Latham & Watkins

In the two years that we’ve been conducting our ATL Insider Survey, we’ve amassed in excess of 15,500 responses from practicing lawyers and law students. These results have provided us with unique insights into what people really think about their employers and schools. We believe our survey information furnishes our readers with a deep resource for comparing and evaluating these organizations, whether in the form of our Law Firm and Law School Directories, or in posts that take a deeper look at such factors as practice area, compensation, or geographic location. Many thanks to those thousands of readers who have shared their experiences.

Obviously, one subject that the ATL readership is passionate about is the world of Biglaw. Whether it’s to assess a potential employer, or to simply see how one’s firm compares to its peers, apparently there’s no end to the appetite for insider information. So as this year winds down, we’ll end on a happy note and have a look at which Biglaw firms are rated most highly by their own employees…

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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?

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* So we’ve had some technical difficulties this morning. Sorry all. So let’s kick off this abbreviated morning docket with news that Robert Dell will retire from Latham & Watkins at the end of 2014 after helming the firm for 20 years. [The Am Law Daily]

* Dwayne Bowe was arrested for alleged marijuana possession. He’s still going to start on Sunday though in case you were relying on his almost unnoticeable fantasy football impact this year. Remember when I didn’t understand the “Weeden Wayne Bowe” joke. Good times! [Kansas City Star]

* Whitey Bulger considers his trial a sham. He’ll be sentenced this morning. [LA Times]

* Former NBCUniversal General Counsel Lawrence Tu was named top lawyer at CBS. Congrats on “pulling a Letterman.” [Deadline]

* Sean Coffey is joining Kramer Levin. He previously headed up a litigation financing company. So when David asked if litigation finance was the hot new trend, apparently the answer is “no.” [New York Times / Dealbook]

Last week we took a look at how Biglaw’s litigation departments stack up against one another in terms of compensation, training, firm morale, hours, and culture.

Today, we turn toward the other major category of Biglaw practitioners: corporate/transactional attorneys. Unlike litigators, about whom the public at least has some notion, however distorted, of what they do, most people have no clue what corporate lawyers are up to. No young person daydreams about “facilitating a business transaction,” while there are some who aspire to argue in a courtroom. As noted last week, this litigation/corporate information imbalance is reinforced by the law school curriculum, which remains largely beholden to the case method of instruction.

When comparing the experiences of corporate lawyers versus litigators, there is a familiar litany of pro and cons:

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Jodi Arias

* Trouble in paradise, so soon? The proposed merger between Dentons and McKenna Long & Aldridge has been delayed. McKenna has postponed its partnership vote, and Dentons says no partnership vote was ever planned. [Daily Report]

* Wherein a firm fails to Latham an ex-employee’s baby mama drama: a legal secretary who was allegedly told her pregnancy complications “were not [the director of HR's] problem” will see her case against L&W move forward. [Blog of Legal Times]

* You know that relations have grown bitter between opposing counsel when attorneys from one firm refer to lawyers from the other as “Monday Morning Quarterbacks.” The legal fee dispute in the BARBRI antitrust case rages on at the Ninth Circuit. [National Law Journal]

* Paging ProudCooleyGrad: Kurzon Strauss, the firm that sued Cooley Law over its allegedly deceptive job stats, is trying to get records unsealed in the school’s defamation case that’s now on appeal. [MLive.com]

* Convicted murderer and jailhouse hottie Jodi Arias is accepting donations for her appeals fund. It could be worth your while — if you donate enough, maybe she’ll consider turning you into her next victim. [HLN TV]

Why go big when you can supersize? As has been reported recently, one of Biglaw’s most aggressive firms in terms of growth, Dentons (née Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and some foreign counterparts cobbled together just a few years ago), is now in serious discussions about a combination with McKenna Long & Aldridge. Both firms are products of recent tie-ups themselves, and the combined firm should the transaction go through will be instantly one of the world’s largest, at least in terms of number of lawyers. Welcome to the age of the global Megalaw franchise, in which a firm can raise its profile by connecting with other firms in the interest of getting bigger, all the while creating a new global brand in the process. Dentons is sure giving it a try.

It is actually unfair to say that Dentons is the Biglaw equivalent of McDonald’s, or even Burger King. Biglaw brands of that stature would be Baker & McKenzie or even DLA Piper, and not only because they are bigger….

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* The lawyer who shot himself in the back and lied about it has pleaded guilty since his defense was full of self-inflicted holes. [WBIW]

* Do you want to be a partner? These 12 simple rules are a good start. (Not featured: Rule 13. Have incriminating pictures of the other partners.) [At Counsel Table]

* The University of Vermont and Vermont Law School are considering a joint “3-2″ degree program. So if you’re 18 years old and positive you want to grow up to be a lawyer, you may soon have a lower cost option. You’re also probably a tool. [AP via Boston.com]

* Can introverts be solo practitioners? It’s an interesting question, but since Growth is Dead (affiliate link) notes that even rainmakers are tragically lacking in sociability, it’s likely that most lawyers across firms are introverted. [Lawpolis]

* St. Louis University Law School has taken over and refurbished an old building in downtown St. Louis. See, it’s possible to run a law school without spending money on MOAR BUILDINGS! [Urban Review STL]

* A poem about CLE. Wait, are there people not doing their CLE online? [Poetic Justice]

* How to pick a good divorce lawyer. Done. [Huffington Post]

* Matthew Martens, the senior SEC attorney who ran the “Fabulous Fab” trial, is leaving the agency. Possible landing spots for Martens include Kirkland & Ellis; Paul Weiss; WilmerHale; Latham & Watkins; and Cleary Gottlieb. [Wealth Management]

* A judge in Kentucky moonlights as the PA announcer for high school football games. He’s also blind. Eschewing the obvious “he still sees better than the refs” joke, my question is why isn’t it just more efficient to make his spotter the PA announcer? Video after the jump…

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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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You’d be jumping for joy if you landed an offer from a top law firm.

It’s harder to be a partner in Biglaw today, both in terms of making partner and remaining a partner. You can no longer just coast along after making partner; you need to prove yourself and your value to the firm, year after year. That’s a change from past practice (and people can argue when exactly the change took place).

But some things in Biglaw haven’t changed. The practice of being generous with offers to summer associates — too generous, some might argue — is alive and well. Summer programs are smaller today than they were before the Great Recession, but offer rates remain robust.

Following up on Monday’s story, here are more firms that have given offers to all of their summers:

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This summer has been slow in terms of summer associate gossip. It got off to a promising start, but then it just fizzled. Maybe we need to stop running stories like How to Be a Stellar Summer Associate, How To End Your Summer In Biglaw On A High Note, and similar posts offering career advice to young lawyers.

We miss last summer. The summer of 2012 boasted helicopter rescues in Canada, showstopping performances at the Apollo, guns found in drawers, and steamy lesbianic trysts.

Given all the boring, goody-two-shoes summer associates this year, offer rates should be sky high. Let’s find which firms are rocking the 100 percent offer rate — information that rising 2Ls will want to know as the new on-campus interviewing season starts up….

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