This year has seen a grim procession of law firm layoff news, which seemed to pick up momentum just yesterday with the Weil Gotshal lawyer layoffs and the Jones Day staff cuts. Are we looking at a 2008 redux, or is this just a bump in the road as the economy makes its slow recovery?
The Weil news was particularly stunning. If any firm seemed poised to thrive in the post-recession “new normal,” it was Weil, with its diversified practices and hegemonic restructuring group. Alas, with yesterday’s news of Weil’s decision to cut 7% of its associates and slash annual compensation for 10% of its partners by hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is clear that Biglaw job security is a thing of the past.
Let’s explore the reasons behind law firm layoffs, review a chronology of recent reductions, and obtain your views through a reader survey….
At the end of May, my colleague David Lat wondered, “Are layoffs becoming daily news in Biglaw once again?” Given recent events — in particular, the reckoning at Weil — we think it’s now fair to answer that question with a resounding yes.
Today, we’ve got news that a Biglaw shop known for its strict dress code and its fervent recruiting of Supreme Court clerks has decided to conduct a second round of layoffs, mere months after serving a slew of staffers with their walking papers…
Yesterday, some summer associates watched kitten videos on YouTube.
It’s the middle of June, the sun is shining, and Biglaw summer associate programs are in full swing. An old joke: Satan offers incredible wealth to a man in exchange for his soul. The man replies, “B-b-b-but, won’t I have to go to Hell?” Satan says, “Oh, don’t believe what you’ve heard, Hell isn’t that bad. Here, take a look.” And it’s all cocktail receptions and long lazy lunches at fancy restaurants. So he sells his soul. Later, when he dies, he goes to Hell, and sure enough, it’s all flames, pitchforks and eternal agony. The man protests to Satan, who replies – “Oh, that was our summer program.”
The joke smells a bit like 2006 or so, when Biglaw summer programs were at their largest and most extravagant, and most firms barely pretended any substantive work was part of the equation. Yet even though summer associate classes have been significantly downsized post-recession and the perks aren’t as lavish, the summer associate experience certainly retains much of that Bizarro world detachment from the actual realities of practice.
Summer programs have traditionally served as bait-and-switch recruitment tools used to woo rising 3Ls with wine tastings, sporting events, theater outings and boat rides. Since the recession, many firms have begun to emphasize “real work” as central to their summer associate programs (e.g., here and here). But these claims need to be taken with an ocean of salt. As the Dothraki say, “it is known” that newbie lawyers just aren’t ready to do any real work.
In any event, let’s take a look at the top-rated Biglaw summer associate programs, according to the ATL Insider Survey.
* Even JFK had mommy issues. Unfortunately, his came with possible nuclear armageddon. [Lowering the Bar]
* Washington, D.C. is a horrible back-biting hellhole. Except for the D.C. Circuit, where Judge Tatel and Chief Judge Sentelle apparently hold weekly kumbaya circles and talk about their feelings. [Concurring Opinions]
* Prosecutors file motions to keep George Zimmerman’s lawyers from bringing up Trayvon Martin’s past in the trial. Probably because “getting into school fights” is not particularly probative of “deserved to get murdered.” [WKMG]
* “I don’t believe judges should be filibustered.” Tell that to the rest of your Republican pals, Senator Hatch. D.C. Circuit nom Sri Srinivasan faced little drama at the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. [Bloomberg]
* A bipartisan gun regulation deal has been reached in the Senate, and of course the NRA is opposing it — well, except for the parts that expand gun rights. The group really likes those parts. [Washington Post]
* Trolling for patent partners? Bingham recently snagged five IP partners from DLA Piper’s Los Angeles office, including the former co-chair of DLA patent litigation department. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* Time well spent: while Detroit hangs on the precipice of bankruptcy, local politicians are worrying about whether retaining Jones Day poses a conflict of interest for their emergency manager (Kevyn Orr, formerly of Jones Day). [Am Law Daily]
* NYLS — or should we say “New York’s law school” — is revamping its clinical program to kill two birds with one stone (e.g., fulfilling pro bono hours and boosting job prospects). [National Law Journal]
* For all the talk of his being a hard ass, Judge Rakoff is a nice guy after all! The judge gave an ex-SAC trader permission to go on a honeymoon after his release from prison. [DealBook / New York Times]
* If you’ve ever wondered how Lat spends his free time, sometimes he’s off writing book reviews for distinguished publications. Check out his review of Mistrial (affiliate link) here. [Wall Street Journal]
* “Lindsay Lohan is the victim.” What the Heller you talking about? LiLo’s lawyer thinks there’s a conspiracy among the prosecutors on her case that’s resulted in leaks of information to TMZ. [CNN]
Last year I got ticketed while visiting the great city of Detroit. I was trying to take some photographs — like the one at right (click to enlarge) — and I unwittingly trespassed upon government property. I got a ticket for “loitering on railroad property.” It wasn’t cheap, at $200, but I was fine with paying it, figuring that Detroit needs all the help it can get. (Also, I liked the fact that the ticket listed my race as “White.”)
