When I started my law firm twenty years ago, there were just five things that I knew.
I knew I didn’t have any clients. I knew that my husband and I could scarcely afford the loss of my paycheck, let alone come up capital for me to invest in my practice. I knew that I was way too mortified at having been laid off from my former firm to share the real reason for starting my own firm. I knew that when I finally opened for business, in truth, I was just putting on a game face every day, biding my time until something else came along or until I got pregnant and could, like some of my other law school classmates, gracefully exit the law. But I also knew, somewhere deep down, that I had it in me to be a good lawyer.
Those five things are all that I knew for sure when I started my law firm. Clearly I had a lot to learn. And while there was plenty of information on the black-letter, nuts-and-bolts aspects of starting a firm, the kind of advice that I really wanted to know to jump-start my practice — specifically, whether the solo option was actually feasible — was in short supply. Moreover, as an attorney with a traditionally big-firm practice (energy regulatory law and litigation), I was even worse off because attorneys familiar with my field and doing what I hoped to were particularly rare.
So to spare those of you starting out from what I went through, here are five things that I wish someone would have told me when I started out:
* Dewey think you should’ve signed up for the partnership contribution plan? That probably would’ve been wise. One of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s ex-service partners has been forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy thanks to a clawback suit. [Am Law Daily]
* As long as the job market for new attorneys remains laughable, law schools will continue to make moves when it comes to deep tuition cuts. Say hello to a $30K drop in sticker price, Roger Williams University Law students. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* Syracuse Law’s class sizes keep getting smaller, but it was “strategically managed” — just like the new law building was financially strategically managed on the backs of alumni and their tuition. [Daily Orange]
* A trial date was set for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends who allegedly tried to cover up his role in the Boston bombings. No word yet on whether any stupid girls have set up fan clubs for them. [National Law Journal]
* The curtains are finally closing on the King of Pop’s life: Lloyd’s of London settled its insurance suit with Michael Jackson’s estate, and Conrad Murray’s involuntary manslaughter conviction was upheld. [AP]
* In his year-end report, Chief Justice Roberts politely asked Congress to make it rain on the federal judiciary in fiscal year 2014, because “[t]he future would be bleak” without additional funding. [Reuters]
* Utah finally asked for Supreme Court intervention in its quest to stop gay couples from marrying, but Justice Sotomayor wants a response from the other side before she weighs in. WWSSD? [BuzzFeed]
* Perhaps Justice Sotomayor saw the humor in this: she just gave a group of nuns a temporary reprieve from having to give out birth control to a bunch of women who have taken vows of chastity. [Bloomberg]
* Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego Steven Davis? Oh boy, Dewey have some news for you! The failed firm’s former chairman is now the chief legal representative for Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates. [WSJ Law Blog]
* “The Second Amendment does not preclude reasonable regulation.” A judge upheld the majority of New York’s new gun laws as constitutional. Opponents are ready to lock and load on appeal. [New York Times]
* Just because your law school isn’t ranked, it doesn’t mean you can’t dream big. Case in point: one of this year’s Skadden Fellows will graduate from John Marshall (Chicago) this spring. [National Law Journal]
The Michigan Legislature recently passed the “Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act” into law. Under the new law, women and employers must buy an optional insurance rider for abortion coverage. Abortions will only be covered without a rider if the mother’s life is in medical danger. The law also specifically allows for the treatment of miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.
Detractors referred to the bill as requiring “rape insurance.” Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D – East Lansing) said, “This tells women that were raped and became pregnant that they should have thought ahead and planned for it.”
If there were such a thing as rape insurance, I surely would buy it. What woman (or likely future prison inmate) wouldn’t? No, this is abortion insurance, not rape insurance.
What the opponents of the new Michigan law seem to conveniently overlook when choosing their inflammatory and misleading rhetoric: (1) Abortion does not fully, meaningfully address the harms of rape. (2) Rape does not necessarily, or even usually, involve abortion. (3) Foreseeing an individual need for abortion insurance does not require extraordinary foresight. But let’s look a little more closely at what’s going on in Michigan . . . .
* “Those of us from the Midwest think it’s actually easier to hide a child in New York.” Many of the current Supreme Court justices are from New York. How does it affect their jurisprudence? [Washington Post]
* The percentage of women associates in law firms may be down nationally, but in California, the demographic is on the rise — except in Silicon Valley, which is really hardly surprising. [The Recorder]
* Megyn Kelly, who’s been compared to a “brilliant supermodel,” is now considered the brightest star on Fox News, with more than 2.5 million viewers. Albany Law School must be so proud. [Washington Post]
* Class action powerhouse Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll hired Matthew S. Axelrod of DOJ fame (most recently as Associate Deputy Attorney General) to join the firm as a partner. Congrats! [Law360 (sub. req.)]
