Biglaw branding sounds painful, but thankfully, associates at the highest and mightiest of firms don’t have to sear their flesh with their firms’ logos. Biglaw branding is more about the image firms want clients to see when making hiring decisions, and partners are likely equally as worried about their reputations in the marketplace as their year-end profits.
The last time we spoke about law firm branding, we found out that Skadden had the most recognizable brand in the country. But we, loving rankings as we do, wondered which law firm had the best brand in the world. Luckily for us, hot on the heels of the release of the Am Law Global 100, Acritas published its 2013 Sharplegal Global Elite Brand Index.
Who’s got the best Biglaw brand on the planet? Let’s find out…
As was vividly demonstrated by our recent infographic, Biglaw’s summer associate classes have undergone a major and seemingly permanent contraction. For the most part, large — arguably bloated — summer associate classes are a thing of the past. Among the Am Law 50, only eight firms are bucking this downward trend, with actual increases in the size of their summer classes since 2007. These firms are a collection of Wall Street’s oldest and most elite white shoe mainstays: Sullivan & Cromwell, Cravath, Davis Polk, and their ilk. On average, these firms were founded 112 years ago (i.e., during the McKinley Administration). The outlier here is the relative upstart litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel, founded only back in 1987.
Besides the durability and strength that comes with such a refined pedigree, what other trends are apparent in this great downsizing of Biglaw’s summer associate classes?
Earlier this year, K&L Gates generated some (generally positive) press by issuing an unusually detailed disclosure of its firm financials. The report reflected a reassuringly conservative financial position, with zero bank debt and limited retirement-plan obligations (a trouble spot for many other law firms).
It looks like K&L Gates is keeping to its conservatism. It’s trimming its headcount in D.C. and Seattle, presumably to reduce expenses….
* After three years on top, Baker & McKenzie has lost its place as the top grossing firm in the Global 100. But which firm dethroned the once king? None other than… [Am Law Daily]
* Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, and yet some of the things he sought to change still remain the same in 2013. [Washington Post]
* The house always wins: Navin Kumar Aggarwal, the ex-K&L Gates partner who stole client funds to pay gambling debts, was jailed after receiving a 12-year sentence. [Am Law Daily]
* “This is like a triple-overtime win.” Merrill Lynch is making a huge $160 million payout in a racial bias case that’s been stuck in the courts for nearly a decade. Congrats, plaintiffs! [DealBook / New York Times]
* As eager young law students return to school, maybe it’s time for you to consider brushing up on the basics. Now is an excellent time to take care of those pesky CLE requirements. [Corporate Counsel]
* Career alternatives for attorneys: judicial drug mule. Following an investigation by the DEA, a former Utah judge pleaded guilty to the possession of enough Oxycodone to kill a small horse. [Salt Lake Tribune]
* Don’t even think about texting anyone, ever again, in the state of New Jersey, especially if they might be driving, because the appeals court says you could be held liable for negligence. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* Louisville coach Rick Pitino promised his players that he’d get a tattoo if they won the NCAA tournament. I’m hoping Peter Kalis makes the same pledge if K&L Gates makes its projected annual profits. [Huffington Post]
* Hey, Houston readers! Since I’m in town for our event tonight, I wanted to give a plug for the OKRA Charity Saloon. I visited last night and it was great — a beautiful space and all the profits go to a charity that you get to vote on (one ballot for each drink you get). An all-around great idea. So if you’re looking for a location for your next happy hour… [OKRA Charity Saloon]
* James Poulos makes a good point: it may put you horribly, horribly in debt, but education is still a good thing. [Forbes]
* Tomorrow check out our newest series: Unofficial Orientation to Law School. We will be video chatting with students, professors, and hiring managers about how 0Ls can successfully launch their legal careers. This series is presented by LexisNexis, BARBRI, and Law Preview, a BARBRI Company. [Above the Law]
* Have you ever wanted to see puppets set to the L.A. Law theme song? No? Well, after the jump you can see it anyway….
