Happy news

The ALS Association’s “Ice Bucket Challenge” has been wildly successful, raising more than $107 million to support the nonprofit and its great work fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The success even prompted the association to file trademark applications for “Ice Bucket Challenge” and “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” (ultimately withdrawn, so as not to stop other worthy causes from using the challenge).

As we reported last month, the Ice Bucket Challenge has been very popular within the legal profession. Even your Above the Law editors got into it. I was challenged by Travis Lenkner of Gerchen Keller Capital, the litigation finance firm, and I responded to that challenge by making a donation in lieu of icing myself. I then challenged my colleague Staci Zaretsky, who responded by dumping ice on herself (and contributing too).

We were joined by many other lawyers and law students in this endeavor. Here’s a round-up of Ice Bucket Challenges from around the legal world….

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Let’s give a round of applause to these great firms.

Earlier this week, the American Lawyer released the results of its annual survey of Biglaw midlevel associates (third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates at large law firms). We’ll start with the good news: midlevels seem to be quite happy. The average composite score for satisfaction hit 4.08 — the highest in a decade, and higher even than last year’s healthy figure.

But just like last year, which revealed a significant gender gap in terms of job satisfaction, this year’s rosy news comes with caveats. The latest survey shows, for example, that women, African-American, and LGBT lawyers are less satisfied than their non-minority counterparts in terms of measures like training, fairness of evaluations, and partnership prospects.

Now let’s move on to the juicy stuff: the firms with the happiest — and unhappiest — associates. Plus a new ranking from Am Law, focusing on which law schools best prepared their students for Biglaw life….

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When it comes to the debate over the wisdom of going to law school, I fall somewhere in between. I’m not as optimistic as Jordan Weissmann of Slate, but I’m not as pessimistic as Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, two of my colleagues here at Above the Law.

Back in June, when I reviewed employment data for the law school class of 2013, I sounded some cautiously optimistic notes. I wondered whether a stable job market and shrinking law school classes could produce better employment outcomes for many law grads.

Could the jobs picture be even brighter than “stable”? Check out what looks like a big expansion of the U.S. Department of Justice’s prestigious Attorney General’s Honors Program, along with other opportunities to work as a lawyer for the federal government….

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If you are a connoisseur of social media, you’ve seen thousands of links and updates about the situation in Ferguson. You’ve seen a number of reports about the crisis in Gaza. You’ve been kept abreast about our military operations in Iraq. It’s been a busy August for news.

Of course, you’ve ignored most of those links and instead been on a targeted hunt for Ice Bucket Challenge vines. If you are over 40, let me explain: instead of giving money to support research on Lou Gehrig’s Disease, people are dumping buckets of ice water on themselves. Actually, most people are giving $100 to ALS research AND dumping buckets of ice water on themselves. Awareness! It’s working, so read this before you judge.

The… whatever this is has made its way to law school campuses, thanks to the UVA Law School Office of Career Services. As our tipster put it, there is video of UVA Law CSO “getting ice buckets dumped on them by a row of bros.” Does that sound like something you would like to see?

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Now we’ll unmask this superhero.

Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall the tale of Aquagirl. She’s the former Cleary Gottlieb summer associate who, while in a state of inebriation, stripped down to her underwear at a Chelsea Piers charity benefit and jumped into the Hudson River. This might have been an effort to demonstrate her swimming prowess (she was on the swim team in college), but ultimately she had to be rescued in a boat by either the Coast Guard or the NYPD. Her exploits are now the stuff of legend, the bar by which summer associate misadventures are measured.

In these pages, we’ve referred to Aquagirl simply by her nickname, in keeping with our general policy of anonymizing summer associate stories. But that policy admits of exceptions. We will now unmask Aquagirl because she’s back in the headlines for newsworthy conduct — this time heroic rather than scandalous….

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The Riling family

I cannot believe how, just how generous and nice that was because you don’t see that very much anymore. Most people don’t take the time of day to do very much for anybody else, especially a stranger.

Sunny Riling, a Florida mom whose family recovered their lost camera containing treasured photos — with the help of a Biglaw partner.

(Read on to find out how….)

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Last month, when we covered BuckleySandler’s midyear bonuses, we included a shout-out to Cahill Gordon. Cahill has paid out generous summer bonuses to its associates dating back to 2010, and we wondered whether the firm would continue the streak.

The answer: yes. Cahill just announced its latest summer bonuses. The timing is good, since rising 2Ls will soon be picking which firms to interview with during on-campus recruiting. (Note Cahill Gordon’s nice rise in the latest Vault 100 rankings, which are widely consulted by law students during the OCI process.)

How big are the Cahill midyear bonuses this time around?

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Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

Earlier this week, the good folks over at Vault released their annual list of the nation’s 100 most prestigious law firms. As we noted in our analysis of the list, the top 15 for this year don’t look very different from the top 15 from last year.

Wachtell Lipton topped the list for the 12th year in a row. But as Vault noted, Cravath isn’t far behind — and could retake the crown that it relinquished to Wachtell back in 2004.

Yes, that’s right — Wachtell hasn’t always been #1. On this “Flashback Friday,” let’s look back at the Vault rankings from 2008 and 1998 and see how things looked in the past….

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It pains me to say this, given my own predilection for prestige worship, but here’s a question: does prestige matter as much as it used to? In an era of greater access to information, a law firm’s overall prestige arguably matters less than it once did.

If a client is looking for an excellent firm in a particular practice area, it can now easily access information about which firms, and even which individual lawyers, excel in which niches. It no longer has to rely on a firm’s brand name as a proxy for a specific strength. And other factors matter to the public as well. Is a firm a good place to work? How stable is its partnership, in this era of increased lateral movement? Is the firm growing or declining?

But make no mistake: prestige is still hugely important. Which is why the Vault law firm rankings are so eagerly anticipated each year.

The latest rankings from Vault of the country’s 100 most prestigious law firms just came out. How do they look?

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If you appreciate the information and entertainment provided by Above the Law, please send us tips. You can reach us by email or by text message (646-820-8477).

Sometimes folks ask us, “What’s in it for me?” For example, on last week’s story about the epic UVA email screw-up, one reader wondered why UVA students told us about it in the first place.

Well, venting about something can be therapeutic. But sometimes tipping ATL can help people out in more specific and concrete ways. Here’s a great story involving a reader who emailed us about a problem that we helped to get fixed….

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