A few months ago, one of the public relations staff at Linklaters invited me to have lunch with him in the firm’s canteen. Now, I know that if I was a client, or even a journalist of greater rank, my PR acquaintance would have probably deemed me worthy of a trip to a restaurant on the expenses account. But, hey, times are tough, so I didn’t hold it against him. And in any case, I was curious to see what a Biglaw canteen looked like.
To my surprise, it looked a lot like a school canteen. A super-deluxe school canteen, you understand, with all sorts of fancy food options, and tasteful decor, and wholesome-looking — if oddly mature — students. Having finished my generous portion of chicken curry, side salad and smoothie, I relaxed back in my chair and, looking around me, wondered how those Linklaters people stayed so slim. Then I remembered the on-site gym I’d read about somewhere, which, I assume, nestles alongside the on-site doctor, dentist, physiotherapist and dry-cleaners, deep within Linklaters’ lovely womb-like central London offices.
In that moment, I wanted to never leave. It all just felt so… safe. But was it?
The Occupy movement has reached the legal profession, with an unemployed law graduate launching a campaign to occupy the Inns of Court (London’s legal quarter).
“Through no fault of our own, a generation of [law school] graduates find ourselves with no jobs — or no jobs as lawyers anyway,” wrote the graduate under the alias “OccupyTheInns” on Legal Cheek, a blog I edit. “The lucky ones are paralegals. The unlucky ones work in bars (not the Bar)… It is for these reasons that I propose peaceful direct action. It is time to occupy the Inns of Court.”
Responses to the plan have mostly been negative, but the broad sentiment of discontent has struck a chord. Catrin Griffiths, editor of The Lawyer magazine, summed up the mood: “I don’t buy much of [OccupyTheInns'] argument, which smacks too much of entitlement, but it signifies something bigger, related to the growing crisis of a million young people unemployed in the U.K.”
However, even with our spiralling unemployment rates, and love of protesting, I’d be surprised if an occupation of legal London took off. While many U.K. law school graduates are jobless and indebted, most still have a decent shot of making it into the profession. As such, they have too much to lose by winding up the establishment.
Maybe OccupyTheInns should instead re-direct their energies to recruiting the potentially far more vulnerable, high-earning, senior lawyers who look set to lose their jobs over the next few months?
Over the summer, we wondered: what can law firms do to prepare for a possible double-dip recession?
One obvious answer: firms can “right-size” themselves, by making sure that they are as lean and as mean as they can be. And this seems to be what has been happening over the past few months.
We haven’t seen much in terms of lawyer layoffs lately, but staff layoffs are another story. In fact, on the staff side, we seem to be looking at a trend of firms reducing their permanent staff positions in favor of outsourcing.
According to the Department of Labor, 14 million people in our country are unemployed. And with a surplus of lawyers that reaches into the thousands in almost every state, unemployment is a serious problem for the legal profession.
Unfortunately, we all know that Biglaw firms — and surely other firms, as well — are avoiding these attorneys like the plague. We spoke about this industry-wide issue back in late 2009, noting that Biglaw firms weren’t exactly keen on hiring associates that had previously been laid off. In fact, one recruiter we spoke with told us that approximately 80 percent of employers specifically requested résumés from attorneys who are still employed.
Facing these seemingly insurmountable odds, what’s an unemployed attorney to do? As it turns out, President Obama wants to lend a hand, but only if he can get Congress to pass this jobs bill….
Yesterday the stock market experienced its biggest drop since 2008. In the wake of the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. debt on Friday night, the Dow Jones industrial average fell by 5.6 percent and the S&P 500 fell by 6.7 percent. Global markets suffered similarly.
The market decline on Monday was only the latest in a series of slides. As noted yesterday by the New York Times, “[t]he S.& P. 500 is now down 18 percent from its April 29 peak and is nearing official bear market territory, defined as a fall of 20 percent.”
(All in all, it’s pretty depressing stuff. As I tweeted yesterday, “@DavidLat isn’t looking at his #stockmarket holdings today; instead, he’s buying more #Powerball tickets – huge jackpot!”)
What’s frightening about the latest economic turmoil is that it comes on the heels of a brutal recession that the U.S. economy has not yet fully recovered from. In the wake of the aptly named Great Recession, unemployment still exceeds 9 percent, housing markets remain weak, and government policymakers have exhausted many of the tools at their disposal for attempting to revive the economy. Interest rates are basically as low as they can go at this point; fiscal stimulus is a political no-go. What is to be done?
The steep stock market declines raise a question: Are we entering another recession — i.e., the second dip of a double-dip recession? If so, what does that mean for law firms and lawyers? (We’ve already noted the implications for the IPO market — and the lawyers who work in it.)
Layoffs at law firms have slowed to a trickle (although we still hear the occasional rumor; email us with your tips). In the public sector, however, layoffs continue — and may even accelerate, as state governments and the federal government grapple with contentious budget issues.
Today brings word of major layoffs in Connecticut. In a just-issued report, Judge Barbara Quinn, Chief Court Administrator, laid out some serious cuts to positions in the judicial branch.
For those of you who have missed Deidre Dare, the expat lawyer who was terminated from the Moscow office of Allen & Overy after writing a smutty steamy online novel, give thanks. She’s baaaaaack.
Deidre “To Russia With Donkey and Dwarf Love” Dare is struggling with the cash flow these days. The Columbia Law grad’s London lawsuit against Magic Circle firm A&O for unfair termination in its Russia office was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, so she filed a new complaint in New York. As you might expect from an amateur sex novelist, the complaint is rather juicy. Dare (a.k.a. Deidre Clark), who was a senior attorney in A&O’s London, Singapore and Moscow offices from 2007 to 2009, claims that she was terminated after giving into — and later spurning — her supervising partner’s sexual advances. (Excerpt: “[Tony] Humphrey made sexual advances on Clark, who was intoxicated at the time. This conduct included intimate sexual contact. Humphrey kept saying “I love sex.”)
Dare is upping the ante on the lawsuit. In London, she sued for £3.5m, but in her Big Apple lawsuit, she’s hoping to take a bigger bite out of A&O: namely, $35 million in punitive and compensatory damages.
“I think NY will take jurisdiction,” Dare, a member of the New York Bar, told us by email. “And thank god for that.”
In the meantime, Dare is working on another project that is, er, rather racy….
I feel like I’ve stepped into a time machine that has taken me all the way back to 2009.
According to an internal memo obtained by Above the Law, the international law firm of Hogan Lovells is offering a voluntary separation program to U.S. staff. The memo, posted in full below, talks about needing to bring the firm’s support staff into alignment with overall firm needs.
The program is voluntary, but as we learned during the height of the recession, “voluntary” programs don’t always stay optional….
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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