Last week, the American Lawyer announced its eagerly anticipated Am Law 100 rankings, reflecting the financial performance of major law firms in 2013. On the whole, the news wasn’t bad. The elite firms did great, and most other firms eked out “modest, hard-won gains.” Am Law suggested that the big vereins underperformed, but that indictment might have been too harsh.
The Am Law data focuses on last year. What about last quarter? How are law firms doing in 2014 so far?
A new report from Citi Private Bank, a leading provider of financial services to leading law firms, has some answers….
* According to the latest Citi report, Biglaw was looking pretty good during the first quarter of 2014. Revenue was up by 4.3 percent — the best first quarter results since 2008. Hooray! [Am Law Daily]
* Nice work if you can get it: Gibson Dunn, the firm hired to handle New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” investigation, billed about $1.1 million for roughly two weeks of work. [NJ.com]
* A “perfect storm” of too many grads and not enough jobs caused the decline in law school enrollment. The solution is obviously online learning instead of lowering tuition. Yep. [New Hampshire Public Radio]
* Our congratulations go out to Catherine Wauters of George Mason Law, winner of BARBRI’s inaugural public interest fellowship! (Our very own managing editor, David Lat, served as one of the judges.) [CNBC]
* The latest football franchise to face the wrath of underpaid cheerleaders is the New York Jets. Members of the team’s “Flight Crew” say they make less than minimum wage to shake their pom poms. [Bloomberg]
April Fools’ Day is a terrible day to be in this business. Every tip that comes in requires an extra layer of scrutiny because even longstanding, trusted sources are trying to troll. It’s really not all that funny to make up false but entirely believable stories and pass them off as real. That’s why the Daily Currant isn’t funny.
Which is why when Citi Private Bank issued its First Quarter report on the confidence of managing partners across the legal landscape and declared that managing partners have a rosy outlook, it earned a double take on this end. After all, wasn’t it just a few months ago that managing partners were telling the American Lawyer that it was all gloom and doom on the horizon?
So is this result real? It is, but the headline isn’t the end of the story….
* Maybe things are getting better. Per the latest Law Watch Managing Partner Confidence Index, Biglaw partners have shown an uptick in confidence in the first quarter of 2014. [Am Law Daily]
* Thanks to this ruling, Chevron can sue Patton Boggs over claims it engaged in fraud during the Ecuador case. Don’t worry, we’re sure the merger with Squire Sanders will be just fine. [Reuters]
* Dewey know how much the latest clawback suit seeks from this failed firm’s ex-COO? About $9.3 million, for his “astronomically generous” employment contract. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* No more “unfounded” filings for this unfound plane: A firm’s attempts to get documents from Malaysian Air to file a possible lawsuit have been thwarted by a judge, with the possibility of sanctions. [Bloomberg]
* When your “concerned uncle” is writing to a pre-law adviser about your future when you haven’t even gone to college yet, you know you’re probably destined to be a gunner. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]
* According to the latest Citi report, the Am Law 50 outperformed the rest of their ilk in terms of net profits and profits per equity partner. As for the rest, ha ha ha, enjoy all of your “modest” returns. [Am Law Daily]
* The ABA’s Standards Review Committee is close to a decision on its bar-exam passage standard for accreditation. It’s tough to protect students and law schools at the same time. [National Law Journal]
* Oh my! Professors at Albany Law are incredibly pissed the school would dare imply they suggested lowering academic standards to put asses in seats and stave off faculty layoffs. [New York Law Journal]
* Wendy Davis has left her position at Cantey Hanger, one of Fort Worth’s largest law firms, to dedicate herself fully to her bid to become Texas’ Next Top Governor. You stand, girl! [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]
* Yuna, a Malaysian pop star with a law degree who’s worked with artists like Pharrell, doesn’t think she’ll be able to fall back on her J.D. now that she’s in America. Funny, because many Americans feel exactly the same way. [Pittsburgh City Paper]
All those professional responsibility lectures, and bar prep, and boring CLEs that I attended after becoming a lawyer, and all the boring CLEs I dutifully watched on the Internet after I escaped the probationary period, consistently preached the evils of non-lawyer ownership of law firms.
