Cravath Swaine & Moore

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

For years, I’ve been hearing firms describe their cultures as “entrepreneurial,” and I hardly paid the slightest attention. Like “collegial” or “collaborative,” it just seemed like so much white noise. Then finally I heard it once too often and had to face cold reality: I had absolutely no idea what these people — a lot of smart, articulate people — were talking about.

Let’s go to the dictionary, where we find:

/äntrəprə no͝orēəl/

1. characterized by the taking of financial risks in the hope of profit; enterprising

Other notions orbiting around the concept of entrepreneurism include engaging in genuine innovation and invention (to the extreme of shattering the status quo), proceeding decisively in the face of profound ambiguity and uncertainty, and shouldering the personal risk of sacrificing years of reliable income provided by others for whatever rewards you can persuade the market to deliver — with a meaningful risk those rewards could be nonexistent.

This is an audience participation column, so I ask you this: Would you describe your own firm as “entrepreneurial?” Are there firms you admire or look down upon that you’d describe as “entrepreneurial?” What mental image or behavior, what cultural archetype or partner personality type, pops into your mind when “entrepreneurial” is used to describe a firm?

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It’s nearly that time of year, when all the grueling hours that Biglaw associates have put in will pay off in the form of fat bonuses. Or don’t pay off, with miserly bonuses, or nothing at all. Or something in between? Point being, we have no idea how the 2013 bonus season will play out. Presumably, the answer is buried somewhere deep in Allen Parker’s unknowable heart.

The signs thus far are not especially encouraging, at least for those with a vested interest. (Admittedly, for most, this is all much ado about white-shoe people problems.)

Yes, Cravath might be doing well, at least if its large partner class is any indication. But on the subject of law firm 2013 profits in general, the Citi Bank Private Law Firm Group’s report on the first half of the year concluded:

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Partnership at Cravath: Biglaw’s ultimate brass ring.

Working at Cravath, Swaine & Moore offers many advantages. The work is interesting and cutting-edge. The exit opportunities are unmatched. The pay and prestige are great (even though, as we’ve repeatedly emphasized, Biglaw isn’t all about the benjamins).

One of the distinctive features of Cravath is the “Cravath system,” in which associates work closely with a particular partner (or small group of partners) before rotating into another area to work with a different partner. This system produces well-rounded and well-trained lawyers. According to the results of our associate survey — please take it if you haven’t already done so — Cravath is the #1 firm for training corporate lawyers and the #2 firm for training litigators.

Of course, Cravath has its downsides; the firm is not for everyone. The hours are long, even by Biglaw standards. The atmosphere is intense; it’s not a laid-back sort of place. And historically partnership prospects haven’t been great, due to the sheer selectivity of the CSM partnership.

But are partnership prospects improving? For the third year in a row, Cravath has named a large number of new partners. How many of them are there? Might you know some of them?

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Last week we took a look at how Biglaw’s litigation departments stack up against one another in terms of compensation, training, firm morale, hours, and culture.

Today, we turn toward the other major category of Biglaw practitioners: corporate/transactional attorneys. Unlike litigators, about whom the public at least has some notion, however distorted, of what they do, most people have no clue what corporate lawyers are up to. No young person daydreams about “facilitating a business transaction,” while there are some who aspire to argue in a courtroom. As noted last week, this litigation/corporate information imbalance is reinforced by the law school curriculum, which remains largely beholden to the case method of instruction.

When comparing the experiences of corporate lawyers versus litigators, there is a familiar litany of pro and cons:

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The popular conception of “lawyer” — as seen on television and in the movies — is that of a litigator. Understandably, law students are also susceptible to this view and will be so as long as the case method remains the pedagogy of choice in law school. Cases, by definition, are always about litigation. Both popular culture and the law school curriculum show lawyers most often in court or, at least, investigating the facts of the case. However, the truth of litigation practice is very different: the overwhelming majority of litigators’ work takes place outside the courtroom. Never mind that upwards of 90 percent of all lawsuits settle before trial or that most litigators’ spend their actual in-court time arguing procedural motions rather than the substance of the dispute. Oh, and there’s also doc review.

Anyway, most new associates and law students who aspire to Biglaw are going to be confronted with a question. To grossly generalize and simplify: am I a litigator or a transactional attorney? Many would say that there are distinct personality types best suited for each. Are you a win-lose kind of person or a win-win kind of person? Do you enjoy confrontation? Do you care if you ever see the inside of a courtroom? How important is the predictability of your schedule? And so on. (Of course we must acknowledge that wrestling over such questions is the classic “luxury problem.” For the majority of law students, what follows is, at most, of voyeuristic interest.)