* “The fact that rape insurance is even being discussed by this body is repulsive.” Yep. Rape insurance. Apparently that’s a thing in Michigan now, which is pretty unbelievable. The more you know. [MSNBC]
* Here’s a helpful hint for our readers: when you’re trying to get released on bail prior to your jewel heist trial, you probably shouldn’t list your occupation on a court form as “jewelry thief.” [Los Angeles Times]
* You’d think that when discussing major reforms to the patent system, the director of the USPTO would be there, but you’d be wrong. You’d also be wrong if you thought we had a director right now. [National Law Journal]
* Welcome to the future of Biglaw: Allen & Overy has realized that it’s a waste of money to keep hiring in a weak market, so the firm is recruiting its alumni to serve as contract attorneys in times of higher legal demand. [Legal Week]
* Dean Gregory Maggs, the interim leader of George Washington University Law, is being lauded for increasing first-year enrollment by 22 percent in a time of crisis. Excellent work, sir. You flood that job market. [GW Hatchet]
* Just because you have a law degree doesn’t mean you’re “entitled to rise up and become partner.” Getting a job in the new normal involves having a good attitude and social graces. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Ladies, if you get pregnant after a fling with an Olympic medalist and move out of state, please know your “appropriation of the child while in utero [will be deemed] irresponsible, reprehensible.” [New York Times]
* GTL stands for “Gym, Tan, Laundry,” but the owner of these Jersey Shore clubs thinks it stands for “Gym, Tan, Lawsuit” — thanks to losses uncovered by its insurer in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. [Newark Star-Ledger]
* Judge Richard Posner is the latest judge to have admitted to making a possible error (which he later endlessly recanted), but hey, if he was wrong, at least he was wrong in a “responsible, informed, and fair-minded way.” [National Law Journal]
* After being unceremoniously tossed off New York’s stop and frisk case by the Second Circuit for her supposed “partiality,” Judge Shira Scheindlin has been replaced by Judge Analisa Torres. Best of luck — you might need it. [New York Law Journal]
* Will Judge Scheindlin’s removal have a chilling effect on judicial speech? Lat thinks it would cause judges to “hide underneath their robes” even more than they already do. [Room for Debate / New York Times]
* The Biglaw gay gross-up marches on: it’s funny that the most conservative industry is outpacing others in terms of progressive benefits for LGBT employees and families. [Capital Business / Washington Post]
* “The U.S. is facing a paradox surrounding access to justice,” says ABA President James Silkenat, who is trying to kill two birds with one stone by pairing unemployed lawyers with poor clients. [Am Law Daily]
* Bernie Goetz (aka the New York subway vigilante) was arrested on pot charges after allegedly offering to get an undercover cop high. We’ve got a feeling his new nickname will be “Burnie.” [New York Daily News]
There’s no better way to introduce this story than by reprinting the opening paragraph of the Sixth Circuit opinion by Judge Raymond Kethledge (citation omitted):
There are good reasons not to call an opponent’s argument “ridiculous,” which is what State Farm calls Barbara Bennett’s principal argument here. The reasons include civility; the near-certainty that overstatement will only push the reader away (especially when, as here, the hyperbole begins on page one of the brief); and that, even where the record supports an extreme modifier, “the better practice is usually to lay out the facts and let the court reach its own conclusions.” But here the biggest reason is more simple: the argument that State Farm derides as ridiculous is instead correct.
Professor Joel P. Trachtman has developed a unique, practical guide to help lawyers analyze, argue, and write effectively.
The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win is a highly readable 200-page book, available for about $10 in paperback or e-book. Chapters focus on foundational principles in legal argument: procedure, interpretation of contracts and statutes, use of evidence, and more. The material covered is taught only implicitly in law school. Yet, when up-and-coming attorneys master these straightforward tools, they will think and argue like the best lawyers.
For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
Take this opportunity to learn what it takes to streamline your accounting and get the most out of your time. The webinar agenda:
● The basics of accounting for lawyers.
● How legal accounting differs from regular accounting.
● Report and reconciliation issues surrounding trust accounts.
● How to pick and integrate the best accounting tools for your practice.
● Steps to prepare your tax return for your firm’s income.
Do not miss this crucial chance to optimize your accounting practices. Save time and get back to billing!
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!