There’s no Biglaw intercity rivalry which can match that of London’s venerable Magic Circle and New York’s elite white shoe firms. Both groups of firms are the clear alpha dogs in their markets, attracting the top talent and most lucrative clients. However, there are some significant differences between the two groups in how they operate. For example, U.K. firms tend to follow a lockstep (rather than “eat what you kill”) compensation model. Last month, friend of ATL Bruce MacEwen took a deep dive into the question of the relative performance over the last several years between the Magic Circle and their New York cousins. The piece is highly recommended: it’s chock-full of data and its findings suggest the groups are moving in different directions.
Using publicly reported data for the years 2008—2013, Bruce focused on such metrics as headcount, percentage of equity partners, PPP, RPL, and profit margin. The Magic Circle firms—Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, and Linklaters—are of course a well-defined group (Slaughter and May, the only member firm without a New York office, was excluded). For New York, these firms were selected as the comparison group on the basis of “historical roots, geographic footprints, and business models”:
One could query the absence of Cravath, Wachtell, Skadden, etc., and we refer you to Bruce’s piece for a fuller articulation of these choices. The U.S. market for the highest end legal services is much more fragmented and diffuse than its U.K. counterpart, and which precise group of firms is the closest equivalent to the Magic Circle is endlessly debatable. But for the purposes of this comparison this group will certainly serve.
Earlier this week, we showed you a home movie taken inside Slaughter & May’s offices in 1981. What we learned was that practicing law at the highest levels in the early 80s involved no computers, a lot of switchboard operators, and casually telling women in the office that they had good backsides.
The natural question after watching the whole video was, “Where are they now?” Whatever happened to the young associates showing off their window views and pretending the British tax laws are interesting?
We don’t have answers for every face recorded all those years ago, but we do have updates on the current whereabouts of a few of them.
But most importantly, we can tell you whether the guy with the killer porn stache guy is still rocking it today!
* The Supreme Court won’t be blocking gay marriages from occurring in Oregon pending an appeal. Maybe it’s because the request wasn’t filed by the state, or maybe it’s because Justice Kennedy is the man. [National Law Journal]
* “To err is human. To make a mistake and stubbornly refuse to acknowledge it — that’s judicial.” This Ninth Circuit judge wants his colleagues to get over themselves. Please pay attention to him, SCOTUS. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Cheerio mates! As it turns out, according to a recent stress study, lawyers at Magic Circle firms in Merry Olde England are more miserable than their American colleagues. [The Lawyer via The Careerist]
* Donald Sterling dropped his $1 billion lawsuit against the NBA and agreed to the sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. Lawyers for Skadden have been sent back to warm the bench. [Bloomberg]
* In a surprise move, InfiLaw pulled its application for a license to run Charleston Law into the ground the day before a vote was supposed to be held. At least the opposition won this battle. [Post and Courier]
* The Yale Law School Clinic is representing a deported Army veteran seeking a pardon and humanitarian parole. Check it out: experiential learning can be beneficial for everyone involved! [Hartford Courant]
Times are still tough in the legal industry. The industry shed 1200 jobs last month and we hear about layoffs — mostly staff, but some attorneys too — on a weekly basis. On the flip side, Citi Private Bank tells us that Biglaw is growing again with improvements in both demand and billable rates.
Now comes news that some global firms are handing out salary increases and bonuses?
Maybe good times — or at least above-average times — are here again….
As 2013 draws to a close, let’s look back at the 10 biggest stories in the legal profession over the past year. This is an annual tradition here at Above the Law, which we’ve done in 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. We’ll fire up the old Google Analytics machine to get data on our most popular posts, based on pageviews, and share the results with you.
Before turning to specific stories, let’s look at the top general discussion topics here at ATL. For 2013, our most trafficked category page was Biglaw, which bumped Law Schools out of the top spot — a spot that Law Schools held from 2010 through 2012. Now that the word is out about the perils of getting a law degree, leading to plummeting applications, perhaps it’s time to move on from the “don’t go to law school” narrative.
After Biglaw and Law Schools, our third most-popular category page was, as usual, Bonuses. This wasn’t a terribly exciting year for bonuses — there were no spring bonuses, and Cravath and its many followers paid out the same bonuses as last year — but people still want to know the score.
Our fourth most-popular category page was small law firms. Small firms, including boutiques, are an area of increasing focus and readership for us — and also where many of the job opportunities are these days.
Moving on from the topic pages, what were the 10 most popular individual posts at Above the Law in 2013?
As we’ve chronicled in these pages, the powerhouse firm of Weil Gotshal has been experiencing some upheaval. The big summer layoffs have been followed by a steady stream of partner departures, mainly from offices outside the power center of New York.