Roger Ebert passed away last week, robbing us of a great film critic and an equally insightful social critic. Ebert loved the movies and his critical ire was only raised when films failed to live up to the standards he’d set in his own mind.
But one genre of film seemed to give Ebert consistent fits — the legal movie. From drama to comedy, if the film found its way into a courtroom, Ebert was likely on the wrong side of public opinion. As a tribute to the critic, we’ve gathered some of his reviews to pass final verdict on Ebert’s understanding of the legal genre….
* “Do you know which state has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African American voter turnout? Massachusetts.” Sorry, Chief Justice Roberts, but the Bay State’s top elections official begs to differ with your assessment. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* This retired SCOTUS justice — the first woman to ever serve on the nation’s highest court — now refers to herself as “an unemployed cowgirl.” We wonder what Justice Scalia will refer to himself as in interviews after he retires. [Sacramento Bee]
* Mayer Brown wasn’t the only Biglaw firm that had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. Dorsey & Whitney’s 2012 revenue was also at a six-year low, but firm leaders think they can turn it around. [Star Tribune]
* Billion-dollar patent verdicts, so hot right now: 2012 was a “banner year” for for Biglaw firms representing winning clients, with K&L Gates leading the pack for the highest monetary award. [National Law Journal]
* “I wouldn’t want to be coming out of law school now.” Oh my God, you guys, the legal job market is still really tough for brand-spanking new law grads. This is new information that no one’s heard before. [Buffalo News]
Biglaw reporting season continues. But this year we have an interesting twist: K&L Gates decided to share (covered by Lat and Bruce MacEwen, among others). Thankfully, the sharing is not of the “we overstated our revenue by a couple hundred million, and owe a bunch of old and retired partners way more than that anyway” variety. Rather, the firm released financial information that goes a little beyond what you see in your typical Biglaw firm reports (which I previously discussed).
While I have seen the firm hailed as courageous in some quarters, I am reluctant to declare this a huge leap forward towards Biglaw financial transparency. For one, there are other firms that put out even more complete “annual reports,” like Allen & Overy (thanks to an ATL commenter for that reminder), a firm that seems to be hanging on to a lockstep compensation model for partners. Second, as Lat pointed out, there are even internal sources within K&L Gates asking the types of questions that the firm’s “enhanced” report does not answer.
Personally I find a few things about this whole to-do interesting and a bit frustrating….
As we mentioned this morning, preliminary reports suggest that profits and revenue at large law firms were up in 2012. As we noted yesterday, some firms — e.g., litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel — enjoyed double-digit increases in gross revenue and net profit.
Of course, these firm financial reports, reported to and compiled by the American Lawyer magazine, are not as detailed as they could be. They certainly aren’t as detailed as the quarterly and annual reports filed by publicly traded companies, even though a fair number of Biglaw firms have revenues and profits that exceed those of public companies.
And they probably never will be, at least as long as U.S. law firms are private partnerships rather than publicly traded companies. But at least one firm is opening the door a crack and letting more light in….
* Law School Transparency? Nay, Biglaw Transparency! Peter Kalis, global managing partner of K&L Gates, just opened the kimono wide on his firm’s financial performance in an “unusually detailed” fashion. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* Talk about a pain in the pocketbook: although profits per partner and revenues are up overall, one firm saw shrinkage of 16 percent in PPP. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* The ABA is just now thinking of trying to find someone who will audit the graduate employment data that law schools release each year. Gee, it only took 15 fraud lawsuits to get the ball rolling. [National Law Journal]
* Oh my God, you guys, carrying six figures of law school debt on your shoulders is “unsustainable” in the long run, especially when your salary sucks. This is new information that no one’s heard before. [News-Gazette]
* Former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten is now Tulane Law’s new assistant dean for experiential learning. For the school’s sake, hopefully he’ll be able to control his students better than he did his AUSAs. [Tulane Hullabaloo]
* “You’re a cold-blooded murderer and I’ll stare you down until I die.” Drew Peterson was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the murder of his third wife. A sequel to the Lifetime movie is likely forthcoming. [Reuters]
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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.
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“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…
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