In an era when “disruption” is celebrated, the world of large law firms is one of the last redoubts of conventional wisdom. For a uniquely rule- and precedent-bound profession, this makes sense. Biglaw’s conventional wisdom has the added virtue of being reliable. For example, we can count on Cravath taking the lead — at least chronologically — on bonuses, and for DLA Piper to have the most random Third developing-world offices.
Another reflection of conventional wisdom is the way in which Biglaw lends itself to — and revels in — superlatives and rankings. There tends to be a generally acknowledged and perennially dominant player (or a few) in most practice areas: Wachtell Lipton for M&A, Weil Gotshal for Chapter 11 work, Patton Boggs for lobbying, and so forth. There’s no doubt that many worthy firms get overlooked.
Last year we took a look at which firms’ practice groups were considered “underrated” by peers in the field. Among the notable 2012 nominees: Cahill for corporate law, Arnold & Porter in litigation, and Proskauer for its bankruptcy and tax practices.
We wondered whether the same practice groups were still considered by practitioners to be unfairly underrated. Or are there other firms deserving more recognition?
They told me, if I could sit on the stage so nobody climbed over me, I could drink beer till the show was over.
– Gimme Shelter
Hells Angels are the Kleenex of biker gangs. Sure, there are the Mongols, the Outlaws, the Warlocks, the Diablos, the Cool Ranch Doritos. But all of those gangs take up relatively little space in the collective imagination. And one of those gangs isn’t even a gang. It’s a corn chip!
Anyway, the Angels’ ubiquity in popular culture means that when anyone anywhere thinks of roving gangs of motorcycle-riding degenerates, they think of the Angels. Hunter Thompson, Altamont, Sonny Barger and the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test placed the gang at the forefront of that fashion trend known as the 60s. And as Atticus Finch quipped, “Even bellbottoms need a lawyer.”
So it was that the New York Times banged out an extra-long feature on the gang and their litigious ways over the long weekend.
That last sentence was the closest I could get the words “gang” and “bang” together. Let’s see if I have better luck later in this post….
This coming Friday, it is the inalienable right of all Americans to sleep off their hangovers, or riot at Walmart, or do anything at all rather than work for The Man. But Biglaw is a different country. As illustrated by Elie’s decision matrix, the “choice” of whether to work on this sacred day is, for the denizens of the law firm world, fraught with other pressures and expectations. We all know that Biglaw careers demand a Faustian bargain: in return for their fat paychecks (and bonuses?), lawyers are expected to work grueling, unpredictable hours. This time of year, that reality is brought into sharp relief: the “holiday season,” with those “family obligations” and so forth, is something that occurs elsewhere.
But law firm billable expectations are not homogeneous. There are significant differences across practice areas, seniority levels, and, of course, individual firms. So how do the various practices, employment statuses, and firms stack up?
* 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]
* CeeLo Green, through his attorney, tells the judge and prosecutors in his criminal case to, um, Forget themselves. He’s miffed that the judge and prosecutors set up cameras during his arraignment and left themselves out of the shot creating a false impression of guilt. This marks the first time this guy didn’t want a camera fixated solely on him. [TMZ]
* Samsung wants a mistrial in its case with Apple because Apple’s attorney, Harold McElhinny, implied in his closing argument that American-made jobs building TV sets moved overseas because companies failed to protect intellectual property. Samsung is arguing that this is racist. [Bloomberg]
* JPMorgan is awfully sorry for making the conscious decision to sell toxic securities that helped destroy the economy. “Our bad, y’all!” [Gawker]
* The justices who penned Bush v. Gore shamelessly admitted how terrible the decision was by trying to claim it had no precedential value. Unfortunately, no one listened to them. [Mother Jones]
* In addition to the many lawfirms that are contributing to Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, several Asian-American lawyer groups are organizing a fundraising event this coming Monday. If you’re in New York, please consider attending! [Facebook; AABANY]
* In sad news, the son of Ninth Circuit Judge Jay Bybee shot and killed himself in the courtyard of the LDS Temple in Henderson, NV. Our thoughts are with Judge Bybee and his family. [Las Vegas Review-Journal (gavel bang: Las Vegas Law Blog)]
* Citi reports that firms saw a revenue jump of 2.7 percent in the third quarter. Revenue has now finally outpaced expenses for the year. Let the good times roll? [The AmLaw Daily]
* In regulatory fun, the Comptroller of the Currency issued some regulations on how banks can use consulting firms to comply with enforcement orders. In a nutshell, consultants should do their jobs rather than be a rubber stamp for the banks. Once again regulation arrives long after common sense required it. [Washington Post]
* A new company called Fantex Holdings might turn your fantasy football chatter into insider trading when it starts securitizing athletes. Now TacoCorp can endure an SEC investigation just like real companies. [Corporate Counsel]
* Microsoft’s IP counsel is opening a new office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon. Congratulations of the Ctrl+Alt+Deleting your career as an outside counsel. [Corporate Counsel]
* Harvey Updyke, the Alabama fan who destroyed Auburn’s landmark trees, owes $796,000 according to a judge. Roll Tide. [Courthouse News Service]
* Veterans applying to law school should take these tips to heart. [Blueprint Prep]
* The Amanda Knox trial has a ton of experts involved. No defendant, but a ton of experts. [The Expert Institute]
If you haven’t been following the O’Bannon case, the former UCLA star heads up a group of current and former players suing the NCAA for improperly restraining players from negotiating the use of their own likenesses on everything from calendars and jerseys to broadcasting contracts and video games.
Judge Wilken’s ruling changes the landscape of the case and sets the parties on a collision course for trial in June. It also makes the NCAA very, very happy…
When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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 six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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