Great Recession

This case is a perfect illustration of what happens when divorce meets recession meets downsizing.

Howard London of Beermann Swerdlove, commenting on the particulars of client David McLauchlan’s case.

(McLaughlan, a former partner at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, was asked to leave the firm during the height of the recession due to his declining billables. McLaughlan’s income was reduced significantly — so much so that he could no longer afford his alimony payments.)

At the start of this new year, what is the outlook like for legal employment? There’s certainly a fair amount of bad news out there, particularly for recent law school graduates.

But what about for denizens of Biglaw, the lawyers fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to work at the nation’s largest law firms? What does 2012 hold for them?

Earlier this month, my colleague Elie made some predictions for the legal profession. I will follow in his footsteps and venture some prophecies of my own for the year….

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Thomas D. Morgan

The jolt to the legal profession is real, and the world is not going back to the way it was.

Thomas D. Morgan, professor of law at George Washington University Law School, commenting on the state of legal education during a plenary session at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. Morgan, author of The Vanishing American Lawyer (affiliate link), noted that more must be done to make legal education relevant in a post-recession world.


As you may have guessed from reading many of my posts, I am the self-appointed spokeswoman for women in small law firms. I recently read a post on the Careerist about women lawyers and ambition. Vivia Chen cites some sobering statistics from a survey done by More magazine: 43% of women (out of 500 35-60 year-olds surveyed) are less ambitious now than ten years ago; 73% would not apply for their bosses’ jobs (38% of them do not want to because they do not want to deal with the politics, pressure and responsibility); and 92% of women rate job flexibility as their number one career priority.

From this survey, Chen concludes as follows: “If you’re a female lawyer (or aspiring to be), you might be wasting your energy on the wrong endeavor. In fact, if you’re gunning for any high-paying, high-profile job in a male-dominated field, you might as well put the brakes on right now. Not only are your odds of success remote, but you won’t be happy.”

So now what do I say to my small-firm sisters? You are all lazy bums?

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Back in June, when we spoke about the latest job data from NALP, it became clear that the class of 2010 — my graduating class — had some of the worst employment outcomes of the last 20 years. We knew this because of the way NALP categorized its data, differentiating between jobs that require and don’t require bar passage, and between full-time and part-time jobs.

But apparently the American Bar Association isn’t interested in helping people understand these outcomes on a school-by-school basis. The ABA doesn’t want you to know how schools fared in finding full-time legal employment for graduates of the class of 2010.

That’s right, the same folks who claimed just two short months ago that “no one could be more focused on the future of our next generation of lawyers than the ABA,” will now be removing those helpful job characteristics from the 2011 Annual Questionnaire….

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Week in, and week out, without fail, we write about the state of the legal economy. Sometimes we have good news about employment prospects for law school graduates, but the reality of the situation is that things are probably going to get worse before they get better.

And these days, apparently you can run into career trouble even if you go to a top-tier law school in a major city.

Here’s the photo for out latest caption contest….

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Stephen Venuto

People came in wanting to work, which is a shift. Students’ primary goal three or four years ago was to ensure they had a terrific social experience. They short-changed themselves a little.

Stephen Venuto, head of on-campus recruiting for Biglaw firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, commenting on the new environment of summer associate programs during the legal recession.

This year, Orrick made offers of full-time employment to 47 of 52 summer associates. The firm’s 90 percent offer rate was at the lower end of the spectrum of the 17 national firms surveyed by Am Law.

Edwards Angell & Wildman Harrold: A match made in heaven?

What results from the coupling of an angel and a wild man? One might think: angel + wild man = air traffic nightmare.

In the law firm context, however, the result is quite different. Edwards Angell is merging with Wildman Harrold, to form Edwards Wildman Palmer. The merger will take effect on October 1 and “will bring together 650 lawyers across two legacy firms renowned for their deep experience, shared dedication to client service, and highly collaborative cultures,” according to the new firm’s website.

What else do we know about Edwards Wildman Palmer? And what might be motivating this merger?

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Too bad it's not as simple as making a sign.

Yesterday the stock market experienced its biggest drop since 2008. In the wake of the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. debt on Friday night, the Dow Jones industrial average fell by 5.6 percent and the S&P 500 fell by 6.7 percent. Global markets suffered similarly.

The market decline on Monday was only the latest in a series of slides. As noted yesterday by the New York Times, “[t]he S.& P. 500 is now down 18 percent from its April 29 peak and is nearing official bear market territory, defined as a fall of 20 percent.”

(All in all, it’s pretty depressing stuff. As I tweeted yesterday, “@DavidLat isn’t looking at his #stockmarket holdings today; instead, he’s buying more #Powerball tickets – huge jackpot!”)

What’s frightening about the latest economic turmoil is that it comes on the heels of a brutal recession that the U.S. economy has not yet fully recovered from. In the wake of the aptly named Great Recession, unemployment still exceeds 9 percent, housing markets remain weak, and government policymakers have exhausted many of the tools at their disposal for attempting to revive the economy. Interest rates are basically as low as they can go at this point; fiscal stimulus is a political no-go. What is to be done?

The steep stock market declines raise a question: Are we entering another recession — i.e., the second dip of a double-dip recession? If so, what does that mean for law firms and lawyers? (We’ve already noted the implications for the IPO market — and the lawyers who work in it.)

Let’s discuss, and take a READER POLL….

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This summer is not as thrilling for law students as summers past. Firms have tightened their belts, and the law students lucky enough to snag one of the few summer associate positions out there are not getting the royal treatment. Or they are, but now the royal treatment is defined as allowing summers to order anything they want off the McDonald’s Dollar Menu (“All the McChickens and baked apple pies you can eat, 3Ls! But get it to go. There’s work to be done.”).

The Philadelphia Inquirer laments the decline of the summer associate experience:

The programs themselves, with trips abroad and lavish entertaining, could seem more like summer enrichment for precocious college students than real employment. But as a general rule, that sort of treatment is a thing of the past.

More typical is the summer program at the Wilmington office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom L.L.P., where Temple second-year Nick Mozal is spending his summer in corporate law. Mozal said there has been some entertaining, but the big event so far has been a night at a Phillies game.

Well, it is Wilmington. Are there better options than that?

But even in much more glamorous Philadelphia, the summer experience is lackluster:

James Lawlor, a Reed Smith partner who recruits and hires summer associates, said the firm has been doing less entertaining of summer associates, and when it does, it is more likely to schedule events at the firm’s Center City offices rather than at costly restaurants.

“We took away some of the bells and whistles,” Lawlor said.

Not all firms have silenced their bells and thrown out their whistles, though. After the jump, check out this year’s contenders for best summer associate event. And vote for the firm that should take home the shorter and smaller prize…

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