The current discussion regarding the decision by Dentons not to report its average profits per partner (“PPP”) to the American Lawyer is interesting. While I was at Greenberg Traurig, then-CEO Cesar Alvarez used to have a pithy statement on the whole PPP issue, along the lines of: The only thing partners really care about is “profits per me.” There is a lot of wisdom in that statement. In my experience it is true for existing Biglaw partners, potential laterals, and those (fool?) hardy associates aspiring to partnership.
At the same time, the popularity of the American Lawyer’s various charts and rankings can’t be denied. And PPP is one of the catchier columns on those charts. It is used as a proxy for determining everything from firm prestige, to strength of client relationships, to how well a firm is managed.
Savvy associates can and do use it to determine associate quality of life at a particular firm. Your firm has a blazing PPP and no big contingency windfalls feeding the flames? Good chance you are looking at a never-ending flow of “interesting work,” coupled with the partnership prospects of a diminutive drone buzzing around hoping to get noticed by the queen bee. In contrast, you might enjoy a better lifestyle if employed as associate #614 by a Biglaw 2.0 monolith, but you also run the distinct risk of making partner only to realize that the financial gulf between you and the “real” partners is a broad one….
* In defense of its PPP metric, the editor-in-chief of the American Lawyer revealed a shocking statistic about Dentons: the firm’s PPP was likely down about 20 percent year over year. [Am Law Daily]
* A judge dismissed many of defunct firm Heller Erhman’s remaining unfinished business claims in the case against its former partners. Dewey know some partners who are thrilled? [WSJ Law Blog]
* From 2012 to 2013, NLJ 350 firms saw the rise of “other” attorneys — staff attorneys, of counsel, and lawyers who were neither associates nor partners. We’re living in lean times. [National Law Journal]
* “No one predicted there would be this kind of huge drop in applications.” Apparently law school deans thought prospective students would be thrilled about their lack of job prospects. [Hartford Business Journal]
* Shelly Sterling has asked a judge to rule that she can sell the Los Angeles Clippers over her husband Donald Sterling’s protests. We’re very eagerly awaiting their impending divorce train wreck. [Bloomberg]
[A] focus on profit undermines the differences between the practice of law being a profession rather than solely a business. It is easy to anticipate the assertion that we choose not to report aggregate annual average profit numbers because they are not as high as some other firms. But that assertion simply assumes that the way things have been done in the past is the way they should be done in the future.
On Monday, we heard rumors of momentous events at Patton Boggs, the troubled law and lobbying firm. One of the rumors was that the partnership was holding a meeting to vote on something major — although what exactly was not revealed.
We reached out to Patton Boggs, which shot down the rumors of a meeting, so we ended up not doing a story. But there may have been some truth to reports of exciting goings-on at the firm — developments that could help the firm in its struggle for survival.
The firm just removed the albatross of litigation with oil giant Chevron from around its neck. As you may recall, Chevron sued Patton Boggs for PB’s representation of plaintiffs in an Ecuadorian environmental case that Chevron alleged was nothing more than a shakedown — a view that Judge Lewis Kaplan (S.D.N.Y.) vindicated in March.
But escaping from the Chevron quagmire did not come cheap for Patton Boggs. How much did the firm have to cough up to make this case go away?
As The Economist concisely explains, a verein is “a Swiss partnership that lets [law firms] maintain separate national or regional profit pools under a single brand.” For purposes of preparing its influential Am Law 100 rankings, the American Lawyer treats a verein as a single firm — a decision that some at non-verein firms object to.
Let’s hear some of the complaints — and then, interestingly enough, a defense of the vereins’ financial performance in 2013, which might have been better than Am Law suggested….
* In consideration of Africa’s “growing economic prowess,” Biglaw firms like Dentons and Baker & McKenzie are opening up shop. Don’t make DLA’s mistake: Africa isn’t a country. [Am Law Daily]
* Stopped like traffic: Two of Gov. Chris Christie’s former aides properly asserted their Fifth Amendment rights and won’t have to give up docs relating to the Bridgegate scandal. [Bloomberg]
* Armed with a privacy curriculum developed at Fordham, several law schools are trying to teach middle-schoolers how to manage their online reputations. Selfies and the Law should be fun. [Associated Press]
* Alex Hribal, the suspect in the Pennsylvania stabbing, was charged as an adult on four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. Our thoughts remain with those injured. [CNN]
* A Texas woman was convicted of murdering her boyfriend by bludgeoning him in the head with the 5-inch stiletto heel of a pair of blue suede pumps. The true crime is that they weren’t peep-toes. [ABC News]
* Despite all the outrage over Albany Law’s faculty buyouts, some have already accepted the package offered. Looks like anything’s possible for the right price. [Albany Business Review]
* Guess which law school is cutting tuition by a whole lot? Some hints: it’s in New York and it’s been selling off real estate. We’ll have more on this later. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* Perhaps this could be considered a gift of provisional accreditation: Alberto Gonzales, U.S. Attorney General in President George W. Bush’s administration, is now dean at Belmont Law. [The Tennessean]
* Take a look at this new paper by Professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld on race and culture in law school admissions. Actually, it’s fake, but it’s sad that it could, in theory, be very real. [Washington Post]
* Zac Efron is going to star as a Yale Law grad forced by criminals to work in the world’s largest Biglaw firm in a film adaptation of John Grisham’s book, The Associate. OMG, he’s so cute. [Hollywood Reporter]
* Our thoughts go out to the families of those wounded and killed during the Fort Hood shooting. [AP]
* This guessing game is over, even though we’d guessed this from the start. After decamping from the Securities and Exchange Commission, George Canellos will return to his old stomping grounds at Milbank Tweed. [DealBook / New York Times]
* Heenan Blaikie’s talks may have fallen through with DLA Piper, but another Biglaw firm swooped in to rescue more than 20 of the failed Canadian firm’s survivors. You can call Dentons their knight in shining billable hours. [Globe and Mail]
* You can’t always get what you want. Accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsaernaev’s trial is scheduled for November 2014, despite his lawyers asking for a September 2015 start date. [Bloomberg]
* A Tennessee lawmaker just introduced the “Turn the Gays Away” bill, which would allow businesses to refuse goods and services to gay people. If this isn’t ‘MURICA, we don’t know what is. [MyFOX Memphis]
* “We have offered generous buyouts—generous by anyone’s standards—and we are now waiting for volunteers.” Yeah, good luck with that. Things don’t look great for profs at Albany Law. [WSJ Law Blog]
Biglaw firms have a problem. They can’t get their senior partners to retire. Or to pass along their clients to younger partners fast enough.
The reasons for this unwelcome phenomenon are straightforward. First, today’s Biglaw senior partners are making too much money. Would you retire if you were making seven figures and billing 1200 to 1500 hours a year? Of course not. Especially if you are helping to support your children. Or in this age of the 70-year-old rainmaker, a grandchild’s “education” as a communications major at the top party school in this year’s rankings.
Kidding aside, I know that many senior partners have very valid reasons for continuing to maintain their Biglaw practices. But that does not mean that what works for them at an individual level is what is good for Biglaw as a whole. In fact, I think the “sticky senior” issue is the greatest long-term threat to the continued viability of many Biglaw firms….
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.
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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But that’s nothing compared to the constant, nagging, real-life kind, the kind you get from the day-to-day grind of being a law-abiding attorney.
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