For those in a position to choose, which Biglaw shop’s litigation departments offer the highest quality of life? We’ve dug into our survey data for answers…

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Washington, DC is often derided as a contemptible swamp full of power-mad squabblers and greedy leeches. And we don’t dispute that. The nation’s capital can be fairly awful when viewed through certain lenses. Still, if you can overlook the pettiness and the posturing, there’s a lot to love about Washington. And a lot of love in Washington, as demonstrated by the newlyweds featured below. All three of these über-impressive couples live and work in and around DC, and we think you’ll agree that any town that’s attracting such gifted, ambitious young people can’t be all bad.

Our finalists:

Jane Kucera and Paul Nitze

Anne Pierson and Robert Allen

Kate Heinzelman and Jonathan Cooper

Read on for more about these legal-eagle lovebirds and their delectable résumés.

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Sorry, SCOTUS.

* A study revealed that almost half of all links in online Supreme Court opinions are dead, but at least internet pranksters like this guy have been given a chance in the spotlight. [New York Times]

* CHECK YOU [BLACKBERRIES] OFTEN, because firms like Shearman & Sterling, McCarthy Tétrault, Skadden Arps, and Torys will advise on the ancient technology’s private sale. [Am Law Daily]

* We hope this IPO isn’t imported from Detroit. Chrysler filed a prospectus with the SEC yesterday with the help of attorneys from Sullivan & Cromwell and Cravath. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Paul Bergrin, more commonly known as the “Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey,” was handed a life sentence yesterday. At least he’ll have street cred with his gen pop friends. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* If you’re still thinking of applying to law school now, you must be the kind of person who needs advice on how to go to college and fill out applications, all at the same time. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Even at the top of the in-house food chain, women lawyers are still paid less than their male counterparts. But hey, at least they’re not being forced to cry poverty like their in-house staff attorney brethren. [Corporate Counsel]

* Neil Barofsky, the former King of TARP in the United States, is making the move to Jenner & Block, specifically because as opposed to all other firms, “Jenner took the side of really getting to the truth of the matter.” [Reuters]

* Luxury fashion is fun: four Biglaw firms, including Cleary Gottlieb, Cravath, Torys, and Proskauer Rose, all took Tim Gunn’s mantra to heart to make it work for the $6 billion sale of Neiman Marcus. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* If you want to try some lawyer, we hear that they taste great when poached this time of year. Speaking of which, Troutman Sanders just reeled in three attorneys from Hunton & Williams. [Richmond BizSense]

* Law schools in the Dakotas are renovating their buildings in the hope of enrolling more students. Luckily, South Dakota has that sweet indentured servitude plan. [Prairie Business; National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* If you’re thinking of applying to law school, here’s a plan of attack for the month of September. That’s right, friends, you can start gunning right now! [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* Are you ready for some tax law?! The NFL and other professional sports leagues might lose their nonprofit status if new tax reform legislation makes it through the House and the Senate. [Businessweek]

* Judges on the Third Circuit bench must really ♥ boobies. Breast cancer awareness bracelets can’t be banned by public schools if they aren’t lewd and if they comment on social issues. [Legal Intelligencer]

* A bevy of Biglaw firms were involved as advisers in the sale of the Boston Globe, Newsweek, and the Washington Post, including Cleary Gottlieb, Cravath, and Morgan Lewis, among others. [Am Law Daily]

* After surviving a motion for disqualification, Quinn Emanuel will continue to represent Snapchat. A short video of John Quinn laughing his ass off will be available for the next 10 seconds. [TechCrunch]

* Alex Rodriguez, the only MLB player who will be appealing his drug-related suspension, has hired Reed Smith and Gordon & Rees to hit it out of the park during arbitration proceedings. [Am Law Daily]

* Don’t say we never did you any favors: Here are the top 5 mistakes new in-house counsel make from the perspective of outside counsel. Take a look before you make them yourselves. [Texas Lawyer]

* We saw this coming back in June (seventh item), but now it’s official. Prenda Law has dissolved after posting six figures in bonds for various ethical sanctions. Next step, bankruptcy? [National Law Journal]

* If you’re interested in applying to a top 14 law school, make sure your stats and your story are both compelling. No one likes a boring law student. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

Women get into bars and clubs for free. Men don’t. This isn’t rocket science. It’s just a way of life.

But one lawyer — one with a particularly prestigious past — has been filing lawsuits alleging gender discrimination and human rights violations, all for want of entry-fee parity at bars and clubs, for at least the last decade. He loses every single time, but that’s not going to stop him from waging his war against feminist club policies any time soon.

And now that he’s a little bit older and a whole lot grayer, he’s added age discrimination to the docket. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks — and you certainly can’t stop an old dog from comparing his trials and tribulations as the resident geriatric dude in the club to rampant racism in the Deep South before desegregation…

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