Detroit needs all the help it can get — and now it’s getting some. Governor Rick Snyder just picked a leading bankruptcy lawyer to oversee the city’s operations, pursuant to Michigan’s controversial Emergency Manager Law. (The people of Michigan voted to repeal an earlier emergency management statute, and the legislature then passed a new one.)
So who’s the Biglaw partner tasked with Mission: Impossible, and which firm does he or she hail from?
For Supreme Court clerks from October Term 2011, the historic Term of NFIB v. Sebelius (aka “Obamacare”), the hot firm to go to was Jones Day. As Tony Mauro recently reported, the firm hired six SCOTUS clerks from the OT 2011 class, which “may be the most clerks signed up by a single firm from a single term” (although Ted Frank suggests that Kirkland & Ellis might have had seven clerks back in 1995).
UPDATE (3/17/2013, 1 p.m.): Per Mauro, K&E has never had six or seven clerks from a single Term.
Leading litigatrix Beth Heifetz — a former SCOTUS clerk herself (OT 1985 / Blackmun), and a Tina Fey doppelgänger — confirmed that Jones Day paid the going rate in terms of SCOTUS clerkship bonuses: $280,000 (on top of the usual base salary and year-end bonus). One of the new hires, Rachel Bloomekatz, is joining JD’s office in Columbus, Ohio. She should be able to survive out there on half a million (the SCOTUS clerkship bonus plus a fifth-year associate’s salary; she’s a 2008 UCLA Law grad).
But what if you’re in the Columbus office and not a SCOTUS clerk? Don’t expect to be shown the money; instead, you might be shown the door….
Aside from the daily challenges associated with sustaining or exceeding gross revenue year after year, Biglaw partners are probably most worried about their firm’s brand. After all, a brand is something that will keep clients coming back, and usher in new and exciting business opportunities.
But with so many firms to choose from, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly which one is on top when it comes to being the most well-known of the bunch, regardless of what their Am Law or Vault 100 ranks might tell you. What matters most is obviously what the clients think.
Of course, there’s now a ranking to determine which firm has the strongest brand in the business….
* “Given health care, I don’t care if he speaks in tongues.” Chief Justice John Roberts botched Barack Obama’s presidential oath at his first inauguration, but this time he managed to get it right. [New York Times]
* What was more important to Justice Sonia Sotomayor than swearing in Joe Biden as VP at noon on Sunday? Signing books at Barnes & Noble in New York City. Not-so wise Latina. [Los Angeles Times]
* D.C. Biglaw firms — like Holland & Knight, Covington, K&L Gates, and Jones Day — allowed others to bask in their prestige at their swanky inauguration parties. [Capital Business / Washington Post]
* It’s been 40 years since SCOTUS made its ruling in Roe v. Wade, and this is what we’ve got to show for it: a deep moral divide over women being able to do what they want with their own bodies. [Huffington Post]
* The latest weapon in the fight against terrorism is the legal system. The Second Circuit recently issued a major blow to those seeking to finance militant attacks in secret. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* “Firms don’t just hire a body anymore.” The 2012 BLS jobs data is in, and if you thought employment in the legal sector was going to magically bounce back to pre-recession levels, you were delusional. [Am Law Daily]
* Three months have come and gone since Hurricane Sandy rocked law firm life as we know it in Manhattan, but firms like Fragomen and Gordon & Rees are still stuck in temporary offices. [New York Law Journal]
* This seems like it may be too good to be true, but it looks like New York’s chief judge may be on board to grant law students bar eligibility after the completion of only two years of law school. [National Law Journal]
* Law professors may soon be in for a nasty surprise when it comes to their salaries if their schools follow Vermont Law’s lead and remove them as salaried employees, paying only on a part-time basis. [Valley News]
* Resorting to a life of crime to pay off your law school debt is never a good thing — unless you’re doing it while wearing a Bucky Badger hat. We’ll have more on these allegations later. [Wisconsin State Journal]
Lawyers are obsessed with rankings and prestige, especially those that have to do with emerging markets in the eastern hemisphere. It’s a new year, so the folks at Asian Lawyer decided to start it off with a new rankings system for Biglaw firms, both American-based and those indigenous to the Asia-Pacific region.
Although Asian Lawyer evaluated firms using several different metrics (total attorney headcount of firms based in the Asia-Pacific region, biggest American firms with lawyers in the region, biggest European firms with lawyers in the region, and most attorneys by headcount of any firm in the region), we only really care about two of them.
The most some Americans know about the region is that they’re fans of the delectable cuisine, but can U.S. law firms hang with the Asiatic big boys? No matter how many firms tell you it’s the motion of the ocean that counts, size does matter for the purposes of these rankings….
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.