Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

In the two years that we’ve been conducting our ATL Insider Survey, we’ve amassed in excess of 15,500 responses from practicing lawyers and law students. These results have provided us with unique insights into what people really think about their employers and schools. We believe our survey information furnishes our readers with a deep resource for comparing and evaluating these organizations, whether in the form of our Law Firm and Law School Directories, or in posts that take a deeper look at such factors as practice area, compensation, or geographic location. Many thanks to those thousands of readers who have shared their experiences.

Obviously, one subject that the ATL readership is passionate about is the world of Biglaw. Whether it’s to assess a potential employer, or to simply see how one’s firm compares to its peers, apparently there’s no end to the appetite for insider information. So as this year winds down, we’ll end on a happy note and have a look at which Biglaw firms are rated most highly by their own employees…

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If it’s good enough for Justice Thomas….

Justice Clarence Thomas famously travels around the country over the summer in his 40-foot recreational vehicle (RV). Since 1999, Justice Thomas and his wife Ginni have visited some 27 states in their RV. According to Mrs. Thomas, “it’s a wonderful life.” The Thomases often park overnight in Wal-Mart parking lots. As Justice Thomas notes, “you can get a little shopping in, see part of real America. It’s fun!”

If spending night after night in an RV is good enough for an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, it should be good enough for a young lawyer, right? In the latest installment of Lawyerly Lairs, we visit with a Biglaw associate who lives in an RV down by the river….

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Things have quieted down a bit on the Weil Gotshal front. About a week has passed since our last report on Biglaw’s biggest source of drama.

Today we have some news to share about WGM — information gleaned from partner departure memos out of Dallas, the site of the biggest defections, and a real estate report from New York, the King’s Landing of Weil Gotshal….

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If the Houston office of Weil Gotshal & Manges ends up shutting down in the wake of the recent partner defections, management in New York might not shed a tear. In fact, it might have been part of their master plan.

As one Weil source told us, the Houston litigation defections were “not a surprise,” since the June layoffs “took away all but one assistant and all of the associates. The associates that were allowed to stay were switched to contract positions and have since left. Basically, it was an elimination by New York of the Houston group from the bottom up.”

Dallas, however, is a different story. It’s more of a standalone office, with a more diversified mix of practices, and it makes a bigger contribution to the firm’s bottom line.

But the latest partner departures do raise serious questions about its future. Which Dallas partners just left, and where are they going?

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Biglaw branding sounds painful, but thankfully, associates at the highest and mightiest of firms don’t have to sear their flesh with their firms’ logos. Biglaw branding is more about the image firms want clients to see when making hiring decisions, and partners are likely equally as worried about their reputations in the marketplace as their year-end profits.

The last time we spoke about law firm branding, we found out that Skadden had the most recognizable brand in the country. But we, loving rankings as we do, wondered which law firm had the best brand in the world. Luckily for us, hot on the heels of the release of the Am Law Global 100, Acritas published its 2013 Sharplegal Global Elite Brand Index.

Who’s got the best Biglaw brand on the planet? Let’s find out…

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For all the talk of layoffs and worries over an unstable legal economy, Biglaw just keeps getting bigger. Today, the American Lawyer magazine announced its Global 100, a ranking of the world’s 100 largest law firms in terms of total revenue. The view from the top is simple: as we learned from the 2013 Am Law 100, slow and steady does win the race, because Biglaw is at the biggest it’s been in years, and partners’ profits are headed up, up, up.

Now that we’re on the long road to recovery following the recession and collapse of the U.S. financial markets, there are some lessons to be learned from the past five years. Some firms were able to cash in modestly on their success, while other firms buckled under the pressure and were forced to close their doors for good. The game of musical chairs in the top 10 of the Global 100 reflects this economic uncertainty.

DLA Piper is the new top dog in terms of total revenue. Which firms are the leaders of the pack in other metrics, such as profits per partner and attorney headcount?

