We tend to think of the biggest Biglaw firms as “sweatshops,” while we view small firms, midsize or regional firms, or even Am Law 200 firms as “lifestyle” shops. The thought is that the big bad firms that service Wall Street clients will grind you up and spit you out, while somewhat smaller firms will allow you to have a normal life as you pursue your career.
It’s a great story, but it’s not necessarily a true one. Sometimes working at a smaller firm or a regional firm just means the same work with more pressure and less pay. Attorneys at such firms, whether partners or associates, don’t always have the kind of resources that Biglaw attorneys enjoy. There aren’t multiple layers of staffing available to double- or triple-check every document. It’s a lot of stress.
And stress can be just as deleterious to your health when working at a regional firm as it is when you work for a truly huge firm. This week, we’ve been fielding a bunch of reports about an associate who passed away at home after working what some tipsters report as maniac hours at his regional law firm the week before.
It’s a sad story, one that some accuse the law firm of trying to cover up, but it’s another opportunity for us to remind readers to take care of themselves even when work seems overwhelming…
When I was a kid, before many of you were born, there were ads during Saturday morning cartoons for a program called “RIF” -– an acronym for “Reading is Fundamental.” Started in 1966 in Washington, D.C., it is supposedly one of the oldest non-profit educational programs in existence. I mentioned RIFs in my last column, and trust me, in the corporate world, RIFs are not altruistic attempts to get at-risk youth to read.
RIF stands for “reduction in force” — i.e., layoffs, terminations, downsizing, etc. A RIF can take various forms. For example, a V-RIF, or “voluntary reduction in force,” is when a company offers early retirement or severance packages to certain employees. These are usually offered as a first attempt to reduce work force numbers, and they are the cleanest way to lower the population. At the other end of the spectrum is the I–RIF, or “involuntary reduction in force.” The term is self-defining.
I stated before that I have witnessed an I-RIF period, and that it was awful. By “awful,” I meant that seeing people let go from their jobs was uncomfortable for me, having come from private practice where such reductions were not (at the time) as publicized as they are today. My company handled the situation with as much grace as could be expected, and I honestly believed our then-CEO when she stated that the dignity of our people was at the forefront of how the reduction would take place….
In my contribution, I offer a measured defense of unpaid internships — of the non-abusive variety, in which the intern receives a valuable learning experience (and doesn’t just do scut work) — and also a defense of the status quo (under which most unpaid internships are technically illegal, but enforcement isn’t super-vigorous). You can read my NYT piece here (or on page 9 of yesterday’s Sunday Review section, if you’re a print person). You can also read a piece by Camille Olson, a labor and employment partner at Seyfarth Shaw, over here (focusing on the legal aspects of unpaid internships, and offering general guidelines to companies considering them).
Speaking of interns, Above the Law is looking for one — a paid intern, for the record. Details appear below, along with general information about our hiring needs, and our policy on guest posts or outside contributions….
This week, Lateral Link Director Scott Hodes gives us some insight into the increase in lateral hirings in the Empire State of the South.
Atlanta has emerged as one of the best lateral associate markets in the country. While 2009 was slow as in most markets, 2010 signaled a comeback, and 2011 confirmed the upward trend.
Corporate and litigation positions represented the largest amount of lateral openings, which is fairly typical in large markets. Corporate positions seemed to peak in the second and third quarters, while litigation was fairly steady throughout the year. There was also a huge boom in intellectual property positions, especially in the last three quarters, followed not too far behind by labor and employment, which remained steady throughout 2011….
As mentioned briefly yesterday, a New York state court judge just dismissed the celebrated lawsuit of Berry v. Kasowitz Benson. As you may recall, a former Kasowitz first-year associate named Gregory Berry, who entered the legal profession after “conquering Silicon Valley,” sued his former firm for over $77 million. In his kitchen sink of a complaint, filed pro se, Berry tossed in some 14 causes of action, including wrongful termination, fraud, and breach of contract.
It appears that Berry’s “superior legal mind” failed to impress Justice Eileen Bransten of New York Supreme Court. Ruling from the bench, she dismissed his entire case, with prejudice.
But that’s not all. Her Honor was displeased when Greg Berry walked out of her courtroom before the hearing was over, while she was still putting her ruling on the record. So later this month, he’ll have to appear before Justice Bransten again and explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt….
* There’s a new chief legal officer at Morgan Stanley: Eric Grossman, a former Davis Polk partner, replaces Frank Barron, a former Cravath partner (who joined Morgan Stanley not that long ago; if you know more about this odd situation, email us). [Bloomberg Businessweek]
* Will anybody be surprised if it turns out that Ron Paul likes to fire people too? [Politico]
* Most people will just ignore the balanced budget amendment as proposed by Chuck Woolery (yes, that Chuck Woolery), but on the off chance that somebody actually says to you, “You know, Chuck Woolery has some really good ideas,” here’s somebody who took the time to smack the Chuckster down. [Recess Appointment]
He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
It’s playoff time in the National Football League. Fun times. This year’s playoffs are more intense than usual, since Tim Tebow is probably the only conservative who can challenge Obama this fall.
I’m a Tim Tebow convert. Sure, if Tim Tebow were black, he’d be a back-up tight end, but that’s not a reason to hate on Tebow. He wins football games. What more do you want from him? There aren’t a lot of elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Tebow’s not elite, but he wins games. Wouldn’t you rather roll the dice with the Tebow show than going with the practiced mediocrity of Kevin Kolb, or Colt McCoy, or David Garrard? I honestly think that Tebow gets a lot of hate because so many people passed on Tebow to go with guys like that.
Jacksonville did. Tebow is a god in Florida (I mean, Tebow threw for 316 prophetic yards last night, so I do not rule out the possibility that he’s a God everywhere), and he was sitting there in the draft when Jacksonville was starting David Garrard and they passed on him. Now, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a new owner. Coincidence?
In fairness, the Jaguars seem to be a terribly run organization. It appears that even the Jags’ lawyers can’t get it together. The new owner reportedly removed the team’s general counsel for something that looks like an unforgivable error for a lawyer to make….
Four months ago, you revised your company’s policy on employees’ use of social media. The policy said all the right things: When employees use social media, they should respect the rights of others and treat people with dignity; obey the company’s code of business conduct; maintain corporate confidences; and so on.
Unbelievably, some recent communications from the National Labor Relations Board suggest that each of those provisions (except for the “and so on”) could actually cause your company some labor pains. Why?
Here’s the easy part: The National Labor Relations Act protects employees who engage in “concerted activities” for the employees’ “mutual aid or protection.” Those words apply across the workforce and are not limited to unionized employees. An employee acting solely on his or her own behalf is not engaging in “concerted activities.” On the other hand, consider an individual employee who is working with (or on the authority of) other employees, or is trying to induce a group of employees to act, or is bringing group complaints to the attention of management. The NLRA may protect all of those activities, and an employer may violate the NLRA if it maintains a rule that could reasonably “chill employees in the exercise of their” rights.
What does that mean for the three examples suggested in the opening paragraph of this post?
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
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