Last week I wrote about some aspects of client service in today’s Biglaw. Today I want to focus on Biglaw’s embrace of partner de-equitizations and layoffs. These tactics are one of the ways Biglaw has been dealing with the fallout of the Black Death that has struck our industry.
Unfortunately, it seems like this year has gotten off to a bad start Biglaw-wise, in terms of both demand and a continuing lack of creativity by management at nearly every single firm. That brings consequences. Stay tuned. I have already said that I don’t mind if the paunchy mid-section of the Am Law 100 starts embracing a “bottom’s out” approach to the partnership — but at least have the guts to embrace it, not spin it.
I am really starting to dislike the tone that managing partners are starting to adopt when they talk about eliminating partners. Yes, I said eliminate. You may have seen them. Public statements where managing partner X almost gleefully informs the public of the elimination of nearly ten percent of his “partners” in the face of falling revenues. And looks for applause because his firm’s PPP went up $17,000 as a result. Go read some of the recent Biglaw “report cards” for a taste of this rancid stew.
We should be clear about the consequences of such a practice….
There are very few things more disheartening than rejection. Whether you’re the dork in high school trying to work up the courage to ask that special someone to go on a date, applying to school, or looking for a job, no one wants to be rejected. And in an attempt to calm your nerves, loved ones will often say, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
But all the good thoughts and best wishes in the world don’t provide much comfort when you’re searching for your first law job and everyone else is doing the exact same thing (not to mention they went to much better law schools than you did). While it may not be the end of the world, rejection can really hurt. The mere fear of rejection can paralyze some, and if there’s constant rejection, it’s not uncommon for depression — or in my case at the moment, extreme pessimism — to start kicking in.
Knowing this fact, employers generally attempt to soften the blow of rejection to the furthest extent possible. They say comforting things like “you are highly qualified” or “have impressive training.” If they really liked you, you may even get a more personal statement that actually acknowledges something in your résumé, which at least means that they read it and tried to make believe that they cared.
“It comes down to this,” said Hayley Schafer, 30. “Is there anything else I’d be happy doing? No. Is there any way around paying off the loans? No. So, what the heck? A lot of it is just trying to put it out of your mind and maybe it’ll disappear.”
Schafer has more than $312,000 in educational debt and earns just $60,000. She must be a lawyer, right?
But Schafer’s not a lawyer or law school graduate. What does she do? The answer might surprise you….
There are certain milestones or achievements that are rarely obtained. Many times, people strive for these marks as a way to showcase their skill and talent, carefully crafted after years of hard work. For example, in baseball, there’s the perfect game or a fifty home run season, which was a lot more impressive before Brady Anderson did it.
There are also other, less desirable distinctions that many people earn for themselves. Like the 2008 Detroit Lions or Mark Sanchez, many are remembered for just how epically they fail. Unfortunately, I reached a distinction in that category this weekend.
As you all know, I’ve been feebly attempting to find a job for the past several months. Excluding the instant, automatic email responses, all of my efforts during that time have resulted in two interviews, a handful of “we will keep your application on file for future positions, but for now, go f**k yourself” emails, a pretty impressive kill/death ratio in Call of Duty Black Ops 2, and a lot of dead zombies. Also, I am pretty sure that I made one of my interviewers remember to forget my phone number after I possibly called a few too many times as his office no longer even bothers picking up the phone for me.
As for my accomplishment, I’ve amassed a rather long list of employers that have passed on employing me since late summer/early fall. Well, I haven’t kept an exact count on the total, but based on the number of cover letters that I still have saved on my computer, it looks like I’ve applied to 499 jobs….
Despite rumors of impendinglayoffs, many people thought that 2012 would be the year that Biglaw would make its comeback after being dragged through the wringer of the recession. You’d think that Biglaw’s “solid performance” last year would’ve served as an indicator of its hiring needs, but as with most predictions having to do with Biglaw, you’d be wrong.
The numbers are in for the fall 2012 summer associate recruiting season, and they’re nothing to write home about. In fact, according to the latest National Association for Law Placement (NALP) report, the median and average numbers of summer offers made to 2Ls took a tumble.
In an uncertain economy, this depressing kind of recruitment activity may be the new normal for Biglaw….
But employers who are trying to take advantage of the desperation in the recent graduate market are real jerks. Trying to get desperate recent grads to work for free (or to actually pay you to work) isn’t taking advantage of a market opportunity, it’s taking advantage of people.
We’ve seen a lot of employers offering to “hire” people for free, but rarely with the kind of pompous overtones of the Craigslist ad below. It’s one of those ads that boasts about a lot of things in ALL CAPS, except for when it comes to paying people….
Today’s story about a law student bound for prison has me thinking about how regular people become criminals. The story of Marc Gersen is the kind of thing books are made of; it’s big and bold and colorful.
But on the smaller scale, people are pushed into unethical decisions all the time, and it rarely comes with the stark choices of, “Should I, or should I NOT, start a meth ring?” People, especially the kind of risk-averse people who end up in law school, don’t make one big decision to “become a criminal.” It’s a bunch of little decisions that incrementally take you from “normal, law-abiding citizen” to “bad actor.”
Today, we got an email from a person who is thinking about making an unethical choice out of desperation for a job. Why don’t you read her dilemma for yourself and tell her what you think she should do….
I don’t know about everyone else, but when I was in law school, I would sometimes feel like a little kid again. And to answer your first question, no, it’s not because of the low level of education I received at my TTT. Instead, I was reminded of my childhood, when I used to play sports in the backyard. I imagined that the game was in its final seconds, and I would win it all by making that big final play. But as childhood fades, so too does some of the fun of life.
What’s the proof of this? What once was a childish fantasy became a legal fantasy when I became an adult. That’s right, in law school, I would sometimes daydream about being a big-shot attorney, with a huge, O.J.-sized case. I would spout off some legal jargon to the amazement of the jurors in my closing, and then they would come back after only a few minutes, giving my client the “win,” and making me very, very wealthy at the same time.
Just like my dreams of athletic glory, this dream now seems far-fetched. The résumés and cover letters continue to rack up in my sent mail box, but nothing except spam, CLE event notifications, Groupon ads, and messages from ugly girls on Match.com fill my inbox. Things have become so bad that I would even welcome a simple acknowledgement that my application was received….
Industry observers can debate why applications are down. But I think it’s really as simple as what I’m about to show you. People go to law school so they can get jobs and have nice lives. They don’t go to law school for love of abstract learning. They don’t go to law school because of anything that happens in the third year of law school. They go for jobs.
And when there are no jobs, when experienced attorneys are making Craigslist postings like this one I’m about to show you, it makes people think, “Why in the hell would I go to law school right now?”
Let’s take a look at the saddest single dad with a J.D. on Craigslist….
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.
Non-attorneys would think the stress comes from preparing for a big trial, deposing a hostile witness, or crafting the perfect contract for a picky client.
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.
Connecticut plaintiffs-side boutique litigation firm (12 lawyers) seeks full-time associate with 2-4 years litigation experience, top tier undergraduate and law school education. Journal or clerkship experience a plus; highest ethical standards and strong work ethic required. Familiarity with Connecticut state court legal practice is preferred, but not required.
The firm handles sophisticated, high-end cases for plaintiffs, including individuals and businesses with significant claims in a wide array of matters. Our cases often have important public policy implications, and are litigated in state and federal courts throughout Connecticut. Representative areas of practice include medical malpractice, catastrophic personal injury, business torts, deceptive trade practices and other complex commercial litigation, and products liability.
Additional information can be located on our website, at www.sgtlaw.com.