Jones Day

‘No, not that firm! Any firm but that!’

If you’re working in-house and dealing with bet-the-company litigation, you want the very best litigators in the world to be on your side. You want a firm with litigators so strong that it will make opponents gasp in fear at the very mention of its name. You want a firm that is known internationally for “go[ing] for the jugular” and coming out on top.

But how can you ensure that you’ve picked the right firm? BTI Consulting Group just made it a little easier with the release of its annual ranking of the firms “most likely to trigger dread” in opposing counsel, as determined by a poll of about 300 in-house attorneys. After reviewing all responses, BTI named the “Fearsome Foursome,” the most-feared litigation firms in the country.

Which firms returned to this year’s list and which firms dropped off of it? Check out the latest rankings…

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Over the last two decades, a dedicated Supreme Court bar has gained prominence, focusing on arguing the increasingly few cases before the justices each term. These lawyers face fierce competition in persuading clients to hire them, participating in a not-so-glamorous competition known in the industry as a “beauty contest.” At these lawyerly pageants, attorneys competing to take the case make their pitch and try to persuade the client that their firm is the best suitor.

In my new book, Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (affiliate link), I go backstage and look at two of the most high-profile beauty contests in Supreme Court history: who would represent (1) the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and (2) twenty-six states in their respective challenges to the constitutionality of Obamacare.

How did these litigants go about choosing their counsel? Which lawyers and law firms got passed over?

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There hasn’t been much major good news on the associate compensation front over the past few years — since, say, January 2007. But recent weeks have brought pockets of minor good news for limited constituencies. Green shoots, anyone?

In Miami, Greenberg Traurig raised starting salaries by 16 percent, from $125,000 to $145,000. In New York, Sullivan & Cromwell and Skadden Arps started offering $300,000 signing bonuses to Supreme Court clerks.

And now $300K bonuses for SCOTUS clerks have spread, to other law firms in other cities. Consider this the new going rate for top-shelf talent….

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For a couple months now, we’ve run an occasional series, drawing on the ATL Insider Survey, comparing firms and law schools in various geographic locales. Thus far, we looked at Boston, Chicago, New York, and “the South.”

Today, we turn toward Texas. Texas is beloved here at ATL as an apparently bottomless source of colorful legal news. The state is a frequent battleground for high profile constitutional fights while also generating a steady stream of tabloid fodder, from “judges behaving badly” to “tragic homicidal mayhem.” (Of course, there’s also the running joke among the ATL commentariat that, for what a New York Biglaw associate pays for his cramped studio apartment, one can buy a 3,500-square-foot wife house in Texas.)

But of course this is a limited, distorted view of the legal industry in Texas. Texas is a huge, diverse state with a relatively strong economy and a unique legal culture. Biglaw firms thrive in all three major cities, both local outposts of national firms, or more significantly, Texas-bred firms such as Baker Botts and Vinson & Elkins. Our ATL Insider Survey (13,000+ responses and going strong, thanks), asks attorneys at firms to evaluate their employers in terms of compensation, hours, training, morale, and culture. After the jump, we’ll look at how firms in Texas stack up in these categories — and how they compare to the national averages…

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* Whitey Bulger was convicted on 31 of the 32 counts he faced. [NBC News]

* Eric Holder announced that the federal government will stop charging certain drug offenders with crimes that carry draconian mandatory minimum sentences. Apparently, he just now realized the prison system is riddled with non-violent offenders. The last horses are finally crossing the finish line, folks! [Washington Post]

* Johnny Manziel has hired counsel for his upcoming NCAA probe. Surprise, surprise, it’s Champ Kind from Anchorman. [Jim Darnell]

* As a follow-up, the lawyer who filed suit against his ex-wife for bad mothering is facing ethics charges in an unrelated matter where he wrote a will giving his own kids 40 percent of his client’s estate. It take something special to try and slip that one past the goalie. [ABA Journal]

* The former escort behind the nom de plume Belle de Jour, whose exploits gave rise to a TV show, is being sued for defamation by an old boyfriend who claims her sexploits are a lie. If you can’t trust a detailed diary of sexual experiences, what can you trust? [Jezebel]

* Here are the top energy law priorities facing Congress after they return from summer recess. Repealing Obamacare, Congress’s only priority, is not an energy policy. [Breaking Energy]

* For IP attorney LOLZ, here’s a fun Tumblr. [IP Attorney]

* A law student at Wisconsin has developed a system that allows easy stalking of someone’s smartphone. While this makes him sound like a jerk, his intention is to prove how unacceptable this lack of privacy really is. It’s not stalking if it’s proving a point! [Ars Technica]

* The Sixth Circuit thinks the emergency manager law in Michigan may violate the state’s constitution. This could throw the whole Detroit bankruptcy into doubt. There’s a lot of talk about how this could help city pensioners, but let’s focus on the victims it could cause — what would happen to Jones Day’s billings? [Constitutional Law Prof Blog]

A $500,000 associate? (Click to enlarge.)