Many of the defections have taken place in Texas, but Weil’s Washington outpost has also been hard hit. Last month, that office lost three IP litigators to Greenberg Traurig. Said one of our sources, “IP was one of Weil D.C.’s most profitable practice groups. Expect downsizing or partner acquisition from another firm to compensate for loss.” And that wasn’t all. Earlier this month, BuckleySandler snagged Walter Zalenski, a prominent player in financial services regulatory law, from Weil.
Today brings news of another departure from Weil in Washington. Who is leaving now, and where is he going?
* Magic Circle firms raise their rates, with partners billing around $1375.56/hour. Blimey! [The Careerist]
* A law firm paid for a nativity scene in a state capitol building. Sound the litigation alarm! [ABA Journal]
* Supreme Court seems hesitant to help out a guy who lost his frequent flyer miles for constantly complaining to his airline. On the one hand, customers shouldn’t be penalized for voicing their concerns. On the other hand, this guy’s “complaints” included his luggage taking too long to come out on the carousel. Chill the hell out. [Associated Press via Daily Finance]
* A SAC Capital employee carefully weighed the “risk-reward” of complying with the “law.” [Dealbreaker]
* Former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski is getting paroled. Now I feel old because I represented a witness in that trial. [Dealbook / New York Times]
* A middle school principal in Texas is placed on administrative leave for banning students from conversing in Spanish at school. What a puta. [Associated Press via Business Insider]
* The rules to the self-proclaimed greatest law school drinking game of all time. Or a look at what Australian law school guys do instead of study. Video after the jump… [YouTube]
If you’re an associate at a Biglaw firm, you’re probably scrambling for billable hours right now like a squirrel desperately trying to find one last nut before the winter comes. You need to hit your hours target, and you need to hit it now.
But what if someone were to step in and try to take those precious few hours away from you? And what if that person were a contract attorney? You’d probably lose your mind and start flooding the Above the Law inbox with your indignation and rage.
Hey, don’t come complaining to us. After all, apparently you asked for it….
* You’d think that when discussing major reforms to the patent system, the director of the USPTO would be there, but you’d be wrong. You’d also be wrong if you thought we had a director right now. [National Law Journal]
* Welcome to the future of Biglaw: Allen & Overy has realized that it’s a waste of money to keep hiring in a weak market, so the firm is recruiting its alumni to serve as contract attorneys in times of higher legal demand. [Legal Week]
* Dean Gregory Maggs, the interim leader of George Washington University Law, is being lauded for increasing first-year enrollment by 22 percent in a time of crisis. Excellent work, sir. You flood that job market. [GW Hatchet]
* Just because you have a law degree doesn’t mean you’re “entitled to rise up and become partner.” Getting a job in the new normal involves having a good attitude and social graces. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Ladies, if you get pregnant after a fling with an Olympic medalist and move out of state, please know your “appropriation of the child while in utero [will be deemed] irresponsible, reprehensible.” [New York Times]
* GTL stands for “Gym, Tan, Laundry,” but the owner of these Jersey Shore clubs thinks it stands for “Gym, Tan, Lawsuit” — thanks to losses uncovered by its insurer in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. [Newark Star-Ledger]
* The Magic Circle isn’t very magical across the pond in New York City. Four out of five firms from the U.K. — Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Linklaters — have yet to pull rabbits out of their hats in the Big Apple. [Am Law Daily]
* Dewey know how much this failed firm’s old domain name sold for at auction? At the conclusion of the sale, it ended up going for $210,689, which was just a shade over the initial asking price of $200,000. Someone just got ripped off. [Law360 (sub. req.)]
* The judge on this case against Skadden Arps isn’t sure that document review should count as anything other than practicing law, “even if it’s not the most glamorous.” Ahh, the luxurious life of a contract attorney. [Am Law Daily]
* Professor Raymond Ku has filed an amended complaint against Case Western Law Dean Larry Mitchell, and now the allegations are even juicier, including a possible ménage à trois. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
* The number of people who took the LSAT in October has dropped for the fourth year in a row, this time by 11 percent. “This is a big deal” for law professors interested in keeping their jobs. [National Law Journal]
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For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
Take this opportunity to learn what it takes to streamline your accounting and get the most out of your time. The webinar agenda:
● The basics of accounting for lawyers.
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● Report and reconciliation issues surrounding trust accounts.
● How to pick and integrate the best accounting tools for your practice.
● Steps to prepare your tax return for your firm’s income.
Do not miss this crucial chance to optimize your accounting practices. Save time and get back to billing!
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!