On Sex and the City, Samantha was never seen scrolling through comments on news blogs to make sure her clients’ reputations weren’t being maligned. Instead, she attended fancy New York parties and talked up her roster of good-looking clients.
But SATC is dated. The work of public relations professionals has been made harder (and less glamorous) by the explosion of online news sources. We know that law firm PR folks spend a healthy amount of time monitoring the legal blogosphere to do damage control for their firms. Another place they need to watch is Wikipedia.
The crowd-source encyclopedia has become the go-to reference site for most Internetters. Society’s sages often warn people not to take everything they find in Wikipedia at face value — since the information does not necessarily come from experts and is not systematically vetted — but that advice often goes unheeded.
Because Wikipedia is such an important source of information, and so easily edited, some try to manipulate entries to give them a positive or negative spin. Lawyers at certain firms have been found guilty of this before (e.g., Wachtell). Sometimes dueling manipulation of an entry reaches the level of what Wikipedia calls an edit war — when two or more editors are continually overriding one another’s changes.
The Wikipedia gods ordered an end to the war on the page of Latham & Watkins. BLY1 noticed that the page was put on lockdown. A note from the Wikipedia war god says:
NOTE: IF YOU HAVE COME HERE TO EDIT ABOUT LAYOFFS, THINK TWICE. EDITS MUST BE FACTUALLY VERIFIABLE, AND NEUTRAL. IF YOU ARE CONNECTED TO THIS COMPANY IN ANY WAY WE ADVISE YOU *NOT* TO TOUCH IT.
Someone kept inserting references to Latham’s layoffs and how hard hit first-year associates were. That info has now been scrubbed from the page.
We decided to take a stroll though the revision history of other law firm pages to see who needs to do clean up, and who has done clean up. Cravath, for example, had a very interesting description for a short time…
Many large law firms realize the importance of maintaining good ties with their alumni. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also the smart thing to do. Biglaw alums often end up in places where they can be helpful to their former employers — e.g., in-house, government, and the media (cough cough).
They were also invited to a cocktail party. This didn’t go over so well with those who became alumni involuntarily, i.e., the laid-off:
Are they f**king kidding me? Oh man I want to go to their Spring Fling. Cocktails in the boardroom. Do you think if we get really drunk we’ll be escorted out by security? Because I enjoyed it the first time.
Wait a sec — did the firm really have laid-off lawyers accompanied out by security?
We felt our report was fairly hard-hitting. But one Winston source thinks we didn’t go far enough:
In my humble opinion, you weren’t sufficiently critical of Winston. The real message here is that many associates, including those who make their hours, are getting little to no raise because the firm is re-drawing the rules after-the-fact to ensure that it only has to pay out what it wants, and making partner is basically impossible here from now on.
Morale is shockingly low. The firm’s closest competitors like Sidley and Mayer Brown do not appear to be acting nearly as devious (though I am sure they have their bad behaviors too).
Meanwhile, some incoming associates at Winston seem anxious about their fates — and how they’re going to make ends meet while waiting to start at the firm….
Life outside of lockstep is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. A lockstep system for compensating and promoting associates has its drawbacks, to be sure. But at least it offers the virtues of transparency and predictability.
Earlier this week, we covered the arguably amorphous definition of “merit” at WilmerHale, one of several leading law firms to abandon lockstep. Today we turn our attention to Winston & Strawn, another prominent firm that has moved to a more “merit-based” system of compensation.
Back in February, we described Winston’s compensation scheme not as a box of chocolates — that would be sweet and delicious! — but as a black box. Among associates, nobody really knows what anyone else is making. As stated in the firm memo, “Individual associate salaries will be determined on a case by case basis based on seniority, performance and productivity factors and will be communicated separately to each associate.”
We now have a better sense of what’s going on at Winston, thanks to the recent release of individualized salary info (and some comparing of notes among Winston associates). And not everyone is happy….
Ed. note: This post is written by Will Meyerhofer, a Biglaw attorney turned psychotherapist, whom we profiled. A former Sullivan & Cromwell associate, he holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work. He blogs at The People’s Therapist.
