Cravath

Time to start practicing the Cravath walk? (Google it if you’re not familiar.)

In an excellent essay reflecting on his time at Cravath, lawyer turned author James B. Stewart had this to say about the associates who made partner: “They weren’t necessarily the brightest…. They weren’t, as I had expected, the hardest-working…. They weren’t the most personable…. Finally it came to me: The one thing nearly all the partners had in common was they loved their work.”

Move over, Virginia. Cravath is for lovers — of work.

The firm just named its latest class of lovers. How many new partners did CSM just make, and what might this suggest about the firm’s market-setting bonuses?

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Greetings from San Francisco, home of the world champion Giants, surprisingly noisy trolley cars, and the faint smell of cannabis pretty much everywhere. We’re in town to attend Ark Group‘s conference on “The Brave New World of Entry-Level Recruiting,” which examines how the world of law student recruiting by firms has changed (and will continue to evolve) since the onset of the Great Recession. Moderated by Bruce MacEwen, who kicked off the proceedings by framing the day as an opportunity for “frank conversation” between schools and firms, the conference featured an absolute Murderers’ Row of industry thought leaders, including Orrick‘s Ralph Baxter, legal academia’s apostate Paul Campos, NALP’s Jim Leipold, Indiana/Maurer‘s Bill Henderson, three Biglaw hiring partners, and deans from Berkeley, Stanford, and Hastings.

Read on for some highlights and takeaways from yesterday’s conference.

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Goutam U. Jois

I remember when I first started practice, a Cravath partner said that you have to make it a priority to go on trips, see friends, and have a life.

Goutam Jois, a litigation associate at Gibson Dunn, commenting on where he got his inspiration for achieving work/life balance in Biglaw. Jois leads a double life, practicing law by day, and performing stand-up comedy by night. He recently won the title of America’s Funniest Attorney after winning a contest at the Gotham Comedy Club.


Unless you are working on fixing this, you might not be ‘essential’ today.

I was feeling pretty goddamn sorry for myself yesterday afternoon. I was working when it felt like everybody else on the Eastern seaboard had the day off. I wanted to sit in bed and watch Homeland instead of writing whatever the hell I wrote yesterday. I couldn’t even get a pizza delivered. When New York City immigrants aren’t out there trying to make a buck, you know things are shut down.

But then a crane nearly fell down and I realized that a bunch of people were “remoting in” and trying to work or appear to be work, and it made me feel better. Who are these clients that needed “service” yesterday? What the hell do they want today? Honestly, the worst part about being a lawyer with clients is that I believe “client” is Greek for “unreasonable omega-hole.”

Did you work yesterday? What is your firm’s “storm plan” to keep you billing hours instead of taking A DAY OR TWO off? There are some fun stories about Cravath’s and Orrick’s emergency keep working plans. Let’s take a look and take a poll to see who is really working today…

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Around here, one can’t mention the concept of something being “overrated” without reference to one of the weirdest and most enduring ATL comment memes, a play on the late, great Hitch’s assertion that the four most overrated things in life are “champagne, lobster, anal sex, and picnics.” So who are the, um, lobsters of Biglaw?

Last week, we had a look at what our audience considered to be the most underrated Biglaw firms, by practice area. Today, inevitably, we turn it around and have a look at what you’re telling us are the most overrated firms.

Among other things, our ATL Insider Survey asks attorneys to nominate firms with overrated practices within the respondent’s own practice specialty. Litigators nominate litigation departments, etc.

To be sure, these survey results need to be taken with some buckets of salt — we realize that, for some, answering this question might be a chance to take an easy shot at a more successful rival or competitor. Of course, there are crazy people who will tell you that such paragons as Benjamin Franklin or Tom Brady are “overrated,” but that probably says more about the person making that statement than anything else. But that said, these survey responses are a fun glimpse at which firms Biglaw attorneys think are more sizzle than steak….

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The world keeps getting smaller, but the law firms keep getting bigger. The American Lawyer magazine just announced its Global 100, the world’s 100 largest law firms in terms of total revenue, and Biglaw seems bigger than ever.

Despite the challenging economic climate, law firms continue to grow. In three key categories — revenue, profits per partner, and attorney headcount — the top firm for 2012 boasts a bigger number than last year’s #1 firm….

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* A former Cravath law librarian is fighting his “effective termination” from Southern Illinois University School of Law over alleged threats to bash a colleague in the head with a crowbar. How déclassé! What, was a champagne flute not available? [National Law Journal]

* Is New York’s new mandatory pro bono requirement for admission to the bar too rigid a licensing rule? Compared to what it could have been, no, but obviously others disagree on this point. [Am Law Daily]

* New York Law School’s dean thinks that experience in City Hall gives him an edge. In other news, after being sued over its employment stats, NYLS had the most applicants ever since 2008. Sigh. [New York Law Journal]

* Jamie McCourt doesn’t think it’s very fair that she only got a $131M divorce payout when her ex-husband, Frank McCourt, ended up with $1.7B after he sold the Dodgers. #filthyrichpeopleproblems [Bloomberg]

* “I’m in shock and I’m angry and I’m hurt and I’m flabbergasted and I’m livid.” You’d feel the same if you saw that your engagement photo was being used in an anti-gay marriage mailer. [City Room / New York Times]

* Don’t mind me, I’m just watering my hippies: in a proposed settlement, the University of California is offering $30K to each of the students who were pepper-sprayed by a police officer at UC Davis last year. [CNN]

Maybe they’re on to something….

Here’s an interesting irony: some of the Biglaw firms that spend the least amount of time thinking about money are the ones that enjoy the most of it. A number of super-elite New York law firms have lockstep compensation systems, in which partners are paid purely based on seniority, and these firms are among the most profitable in the country. These firms focus on doing great work for their clients, not on divvying up the spoils from such work — and, in the end, there’s more than enough filthy lucre to keep everyone smelling like money.

On an individual level, some of the wealthiest lawyers in Biglaw — the ones who make partner, and remain partner, for years and years — don’t fixate much on money either. They focus instead on their work, which they seem to just love (often more than any hobbies, and sometimes more than their families). As for the money, well, it just comes — in copious quantities.

Let’s take a closer look at these phenomena….

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The law firm cafeteria is something of an anachronism. Having a large company mess hall where associates can grab a bite to eat without taking too much time to get lunch isn’t really necessary anymore. Nobody takes a “lunch hour” anymore. Associates can use Seamless and eat at their desks.

And we know partners aren’t eating in the firm cafeteria unless they are 80 years old and too busy to head to Peter Luger’s. No law firm cafeteria is nice enough to bring a client to; that’s why God created expense accounts.

But the cafeteria is still useful for secretaries and paralegals. At my old firm, the cafeteria was a great place to grab breakfast. At Debevoise, the cafeteria enjoys the best views of the block. We used to bring lawyers from Schulte Roth, which is housed on the lower floors at 919 Third Avenue, to show them our view (and to console them while they cried).

The point is, even as the Biglaw cafeteria has diminished relevance given our modern conveniences, you don’t want your firm perk to be disgusting. Last March, we learned that a number of Biglaw firms had received poor grades from the New York City Department of Health about the quality of their in-house cafeterias.

But it appears that Cravath’s food fortunes have significantly improved…

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Early last week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo of a bro and his Cravath duffle bag:

Over the weekend, you voted on the finalists, and now it’s time to announce the winner of our caption contest. As a special bonus, we also have a comment from a “bro” who says he’s the one featured in the photo….

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