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.
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: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.