I’ve written a fair amount about lawyers at the office in this column.
Right now a lot of lawyers aren’t at the office.
They’re at home, out of work.
Unemployment is tough on lawyers because they tend to be pleasers – they have to be, to earn the grades to make it into law school.
It’s all about pleasing others at a firm, too. You submit to the whims of a partner and work around the clock.
Like all pleasers, lawyers get used to looking outside themselves for affirmation of their worth.
When you’re unemployed, there’s no one to please but yourself. You’re alone with you – and for a pleaser, that can lead to a plunge in self-esteem.
That’s why, during unemployment, you have to be especially good to yourself.
Mayer Brown associates got a disturbing email this morning:
After careful consideration, the firm has decided to implement a job reduction in our US offices that will affect 28 associates and counsel and 47 staff members.
This can’t be good news for the firm’s incoming mutineers who are still waiting to hear back about their start dates. Though the memo, available in full after the jump, suggests that despite laying off these 75 people, things look bright there:
Despite this necessary action, we see encouraging signs for 2010. Thus far, the year is off to a positive start. Taking this step will enable us to maintain our financial strength and continue investing in our practices, our global platform and the professional development of our people – and thereby enhance our ability to provide clients with the high standard of legal work and service that defines Mayer Brown.
We hope the 75 people losing their jobs today were left off the distribution list, because that smarts…
We’ve talked a lot about the cluster of factors that led to massive law firm layoffs throughout 2009. But why did law firms fire the specific people they let go? Let’s say that a firm fired 10% of its associates (whether openly or stealthily) in 2009. That would mean that 9 out of 10 associates kept their jobs. So what was up with the one person who was laid off?
A new report tried to answer that question. The Blog of the Legal Times reports:
Think a recent graduate from a top 10 law school is less likely to be laid off from a big firm than the less-prestigious associate down the hall? Think again. A new study by Paul Oyer, a business professor at Stanford University, and Scott Schaefer, a business professor at the University of Utah who was not on the panel, found that the opposite was true, though that trend flipped after lawyers built up a few more years of seniority. Oyer also said younger lawyers were far more likely to be laid off than older lawyers. Oyer presented the results of his study at a panel moderated by The American Lawyer’s editor in chief, Aric Press, at the “Law Firm Evolution: Brave New World or Business as Usual?” conference.
Donald Trump is in the market for a lawyer, and if you’re unemployable, laid-off, or suffering because of the recession, you might just be the attorney for him. The next iteration of “The Apprentice” will be devoted to recession refugees, and the producers are looking to cast some legal types.
If your world has been rocked by the recession, maybe it’s time to seek out a reality TV gig. You could try to get on a game show for a one-time payout — like the UC Hastings grad who will be applying her Wheel of Fortune winnings toward her student loans — or you could try to get on a show that promises full-time employment a one-year contract to its winner. Assuming that you fare better than lawyer-turned-Playboy model Kristine Lefebvre, a loser from The Apprentice: Los Angeles.
An “Apprentice” rep tells us:
We are very interested in laid-off lawyers. Even lawyers that might have their own firm, but maybe business has suffered since the recession. As long as the downturn in the economy has affected them in one way or another, we can consider them.
The show will be filming for six weeks in May, June and July. Details on applying and a look back at reality TV winners with JDs, after the jump.
Ed. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.
The jobs picture, at least the sliver reflected by the initial jobless claims numbers, remained stagnant this week. Initial claims decreased for the third straight week, but the decrease was less than predicted (of course).
Not only are claims at a level higher than at the end of 2009, they’re just muddling along at about the same level we hit in November. Since most of us work in major metropolitan areas, news that those were hardest hit isn’t particularly welcome, either.
The lack of job creation isn’t really affecting the markets, though. Over the same three-week period, the S&P 500 has had three straight weekly gains. Although that’s due in no small part to the Fed keeping the discount rate near zero. Things should get interesting when the housing-market support expires, unemployment benefits get extended, and the US-China trade tiff heats up.
But law firms have circled the wagons and are focused inward as they try to sort through the effects on the sector.
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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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 six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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