It raises ethical concerns! It dilutes what it means to be a lawyer! This is a profession, not a business! All the usual complaints from a profession convinced that it’s made up of beautiful and unique snowflakes with unimpeachable judgment.
But the better question is, “Don’t non-lawyers own law firms already?” And to the extent the answer is “of course,” shouldn’t the profession be bending over backwards to approve ownership models that better serve the firms and their clients than the status quo?
Good news: According to the Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group (and its partner, the Hildebrandt Institute), firms are looking at nice, steady profit growth in the coming year. It’s not super, but who can be choosy in the current market? And partially driving this growth is an expected uptick in demand, so that’s good.
Bad news: While the media latched on to the favorable demand projection, the report expects firms to be more profitable because they are finally taking Citi’s advice on how to become more profitable — and that doesn’t bode well for rank-and-file attorneys.
* Robert Wilkins was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit yesterday, which is significant because it marks the first time in decades that the court hasn’t had any judicial vacancies. Congrats! [Blog of Legal Times]
* Biglaw firms should be happy to hear about what the Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group has seen in its crystal ball: law firm profits are expected to grow by about 5 percent this year. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Unlike its stinky burger fiasco, Steptoe & Johnson managed to quietly converse with “three or four” firms about a possible merger, but the firm’s chairman refuses to kiss and tell. [National Law Journal]
* Take criminal disclosures on your law school apps seriously — after all, someone needs to worry about whether you’ll be able to pass C&F, and it won’t be your school if they just want your money. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]
* Recent law grads working at the Chicago Justice Entrepreneurs Project might not be “rolling in money,” but they’re learning how be successful lawyers, and experience like that is worth millions. [Businessweek]
* The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, “a regulator that protects its industry from rules it deems unfair,” wants a list of all alcohol, everywhere. Treasury Department party! [DealBook / New York Times]
* Nadya Suleman, she of the clown car uterus, was charged with welfare fraud for failure to report income from her strip club appearances and porn videos. She’s the Octomother of the year. [CBS Los Angeles]
* Despite his hatred of 3L classes like “Law and Unicorns,” Justice Scalia believes that the third year of law school is necessary — perhaps a necessary evil, but still necessary. [Memphis Daily News]
* “[T]his excuse — sometimes labeled the ‘too big to jail’ excuse — is disturbing, frankly….” The eminently quotable Judge Rakoff is at it again, this time with harsh words for the DOJ. [New York Times]
* According to the latest survey from Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group, managing partners think that 2014 will be better than 2013. This means bonuses will be the same next year. [Am Law Daily]
* Attorneys from Wiley Rein are fighting for $2 million in fees in the wake of their SCOTUS win in the Shelby County Voting Rights Act case. The firm’s quest has been called “absurd.” [National Law Journal]
* “The record is utterly devoid of any evidence of criminal intent or intentional misconduct.” It turns out the attorneys accused of malpractice by the Miccosukee Indians weren’t bad after all. [Daily Business Review]
* Rather than pegging its value at $1 million, a professor from a fourth-tier law school is promoting the “non-economic value” of a law degree. Can “cultural capital” repay your loans? [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* “[N]o law school in Canada should be allowed to weed out gay students.” Too bad. Trinity Western University, the law school that bans gay “sexual intimacy,” received preliminary approval. [Globe and Mail]
As noted in Morning Docket, Citi’s quarterly review of the financial landscape facing law firms just came out. The surface level verdict is — as it has been for some time — slow and steady, with a bunch of red flags.
The firms are happy to see positive revenue growth, even if it’s only 2.7 percent. I mean, other industries aren’t so lucky. But when the industry is a few years into the “New Normal” and analysts are still pointing to the same failings, it’s hard to feel too optimistic.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!