of litigation somewhere who would relish being called Mother of Dragons, or a managing partner in Silicon Valley who would not mind being thought of as Lord of the Vale.) Between Chambers, Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, and others, there are plenty of possibilities to supplement “partner” with something more.

Of course, the race for titles happens internally at Biglaw firms as well. Factor number one is prior business generation. Rainmakers are given titles by their fellow partners, like farmers seeding clouds for future rainfall. Every firm has at least a managing partner or CEO, numerous practice group heads, and an executive committee. Some firms, typically those of the “eat what you kill” variety, also exhibit a form of “title inflation,” with co-chairs galore and sub-department chieftains abounding. Plus office-level “chairs” — it is always a hoot when there is a local head of litigation for a branch office with three litigators. Especially when the branch office is a major city, with dozens of robust litigation practices at other Biglaw firms for clients to choose from. Everyone who has been granted a title uses it when marketing outside the firm. Who would want to hire a regular partner for a bankruptcy matter when you can have the co-chair of the Boston office’s (two-member) restructuring department handling things?

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Conservatives, just shut up about this guy. You'll all love him again when he strikes down Affirmative-Action this fall.

* I think there is an interesting question on why Republican Presidents seem to have difficulty getting their Supreme Court justices to vote the party line, but this opinion writer handles the discussion in a stupid, butthurt way. [Washington Post]

* Your Tweets can be subpoenaed. #Biglawdiscoverytactics. [Atlantic Wire]

* Rutgers-Camden Law seems to be having trouble filling its seats. Maybe that’s why they’ve started admitting people who didn’t even apply. [Tax Prof Blog]

* If you spend over $100K for a J.D. and then end up working at Axiom, you’ve probably lost. [Law Technology News]

* Here’s a nice little chart made with Chambers numbers to tell us which firms seem to be staffing up. The takeaway is that in addition to your studies, you should be spending enough time in the gym so you look pretty enough to work at Davis Polk. [WSJ Law Blog]

* A Blawg Review that pays homage to Lyndon Baines Johnson. I read that LBJ used to take meetings while he was on the crapper. You probably couldn’t do that today without somebody suing you. [The Defense Rests via Blawg Review]

uncle sam

...to take a survey

Later this year, Above the Law will be launching a new, expanded Career Center. The new Career Center will be a resource for students and lawyers at all stages of their careers, and in all areas of legal practice (i.e., not just Biglaw). But we can be sure that news and insight into life at firms and schools will continue to be ATL’s bread and butter. With that in mind, today we open up the ATL School & Firm Insider Survey.

I assume a common reaction will be, “What with — among others — Vault, Chambers, U.S. News, and Am Law, why the hell do we need yet another employer/school survey?” Fair enough. And yes, all of the existing surveys have their merits. All of them produce useful content for students and potential laterals.

We do believe, however, that when it comes to information, the more the merrier. Moreover, the ATL survey is distinctive in some fundamental ways, and we’re going to justify its existence….

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Back in February 2009, Latham & Watkins laid off 440 people. They weren’t the first firm to lay people off, they weren’t the last, and you can even argue that they didn’t even lay off the most associates in percentage terms.

But somehow Latham has taken a bigger public relations hit because of its layoffs than any other firm. The firm fell ten spots in last year’s Vault rankings. It’s been referenced in New York Times movie reviews in connection with lawyer layoffs. Hell, people turned Latham into a verb, and not a nice verb.

Now, the latest ignominy. The verb “Lathamed” isn’t just in Urban Dictionary; it’s in the Latham & Watkins firm description in the Chambers guide:

In 2008 gross revenue slipped to $2 billion and profits per equity partner were down by 21 percent, according to 2009 Am Law data. The initial response was a number of performance-related layoffs which was followed, in February 2009, by the laying off of another 190 associates and 250 support staff members. Such was the severity of the cuts that the expression “to be Lathamed” (which, by its most polite definition, means “to be laid off”) was coined.

How did it come to this for Latham?

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