As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer recently released its highly influential, closely watched Am Law 100 law firm rankings. They say that “slow and steady wins the race,” and with regard to economic recovery, Biglaw firms seem to have taken that up as their new motto.
Yes, partners are still living as large as they ever were, but their success now comes in the form of single-digit returns with regard to key financial metrics. The divide between the “haves and the have-nots” in the world of major law firms has grown to epic proportions, and some Am Law 100 staples have fallen out of the top hundred firms altogether. Welcome to the new normal.
Are you ready to get excited about “modest” and “spotty” gains across the board? Let’s dig in….
* “Yes, it is true.” Justice Scalia admitted in a speech this week that he was guided to the right by his colleague, Justice Thomas, who’s apparently “a very stubborn man.” [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* It’s about time to say so long to your ticking tax time bomb: in President Obama’s proposed budget for 2014, he eliminates taxes on forgiven loan debt under all IBR plans. [Bucks / New York Times]
* “I am the luckiest man in the world.” Larry Macon, an Akin Gump partner from Texas, had nearly finished the Boston Marathon when the bombs exploded, but lived to tell his tale. [Am Law Daily]
* Because sometimes you need to steal $374K worth of copy toner. This ex-Fried Frank staffer pleaded guilty to grand larceny, and is looking at up to 15 years in jail. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* Judge Victor Marrero isn’t a fan of SEC policy, but when it comes to this civil insider trading case, SAC Capital may get to walk away without admitting or denying anything. [DealBook / New York Times]
* This Yale Law graduate is suing Brooks Brothers over a three-button suit, and wants $2K for the 90 minutes he spent arguing over it in the store. Who is the $1333/hour man? [New York Daily News]
Continuing our annual tradition honoring March Madness, Above the Law is running a law-related bracket, advancing law firms or law schools based on the outcome of reader polls. If you’ve been around for a while, you know the drill. But remember, I’m the new guy, so I’ve made a couple changes to the format this year.
This year, it’s time to talk about law firms. Specifically, your collective editors pose this question: Which law firm has the brightest future? The economy is still fragile and people are writing books with scary titles like The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis (affiliate link). The firms in our competition may look healthy today, but we all could have said the same thing at one time about Howrey, Brobeck, Heller, or Dewey.
What firm’s future is so bright their senior partners gotta wear shades?
* OMG! Get ready to have a lawgasm, because the Supreme Court is going to be releasing same-day audio recordings from oral arguments during next week’s gay marriage cases: Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. [National Law Journal]
* “Way to go, Justice.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan work out with a personal trainer who’s got a client list that would make Article III Groupie swoon — and he just so happens to be a records manager at D.C.’s federal court. [Washington Post]
* Debevoise & Plimpton’s littlest litigatrix, Mary Jo White, sailed her way through the Senate Banking Committee with a vote of 21-to-1. Her nomination to lead the SEC will now head to the full Senate. [DealBook / New York Times]
* “Our 2012 numbers aren’t as good as we would have liked.” Gee, ya think? From attorney headcount to gross revenue to profits per partner, just about everything was down in 2012 for Fried Frank. [Am Law Daily]
* Eckert Seamans will be merging with Sterns & Weinroth, adding 17 partners and seven associates to its ranks. Someone please come up with the semen joke so I don’t have to. [Philadelphia Business Journal]
‘If they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…’
* “It’s very hard to copyright a story about an individual growing up in the ghetto and getting involved in crime.” Go Third Circuit, it’s your birthday, we gon’ affirm that like it’s your birthday. [New Jersey Law Journal (reg. req.)]
* I believe you have my stapler? A former Fried Frank staffer has been accused of stealing more than $376K worth of copy machine ink from the firm and selling it on the black market for office supplies. [Am Law Daily]
* Governor Andrew Cuomo nominated Jenny Rivera, a CUNY School of Law professor, to fill a vacant New York Court of Appeals seat. If confirmed, she’ll be the second Hispanic to sit on the court. [New York Law Journal]
* This’ll please the gun nuts: Governor Cuomo’s gun-control bill was passed by the legislature and signed into law, officially making New York the state with the toughest gun restrictions in the nation. [New York Times]
* And this right here is the lawsuit equivalent of half-court heave. A lawyer is suing the San Antonio Spurs because the team’s coach sent all of its best players home to rest without the fans’ prior knowledge. [ESPN]
* “We know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.” Barack Obama was re-elected as president. Bring on the hope and change! No, seriously. [New York Times]
* In news that shouldn’t come as a surprise, regardless of who won the presidential race, there are still post-election voting issues that will likely be resolved in the courts. [Blog of Legal Times]
* But what we really want to know is who will be our country’s next attorney general. Because if anyone can fill Eric Holder’s shoes, it’s Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the S.D.N.Y. [WSJ Law Blog]
* In other important news, several states approved gay marriage ballot initiatives, and others legalized marijuana. But hopefully you don’t have a case of the munchies yet — federal law still says it’s illegal. [CNN]
* They helped American citizens “ba-rock” the vote: hundreds of law students from around the country rallied around the craziness of Election Day to volunteer their assistance to worthy causes. [National Law Journal]
* Biglaw firms in NYC are still reeling after Hurricane Sandy. While WilmerHale set up temporary offices last week, both SullCrom and Fried Frank could be out of commission for weeks. [Reuters; New York Times]
* At this point, in-house counsel are kind of like the McKayla Maroneys of the legal profession, because they are seriously unimpressed with outside counsel’s efforts to improve services and fees. [Corporate Counsel]
* Judge Theodore Jones, associate judge of the New York Court of Appeals, RIP. [New York Law Journal]
He’s going to Disney World? No, not this veteran M&A lawyer….
Let’s say you graduated from a leading college, summa cum laude, and from an elite law school, also summa. You began your legal career as a transactional lawyer at one white-shoe law firm, where you made partner. You left that firm for investment banking, where you encountered significant success. Then you returned to the legal world, first as an M&A partner at one top firm, then at another. At your final firm, you served as global co-chair of the firm’s renowned mergers and acquisitions group, working on some of the biggest deals around the world.
Then, in your 70s, you decide to leave your firm and also the legal world. Where would you go next?
Last week, I headed downtown to meet with Stephen A. Weiss and Eric Jaso, partners at the Seeger Weiss litigation boutique. Weiss co-founded the firm with Christopher Seeger in 1999. Jaso, who just joined the firm from Stone & Magnanini, is a friend and former colleague of mine from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They kindly agreed to be interviewed about what it’s like to work at an elite, plaintiff-side litigation firm.
Here at Above the Law, we’ve always had strong coverage of the large, defense-oriented firms that collectively constitute Biglaw. In the past few years, however, we have dramatically expanded our offerings related to smaller law firms. We currently have three columnists — Brian Tannebaum, Tom Wallerstein, and Valerie Katz — writing in this space, in addition to the small-firm coverage generated by our other writers.
Consistent with this editorial expansion, I was eager to meet with Weiss and Jaso and hear about Seeger Weiss (which is relatively large for a plaintiffs’ firm, but small compared to a Biglaw firm). I’ve always wondered why more law school graduates don’t go into plaintiffs’ work and why we don’t hear about this side of practice as much. It can represent a chance to do well while also doing good, by vindicating victims’ rights or blowing the whistle on misconduct — especially in the qui tam practice area, a focus of Seeger Weiss.
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