I was recently chatting with a young litigation partner about how the year was going for his firm thus far. He confessed it was off to a sluggish start. He was not extremely busy himself, but he said that his colleagues on the transactional side were practically twiddling their thumbs.
He wondered: was this slowness specific to his firm, or was the legal industry in general not exactly going gangbusters? I shared with him my sense, admittedly anecdotal, that 2013 to date has been pretty “meh.”
Now we have actual data on the first quarter. My partner friend should be relieved. Misery loves company….
* Right about now, the Second Circuit is wondering why authors are suing Google and crying infringement over the Internet company’s e-book project, especially since digitization could benefit so many of them. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* This is the end of an era of legal battles: Jeffrey Skilling, Enron’s former chief executive officer, is getting a little shaved off the top of his 24-year prison sentence thanks to a deal with the Department of Justice. He’ll be out in 2017. [CNBC]
* Biglaw expected to have a slow start in 2013, but no one expected it to be this slow. The latest Citi report wasn’t exactly encouraging; on average, firms saw a 0.2% increase in revenue during the first quarter. [Am Law Daily]
* In the past decade, the American Bar Association has created six task forces to explore changing the face of legal education as we know it. Funny… nothing’s really changed. [National Law Journal]
* Bail for Ariel Castro, the accused Cleveland kidnapper, has been set at $8 million. “Just think of how many ribs and salsa albums could be bought with that, bro,” said Charles Ramsey. [Chicago Tribune]
* To those of you who celebrate it, Happy Easter! Welcome the holiday by voting in the ABA Journal’s fifth annual “Peeps in Law” contest. [ABA Journal]
* If law firm brackets aren’t your thing, check out Professor Kyle Graham’s brackets for (1) law school classes and (2) law blogs. I’m thankful for ATL’s #1 seed but terrified by who we’re up against (because they’ve ripped me a new one before). [noncuratlex]
* Sorry, Judge Steiner, you wuz robbed; you should have been our Judge of the Day. It’s tough to top “allegations of a sexual quid pro quo with a female lawyer and the eye-opening confiscation of carpet from [chambers] for forensic analysis.” [OC Weekly]
The legal economy right now is not unlike the economy writ large. People with small or non-existent paychecks are suffering, but those at the top are actually doing just fine for themselves.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it might just be reality. As David Brooks put it in a recent New York Times column, “[t]he meritocracy is overwhelming the liberal project.” He argues that in our current, rapidly changing economy, people who are smart, well-educated, and hardworking just end up doing better and better for themselves — and there are practical limits on how much redistributive policies can “fix” this situation.
Sorry for that digression — back to Biglaw. Let’s take a look at how the rich are getting richer….
The grass isn’t quite this green in the ‘new normal.’
In a piece from last month, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wondered: Is Growth Over? One could very easily take this question, posed with respect to the broader economy, and apply it to the world of large law firms.
And what would the answer be? According to a client advisory just issued by Citi Private Bank and Hildebrandt Consulting, “Probably.”
Their analysis is gloomy, although guardedly so; we’re not talking about “the sky is falling” pronouncements. Let’s take a look at the specifics….
I later found out that during this whole period of time… when I was being romanced by Citibank, that they had reason to believe — in fact, they knew — that Howrey was in default of material covenants, and they didn’t tell me that.
– Stephen O’Neal, a former partner of Howrey LLP, in a deposition in his pending litigation against Citibank. O’Neal and another former Howrey partner, David Buoncristiani, allege that Citibank committed fraud by encouraging them to finance their capital contributions with Citi, claiming that Howrey was financially sound when the bank knew Howrey wasn’t.
The Dewey & LeBoeuf drama continues to unfold. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, there have been a few notable recent developments. Citibank just filed a vigorous response to allegations by Steven Otillar, a former Dewey partner, that Citi colluded with Dewey to take advantage of individual partners. Meanwhile, three former leaders of the firm — former chairman Steven Davis, former executive director Stephen DiCarmine, and former CFO Joel Sanders — have filed objections to the global settlement with former partners.
It’s not a pretty picture. And here’s what we’re wondering: Could it happen to another major law firm, sometime in the next twelve months?
What is the future outlook for Biglaw? The Magic 8 Ball is not optimistic.
Last month, we wrote about a less-than-cheery report from Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group, the largest lender to U.S. law firms. The bottom line of that report for law firms: “With weak demand growth and the continuation of expense growth, it is likely that expenses will continue to grow at a faster pace than revenue, squeezing margins and making it tricky to achieve even low single-digit profit growth.”
As we mentioned in Morning Docket, there’s a new report out from our friends at Citi, and it also sounds pessimistic notes. It concerns the confidence levels of law firm managing partners.
What are the powers-that-be in Biglaw worried about right now? Let’s find out….
* Good news, everyone! According to Citi’s Managing Partner Confidence Index survey, firm leaders are feeling pessimistic about their business due to an overall lack of confidence in the economy. [Am Law Daily]
* Per the Ninth Circuit, an Idaho statute that essentially criminalizes medication-induced abortions imposes an undue burden on a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy. Really? You don’t say. [Bloomberg]
* Kiwi Camara’s circuitous route to SCOTUS: thanks to the Eighth Circuit, Jammie Thomas-Rasset started and ended her journey with $222K damages for copyright infringement. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* Was Barack Obama ever offered a tenured position on the faculty at University of Chicago Law School? Absolutely not, says longtime law professor Richard Epstein — and he was never a “constitutional law professor” either. [Daily Caller]
* “Fashion law is a real career choice,” says Gibson Dunn partner Lois Herzeca. This niche practice area is one of the hottest new trends in the fashion world, and it’s not likely to go out of style any time soon. [Reuters]
* Your clawback suit is a wonderland? John Mayer was named as a defendant in a suit filed by trustees seeking to recover money paid out by Ponzi schemer Darren Berg. [Bankruptcy Beat / Wall Street Journal]
* J. Christopher Stevens, UC Hastings Law grad and U.S. Ambassador to Libya, RIP. [CNN]
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.
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.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
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