Great Recession

A couple of weeks ago, as Obamacare was just stumbling out of the gate, we asked our readers to tell us about the state of their own health insurance plans through their firms. Since the Recession, we have heard anecdotal evidence that some firms have been using health care cost clawbacks as a stealth expense-cutting tactic and de facto pay cut. We wondered how widespread a phenomenon this practice had become. Well, perhaps that’s a bit disingenuous. We had a strong feeling that, in this time of layoffs and all the rest of the Biglaw belt-tightening measures, that no category of expenses would be immune. And our survey results resoundingly confirm those suspicions: 89% of you tell us that your health insurance premiums have gone up since you started work at your firm.

A relevant tip showed up in the ATL inbox this week. An attorney at a prominent (V25) law firm sent us a memo outlining new changes to the firm’s health plan. Here’s an excerpt: “The deductible for the CIGNA PPO plan will change from $250 single/$750 family to $500 single/$1,000 family. Also, the PPO prescription copays [will all increase]. These changes bring our PPO plan design in line with market
practice for large law firms
(emphasis added)”…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Biglaw Health Insurance Costs: The ATL Survey Results”

With the continuing partial government shutdown and the shaky rollout of Obamacare, the issue of health insurance has never been such a central and divisive topic in the national conversation. Surely there are thousands of unemployed or temping JDs who are entering the brave new world of insurance exchanges and its attendant “hiccups.” In a development that perhaps should alarm the lowest-paid support staffers at law firms, some corporations appear poised to drop “bare bones” health-care benefits altogether for low-wage employees in favor of directing such employees to the new state exchanges.

Of course, for the lawyers at firms, such developments concerning the exchanges are essentially an abstract issue. That is not to say that attorney benefits packages are not subject to “new normal” economic pressures, or that the ultimate effect of the Affordable Care Act on private health insurance packages is unknowable. As noted here way back in 2009, some firms have added health care cost clawbacks to their expense-cutting repertoire of layoffs and pay cuts. Many associates have found themselves, post-Recession, with higher premiums and deductibles and thus, a de facto salary cut. Comparing salaries and bonuses across law firms overlooks the element of health insurance costs, about which there is no equivalent transparency. Undoubtedly there are significant variations across firms in this area, and some firms that appear to pay “market” aren’t quite doing so in light of their requiring a larger fraction of health care premiums. These variations inevitably distort direct comparisons.

We’d like to bring some transparency to this topic — but we need your help….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Are Biglaw Health Insurance Premium Increases Really Stealth Pay Cuts?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

There seems to have been a spasm an unusual concentration of articles recently advancing the theory (I generalize) that all is well in BigLaw and that in fact even the universally acknowledged cost/benefit mismatch of a J.D. degree is mistaken.

Regular readers know that I’m the last person to be apocalyptic about the legal industry writ large, but I also would like to believe I apply rigor in analysis and tough love in attitude, so when sloppy happy talk comes front and center. I feel compelled to respond.

Law schools first. I haven’t really entered the “Law school NPV—positive or negative?” debate, and I don’t plan to start. It’s of enormous import on many levels, from the tragic human toll to the socioeconomic policy questions it raises. It’s simply a bit far afield for me to give it the attention it deserves. And I’m not going to do a half-baked job. Still, for the yin and yang of this debate, I refer you to (first pro and then con):

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Across the Desk: CAGR for Dummies”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

Our third installment in the “Law Firm Taxonomy” series addresses corporate-centric firms. With malice towards none and candor towards all, I must confess that I find this species the most problematic of all seven in our taxonomy. I’ll explain why in a moment, but first let me, following Linneaus, simply describe these firms. By and large they:

  • are headquartered in non-global cities
  • cater to desirable upper/middle market clients, mostly non-financial corporations and very high net-worth individuals (the 1%)
  • and are solidly embedded in their local markets

There are a host of such firms, and some of them are quite large indeed, ranking comfortably within the Am Law 50, but in an odd way they are a residual category consisting of firms that don’t fit credibly or plausibly anywhere else.

Where did these firms come from and where are they going?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Across the Desk: Corporate-Centric Firms”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

Next in our series on a taxonomy of law firms are the capital-markets centric firms.

If you think this moniker roughly translates to the classic New York white shoe elite, move to the head of the class.

But, as much in our world at the start of the 21st Century, it’s not exactly that simple. Here’s what’s different about these firms.