Base salaries for Biglaw associates haven’t budged since January 2007, when Simpson Thacher led the charge to $160k. Year-end bonuses have remained fairly static since 2007 as well, the year of Cravath’s special bonuses. The 2012 bonuses represented an improvement over the 2011 bonuses, but only if you ignored the 2011 phenomenon of spring bonuses. On the whole, associate compensation is treading water.

But for Supreme Court clerks, aka “The Elect,” compensation continues to climb. In 2011, the signing bonus for outgoing SCOTUS clerks started to move from $250K to $280K. In 2012, the increase solidified, with $280K becoming the new going rate (and $285K becoming the above-market rate).

Now, just a year later, some firms are offering SCOTUS clerkship bonuses in excess of $280K or $285K. How much are they paying, and which offices of which firms are leading the market higher? The answer might surprise you….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a new series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

An intriguing demographic dilemma is approaching a powerhouse law firm, Jones Day, as several senior partners and chairs are straddling the mandatory retirement age. The firm currently has over eight partners — including numerous practice leaders and partners in charge — above their proclaimed mandatory retirement age, and over ten partners nearing the cutoff, which probably signals that Jones Day gives some partners a pass when it comes to retirement. For example, Mark Sisitsky, Hugh R. Whiting, and Bob Mittelstaedt, just to name a few, are all very respectable partners who are refining with vintage.

Jones Day generally restocks from within by promoting partners in the first quarter each year. In 2013, the firm internally promoted 29 partners in the first quarter, each with an average of 12.5 years of experience. Although Jones Day is five months away from the next round of promotions, Lateral Link has identified around fifty associates who are in the running for a partner promotion (although only a handful will ultimately get the nod). We have an idea who fits in both categories and have been fairly accurate in our projections from the past….

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This weekend, I had the unenviable task of going on Fox News and “defending” Detroit. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be defending: poor city government, white flight, crumbling infrastructure… the best thing anybody can say about Detroit right now is that Miguel Cabrera is still sober. My solution was to sell Detroit to Canada. Our neighbors to the north seem to do a better job of providing civic services in a business-friendly environment without the kind of gridlock and recriminations that dominate every “solution” ever offered to Detroit’s long-standing problems.

Understand, this is a city that can’t even file for bankruptcy without getting dragged into legal quicksand. Former Jones Day partner Kevyn Orr was named Detroit’s emergency financial manager just four months ago. Evidently, it doesn’t take long to look at Detroit’s books and cry uncle, but now a judge is trying to block Orr and the city from restoring financial sense.

Don’t worry, as usual there will be people making money in Detroit. It just won’t be the people who actually live there…

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In fairness, only one legal story dominated the week. The Zimmerman verdict provided a new twist daily. It even got Kim Kardashian involved, which was a relief to the unwashed masses waiting to hear how a spoiled sex-tape star would react to a verdict at the intersection of race and gun policy.

But the most newsworthy verdict in years was not the only thing happening this week, regardless of what CNN would like you to believe…

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* Under the leadership of emergency manager Kevyn Orr, Detroit is now the biggest U.S. city to declare bankruptcy in history. Unfortunately, not even the strict Jones Day dress code could save them. [Am Law Daily]

* As one of our columnists David Mowry told us weeks ago, New York wants to close the justice gap by looking to the state’s best untapped resources for pro bono work: in-house counsel. [New York Law Journal]

* It turns out the “new employer survey” to be used by U.S. News is really just the old employer survey that’s been used in the rankings since 1990. How incredibly anticlimactic. [Morse Code / U.S. News & World Report]

* Law schools are officially ready to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to filling their classes. Some are now accepting first-time June LSAT scores for fall admission. [National Law Journal]

* Our managing editor, David Lat, comes to the defense of fictional representations of the law, but seeing as he’s writing a fictional legal novel, we think he’s kind of biased. [Room for Debate / New York Times]

* Mobsters really don’t like rats, and it looks like someone who was planning to testify against Whitey Bulger may have been whacked after having been dropped from the prosecution’s witness list. [CNN]

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