After the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the constitutionality of Obama’s healthcare overhaul last week, we discussed the case with veteran Supreme Court litigator Carter Phillips. Phillips, the managing partner of Sidley Austin‘s Washington, D.C. office, is a renowned Supreme Court litigator. He has argued 75 cases in front of the high court, more than any other attorney in private practice.
- Anthony Kennedy, Carter Phillips, Interview Stories, Litigators, Paul Clement, SCOTUS, Supreme Court
Law bloggers, including me, spend a lot of time talking about the economics of being a lawyer. This site voraciously covers news about salaries and bonuses, and often opines about the financial value of a law degree. I, too, often write about some particular financial aspect of managing a litigation boutique.
But as I have told countless prospective and current law students, if you’re in it for the money, you’re in the wrong profession. And this was true even in the glory days when six-figure bonuses were routine, and when students were only half joking when they called for starting salaries of $190,000 per year.
Virtually no amount of money can justify tolerating everything it means to be an attorney. Ask someone like Will Meyerhofer. The billable hours, the deadlines, and the overall stress makes many attorneys question why they ever went to law school in the first place. Dear 16 year old me…
When you work as a litigator at a law firm, you know your cases. You know who said what to whom when. You know the recipients and dates of the critical emails. You know the precise terms of the contracts. You know what the opposing expert said at his deposition and how you’re going to attack him at trial.
In short, you know stuff.
When you move in-house — or, at a minimum, to certain in-house positions — those days may vanish. You may never know — really know — anything again.
The little cases may become barely a rumor: The employee was entitled to five weeks severance; he hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit; we want authority to settle for ten weeks severance. You may kick the tires on the case for a few minutes, but that’s it. If you crave to know who said what to whom when, then you’re in the wrong job.
I feel a bit irresponsible having written those words, because they imply — indeed, they say — that folks in positions such as mine are doing their jobs without full knowledge. To many lawyers, that’s the ultimate sin. Yet in-house lawyers consistently say that a big piece of the transition from a firm to a corporation is learning to make decisions and take actions based on incomplete facts. (One of my colleagues recently said that he suffers from “in-house ADD.”)
I’ll use three real-life hypos — situations that I’ve lived — to explore the question.
First: I was a partner at a law firm. The client had just hired a new, junior in-house lawyer to oversee (among other things) the set of cases we were defending. The client called an all-hands meeting. Four or five of us from the firm attended, as did the general counsel of the company, a couple of deputy general counsel, the global head of litigation, and the month-old, new in-house guy, who we didn’t yet know from Adam.
My senior partner spoke first: “Before we get started, I just want to say that [the new, junior in-house guy] is a great addition to your law department. It’s not often that you work with someone for just a few weeks and immediately know that you’ll be able to do better work, more efficiently, with the new person on board. But you did just that with this hire. Congratulations! What a great lawyer!”
The junior in-house guy was beaming ear-to-ear. Later, in private, your senior partner says to you: “That’s how you cement a client relationship.”
So, what do you say: Permissible (intelligent, praiseworthy) flattery? Or unethical lies?
- Biglaw, Interview Stories, Job Searches, john quinn, Law Schools, National Association for Law Placement (NALP), Partner Issues, Partner Profits, Summer Associates
Obtaining a summer associate position at a major law firm remains difficult. That’s the upshot of a recent report (PDF) issued by our friends at NALP. You can read summaries of the report at the NALP website and at the ABA Journal. This quip, by NALP executive director Jim Leipold, pretty much says it all: “This is not a hot recruiting market.”
Given that employers are still in the driver’s seat, at least when it comes to entry-level recruiting — recruiting of lateral lawyers, whether associates or partners, is a different kettle of fish — you’d think that law firms would use this opportunity to experiment a bit with fall recruiting. There are some interesting alternatives out there to the standard model of 20- to 30-minute screening interviews, typically held in the summer before or early fall of the 2L year, followed by callback interviews at the firms. E.g., JD Match (disclosure: a past ATL advertiser).
But law firms, as we know, are a conservative group. They tend to stick with existing models, even if those models are imperfect.
Well, most law firms. Nobody ever accused Quinn Emanuel of not daring to be different….
The issues presented in this appeal have been previously decided. Counsel were given an opportunity to distinguish our prior cases but Appellant’s counsel used that opportunity to criticize, rather than distinguish, them. There is nothing more to say. AFFIRMED.
(This unpublished order reminded me of two prior benchslaps, discussed below.)
I hate to invoke a cliché, but “David versus Goliath” captures the challenge a smaller firm faces when litigating against an Am Law 200 firm. A small firm can feel like David when facing a larger firm that can bring more resources to bear on legal research, drafting motions, reviewing documents, etc.
The challenge increases when applied to clients. Many of my firm’s initial clients were startups or emerging companies with limited litigation budgets. Their adversaries often were much larger, established companies with seemingly unlimited budgets. Thus, we faced not only the challenge of litigating against brand-name firms with hundreds of attorneys, but we also initially had clients who simply could not afford to spend as much in legal fees as their well-heeled opponents.
So how can a small firm, especially representing a smaller company, effectively litigate against a proverbial army of lawyers representing a client to whom money is no object?
First: The head of the business unit confronted with a new litigation matter:
“This is an outrage! How could they have accused us of this? We want to fight! Fight! Fight!”
“The defense costs will be charged to your business unit, which will reduce your bonus pool.”
Second: One partner at a law firm — who wants to visit a client, make a presentation, and take the client to dinner — to a second partner — who is the relationship lawyer for the client:
Last week, the Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker-Bowles became an honorary barrister (British for trial lawyer). Upon receiving the award in a ceremony at Gray’s Inn — one of the quasi-law schools (known collectively as the Inns of Court) which help train up barristers — the Mon Fertile Finishing School alumnus said: “I think it’s very important to keep everything sort of ticking.”
The Duchess follows in the footsteps of her husband, Prince Charles, and her step son, William Saviour of the Falkland Islands, in attaining elite legal status. Charles was called to the Bar, also at Gray’s Inn, in 1975, while William was made an honorary barrister by another Inn of Court, Middle Temple, in 2009. Guided by Prince Harry’s on-off girlfriend Chelsy Davy — a real lawyer at Allen & Overy –- the group are expected to team up to form Windsors LLP.