First, recall that we’ve hypothesized seven primary species…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Across the Desk: Capital-Markets Centric Firms”

Jodi Arias

* A bipartisan immigration reform bill made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee and will head to the Senate floor. Of course, the amendments in support of gay marriage didn’t make it in, but that may be moot soon anyway. [CNN]

* IRS official Lois Lerner may not be very “good at math,” but at least she seems to know the basic principles of constitutional law. She’ll invoke her Fifth Amendment rights before the House Oversight Committee today. [Politico]

* The D.C. Circuit ruled that the top secret Osama bin Laden death photos will remain top secret, but the internet’s desperate cries of “pics or it didn’t happen” will live on in our hearts. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Attention naysayers: it may be time to face the music. According to the latest Altman Weil survey, most law firm leaders think all of these fun recession-driven changes are here to stay. [Am Law Daily]

* Twenty-two law firms are banding together to fight against fraudulent financial products on a worldwide scale. It’s too bad this legal alliance didn’t exist before the Bernie Madoff scandal. [New York Times]

* It looks like New Jersey may soon be hopping aboard the “pro bono work before bar admission” train. You better hope you get your clinic placements in order, people. [New Jersey Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* The results for the February 2013 bar exam in California are out, and they’re frightening. It’s time to try that acting thing again, because only 41 percent of all test takers passed the exam. [The Recorder]

* Jodi Arias is now begging jurors to allow her to live out the rest of her days in prison. She wants to contribute to society by painting, recycling, and… not slashing additional throats. Lovely. [Fox News]

* “Given health care, I don’t care if he speaks in tongues.” Chief Justice John Roberts botched Barack Obama’s presidential oath at his first inauguration, but this time he managed to get it right. [New York Times]

* What was more important to Justice Sonia Sotomayor than swearing in Joe Biden as VP at noon on Sunday? Signing books at Barnes & Noble in New York City. Not-so wise Latina. [Los Angeles Times]

* D.C. Biglaw firms — like Holland & Knight, Covington, K&L Gates, and Jones Day — allowed others to bask in their prestige at their swanky inauguration parties. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* It’s been 40 years since SCOTUS made its ruling in Roe v. Wade, and this is what we’ve got to show for it: a deep moral divide over women being able to do what they want with their own bodies. [Huffington Post]

* The latest weapon in the fight against terrorism is the legal system. The Second Circuit recently issued a major blow to those seeking to finance militant attacks in secret. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* “Firms don’t just hire a body anymore.” The 2012 BLS jobs data is in, and if you thought employment in the legal sector was going to magically bounce back to pre-recession levels, you were delusional. [Am Law Daily]

* Three months have come and gone since Hurricane Sandy rocked law firm life as we know it in Manhattan, but firms like Fragomen and Gordon & Rees are still stuck in temporary offices. [New York Law Journal]

* This seems like it may be too good to be true, but it looks like New York’s chief judge may be on board to grant law students bar eligibility after the completion of only two years of law school. [National Law Journal]

* Law professors may soon be in for a nasty surprise when it comes to their salaries if their schools follow Vermont Law’s lead and remove them as salaried employees, paying only on a part-time basis. [Valley News]

* Resorting to a life of crime to pay off your law school debt is never a good thing — unless you’re doing it while wearing a Bucky Badger hat. We’ll have more on these allegations later. [Wisconsin State Journal]

I reported several weeks ago that I had been solicited to write an article about the future of Biglaw firms. But it was actually better than that: The invitation came from the “Sunday Review” (formerly “The Week In Review”) section of The New York Times, which is a pretty cool place to ask you to write.

Unfortunately, and apparently unbeknownst to the editor of the “Sunday Review” section, the Times ran a “DealBook” section on the fate of large law firms before my ditty could appear in print. This preempted my article (or at least that’s what the editor said, although maybe she was just sparing my feelings). So instead of having a piece in the NYT, I’m just another schlub typing away at Above the Law.

But if I took the time to write a 1,200-word piece on the future of big law firms, then I’m sure as heck going to get some use out of it. So here you are: “The Assault on Biglaw,” by yours truly, which damn near appeared in the Sunday Times….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Nearly A New York Times Op-Ed On The Future Of Biglaw”

“Aaaaaand they’re off!”

Notwithstanding predictions of impending economic gloom or apocalyptic Mayan prophecies, 2012 brings some sort-of good news for incoming first-year associates: our survey findings show start dates have returned to pre-Recession timelines. We’re apparently (knock wood) past the days of first-years twisting in the wind with deferrals and rescinded offers. On the other hand, a majority of our survey respondents report that the size of the incoming first-year class has contracted significantly, with only 36% of you telling us that class sizes have returned to pre-Recession levels. For the full results of our survey, read on.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Great Non-Deferral of 2012″

* Patton Boggs partner Benjamin Ginsberg serves as the Mitt Romney campaign’s top lawyer, and he’s taking flak for GOP rules revisions that have been likened to “killing a fly with a sledgehammer.” [Am Law Daily]

* “I am still shocked that I did everything right and find myself on the brink of destitution.” This just in from the Things Everyone Already Knew Desk: even law firms have been hit hard by the recession. [Washington Times]

* The lead lawyer in the inquisition against Madam Justice Lori Douglas turned in a resignation letter. Perhaps he grew tired of being part of judicial farce that’s spread wider than Her Honor’s legs. [Canadian Press]

* Penn State Dickinson School of Law might not be losing its accreditation, but it will be reducing enrollment and consolidating all first-year classes at its University Park campus. [Central Penn Business Journal]

* A would-be law student wants to know if he has a good chance of getting into a top 20 school with a low 150s LSAT and an average GPA. You’ll get in everywhere you apply! [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Roger Fisher, Harvard Law School professor and co-author of “Getting to Yes,” RIP. [WSJ Law Blog]

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