Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group

Thumbs up, managing partners!

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….

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* 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]

Wendy Davis

* 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]

‘So it’s decided – we’ll be Cravath, Swaine, Moore, & Doritos.’

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 with the rest of the world embracing new structures to permit non-lawyer ownership — and empirical evidence suggesting that those models raise fewer ethical concerns than the alternative — some argue that the U.S. firm model stifles innovation and cripples international competitiveness.

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?

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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.

Let’s see what’s in store for 2014….

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Nadya Suleman aka Octomom

* 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]

Three cheers for “cultural capital.”

* 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]

* Law school specialization and you: follow these three simple steps to help you decide which niche you’ll be unable to find a job in after you graduate. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

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.

Let’s look at the other highlights of the report:

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Missing: multiple midlevels

Even though there’s significant excess capacity — meaning too many lawyers chasing too little work — I am hearing the concern that there aren’t enough midlevel associates.

Dan DiPietro, chairman of the Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group, offering an explanation as to why he thinks Biglaw firms want to increase headcount in this time of economic stress. In the latest Law Watch Managing Partner Confidence Index Survey, law firm leaders’ overall confidence level was lower than it has been since last year at this time, with expectations for profits and revenues also on the decline. The only area where their confidence rose was in expectations for hiring associates and equity partners.

* Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is definitely one of our favorite judicial divas. When asked if she thought the Supreme Court’s work was art or theater, she mused, “It’s both, with a healthy dose of real life mixed in.” [New York Times]

* According to the Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group report on the first half of the year, the legal industry should count itself lucky if it manages to meet last year’s single-digit profit growth. This “new normal” thing sucks. [Am Law Daily]

* Howrey going to celebrate these “monumental” settlements with Baker & Hostetler and Citibank? The failed firm’s trustee might throw a party when he’s finally able to file a liquidation plan. [Am Law Daily]

* Uncommon law marriage? A man stuck in an inheritance battle who lived with his late partner since 1995 now asks the District of Columbia to declare him common-law husband. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* The ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar proposed a major overhaul to its accreditation standards. Action, of course, likely won’t be taken until next year. [National Law Journal]

* Despite the fact that these measures could help struggling graduates, law deans are at odds over the ABA’s proposed changes to tenure requirements for professors. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* “Sooner or later you’ve got to make a choice, because you need enough revenue to cover what your expenses are.” Cooley will weather the storm by introducing a massive tuition hike. [Lansing State Journal]

* “How would you feel if you spent well over $100,000 on law school, only to have to spend an extra couple of thousand dollars on a course to get you to pass the bar?” You’d probably feel like everyone else. [CNBC]

* Requiring porn stars to wear condoms might not be sexy, but a federal judge says it’s constitutional. Don’t worry, unlike its actresses, the adult film industry won’t go down without a fight. [Los Angeles Times]

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