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Amanda Knox

* “The multimillion dollar question is: Is it going to happen and for how long?” Surprisingly, health care attorneys from large firms are being quite blasé about the Congressional battle over Obamacare. [Blog of Legal Times]

* The 2013 Global 100 is out, and with an 8.6 percent growth in revenue, DLA Piper was able to really show the world the benefits of churning that bill, baby! We’ll have more on this news later today. [American Lawyer]

* This is getting exhausting: Dentons, the three-way merger product of SNR Denton (a merger product itself), Salans, and Fraser Milner Casgrain, is in talks with McKenna Long & Aldridge for yet another merger. [Am Law Daily]

* The director of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s enforcement unit will be stepping down to spend time more with family. The countdown until he returns to Skadden Arps starts now. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Ted Olson and David Boies, perhaps more commonly known these days as the gay marriage dream team, will be working together to challenge Virginia’s ban on marriage equality. [National Law Journal]

* Should law school be two years long? Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency (3 points) is beating the pants off Northwestern’s dean (-4 points) in this debate. [Debate Club / U.S. News & World Report]

* If you’re still considering applying for law school despite all of the warnings seen here and elsewhere, then you’ll probably want to follow this advice. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* The Italian Court of Appeal is retrying Amanda Knox of a crime she’s already been convicted and acquitted of, and the chances she’ll be extradited if convicted again are slim to none. Buon lavoro. [CNN]

Over the last two decades, a dedicated Supreme Court bar has gained prominence, focusing on arguing the increasingly few cases before the justices each term. These lawyers face fierce competition in persuading clients to hire them, participating in a not-so-glamorous competition known in the industry as a “beauty contest.” At these lawyerly pageants, attorneys competing to take the case make their pitch and try to persuade the client that their firm is the best suitor.

In my new book, Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (affiliate link), I go backstage and look at two of the most high-profile beauty contests in Supreme Court history: who would represent (1) the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and (2) twenty-six states in their respective challenges to the constitutionality of Obamacare.

How did these litigants go about choosing their counsel? Which lawyers and law firms got passed over?

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It’s Alito time, Phil! (via Getty Images)

* The NSA has violated the Constitution for years, you say? And it’s been misleading the FISA court about all of its domestic spying activities? As of this moment, the NSA is on double secret probation! [New York Times]

* Imagine how the New York stop-and-frisk case would have turned out if it had been before SCOTUS. The “human toll of unconstitutional stops” may not have been weighed so heavily. [Opinionator / New York Times]

* “[N]o one has a crystal ball,” but right now, it’s highly likely that the Supreme Court will take up another gay marriage case. Perhaps it’ll be the one that’s currently unfolding in Pennsylvania. [Legal Intelligencer]

* According to a recent survey conducted by Randstad, about 60 percent of lawyers are proud to be members of the legal profession, which is impressive(!) considering how unhappy they are. [The Lawyer]

* Birds of a feather really do flock together. Philip Alito, son of Justice Samuel Alito, will join Eugene Scalia, son of Justice Antonin Scalia, at Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Even though the vast majority of his race-based claims were dismissed on summary judgment, this “token black associate” still has a respected Biglaw firm up against the Ropes. [National Law Journal]

* Law school applications are plummeting, but top law schools haven’t started scraping the bottom of the barrel — their applicants’ LSAT scores have remained relatively competitive. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* I am Chelsea Manning, I am a female.” Considering (s)he was just sentenced to 35 years in prison, Bradley Chelsea Manning picked a great time to make this announcement to the world. [Chicago Tribune]

* You dare call the Duchess of Dumplins racist and sexist? When it comes to Paula Deen’s new legal team from Morgan Lewis, five are women, and four are black. Take that, Lisa Jackson. [Am Law Daily]

There hasn’t been much major good news on the associate compensation front over the past few years — since, say, January 2007. But recent weeks have brought pockets of minor good news for limited constituencies. Green shoots, anyone?

In Miami, Greenberg Traurig raised starting salaries by 16 percent, from $125,000 to $145,000. In New York, Sullivan & Cromwell and Skadden Arps started offering $300,000 signing bonuses to Supreme Court clerks.

And now $300K bonuses for SCOTUS clerks have spread, to other law firms in other cities. Consider this the new going rate for top-shelf talent….

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