Magic Circle

The future of elite Biglaw firms?

Historically, the elite Biglaw firms derived safety and security from the knowledge that they could depend on big fees from large institutional clients. After all, where would the big dogs feel confident sending their legal work if not to a giant, white-shoe firm, with a complete support staff and the cream of the law school graduating crop? It encouraged behemoth firms and no small amount of complacency.

No one doubts that we’ve entered a new normal and that Growth Is Dead (affiliate link), but a new study confirms that there’s even more bad news for the top Biglaw firms: GCs simply don’t want them any more…

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By now, many of you have heard about or seen the video of a Clifford Chance “trainee lawyer” making some unfortunate remarks that could be construed as his views about the practice of law. The video has received coverage on both sides of the Atlantic, and it could cause the young lawyer to lose his training contract with the firm — i.e., his job.

But should it? Let’s check out the clip, which gives new meaning to the term “Downfall Video,” and discuss its career implications for the trainee in question….

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* We bet you never thought you’d be spending Labor Day weekend debating with your relatives the legality of a U.S. military strike on Syria and the intricacies of international law. Gee, thanks President Obama. [CNN]

* Over the long holiday weekend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg served as officiant at the gay wedding of John Roberts. No, not that John Roberts, but what an incredibly apropos coincidence that was. [Washington Post]

* Speaking of same-sex marriage, even though “[n]o one told [him] it was an easy job when [he] signed on,” Justice Anthony Kennedy revealed himself to be an ally of the gay rights movement. [New York Times]

* Two days after filing an appeal with the Third Circuit, the parents of a deceased Cozen O’Connor partner have ended their battle to deny their daughter’s profit-sharing benefits to her wife. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* Twitter’s general counsel deactivated his account position with the social media giant, and looks forward to “goofing off.” Congrats to Vijaya Gadde, who will head up the company’s IPO. [Bits / New York Times]

* Biglaw’s latest scapegoat for the culling of the associate herd is the decline of Chapter 11 filings, otherwise known by industry insiders as the “bankruptcy recession.” [New York Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* Without any rabbits left to pull out of hats, it’s been predicted that by 2018, the Magic Circle will be no more. This is one disappearing act lawyers obsessed with prestige hope will never happen. [The Lawyer]

* If you want to learn more about fashion law, check out this interview with Barbara Kolsun, a woman who literally wrote the book on it (affiliate link) while serving as general counsel at Stuart Weitzman. [Corporate Counsel]

* So what has Kenneth Randall been up to since he left the deanship at Alabama School of Law? He’s working to “train law students for jobs that don’t require a bar license” over at InfiLaw. Awesome. [Tuscaloosa News]

* Legal commentators like Elie and Lat would be ecstatic if law school were two years long, but because so many others have a “vested interest in the status quo,” change will come at approximately half past never. [CNBC]

* Ronald H. Coase, influential legend of law and economics and Nobel prize winner, RIP. [Chicago Law]


Deidre Dare aka Deidre Clark

Last year, a New York judge denied a motion to dismiss made by Allen & Overy in the sexual harassment case brought against the firm by the former associate known as Deidre Dare (aka Deidre Clark). “And thank God for that,” as Clark herself said.

We have nothing against Allen & Overy; the Magic Circle member is one of the world’s finest firms. It’s just that if the lawsuit had been dismissed, we would have been deprived of this amazing video of a managing partner reading pornography aloud during his deposition.

Yes, we know that watching video is tough for those of you who are reading us at work. But close your office door, or don your headphones, or put a reminder in your calendar to watch when you get home tonight. This short clip is worth it….

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Unless you’ve made some deliberate, heroic effort to not know, you are aware that the most feverishly anticipated baby since 0 A.D. is now finally among us. This is a huge deal. People love babies. People love princesses and what not. So: huge deal. Thus, as we await the naming of the boy Windsor and as a flimsy topical pretext, let’s have a look at how the Magic Circle, the UK’s legal royalty, rate in the ATL Insider Survey.

The Magic Circle comprises five venerable London firms: Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Linklaters, and the terrifyingly-yet-diffidently named Slaughter and May. Powerhouse “Slaughters” is the only one of this prestigious group lacking a New York office. The other four are among the most truly global firms and are among the top ten firms in the world measured by revenue. S&M is also the only one of the group for which we lack sufficient survey responses to generate ratings based on the ATL Insider Survey. After the jump, see how the others’ New York offices stack up in terms of Compensation, Hours, Training, Firm Morale, and Culture.

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Target: No, just no.

* Thanks to the slow transactional markets in Western Europe, Magic Circle firms like Allen & Overy, Linklaters, and Clifford Chance are struggling to pull a rabbit out of a hat in terms of gross revenue and profits. [Am Law Daily]

* If at first you don’t succeed because of John Ashcroft, try, try again. Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White is once again being considered for the federal bench in St. Louis. Good luck! [Missouri Lawyers Weekly]

* In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock, Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to murder charges. He’s looking at life in prison or the death penalty. [Bloomberg]

* Target, if you’re wondering why you’re getting sued, it’s because of this alleged memo explaining that not all Hispanic employees eat tacos, dance to salsa, and wear sombreros. [Huffington Post]

* “Please don’t be hung” is a solemn prayer that’s only useful to a woman whose case is on re-trial. Ex-Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones’s defamation suit was sent to the jury. [Associated Press]

Summer associates will soon be arriving at large law firms. So, to paraphrase Antoine Dodson, y’all need to hide yo screamers, hide yo sleazebags, and hide yo husband (or yo gun-toting boyfriend).

While summer associates are present, certain subjects are off-limits. Don’t talk about that group of partners with a huge book of business that’s going to defect any day now. Don’t talk about that salacious lawsuit against the firm that’s still pending.

And don’t talk about layoffs — of staffers or lawyers or both. Reductions are such a buzzkill….

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* A study finds that over 93 percent of attorneys, judges, and legal writing professors think the writing they’re reading is bad. One could argue this is evidence of a crisis in writing skills. Or one could argue that lawyers are a**holes who think every voice other than their own is wrong. It’s a 50/50 shot. [Associates Mind]

* If you ever wondered how many OSHA violations one could find with Jabba’s Palace, wonder no more. [Legal Geeks]

* Are you scared of Obamacare? Here’s a roundup of your official survival guides! [The New Republic]

* If you’re trying to enter the United States, border agents can seize your electronics and look at all your private files because you need to respect their authoritah! [Forbes]

* Joseph Kennedy Jr. died helping to invent drones. OMG, you guys! The drone war is the final stage of the Kennedy family’s long-term liberal plan for world domination. [io9]

* Senator Menendez has hired McDermott Will & Emery and Perkins Coie to conduct spin control now that he’s getting flak for privately funded air travel and hooker allegations. See what you can do with your law degree! [The BLT: The Blog of the Legal Times]

* Avvo is expanding their legal rating service into a full research tool to allow potential clients to pick out lawyers. So you’d better get in good with Avvo now. [Avvo]

* Now here’s a trick — watch Magic Circle lawyers disappear! Pepper Hamilton, now led by Louis Freeh, lures Linklaters lawyers to its ranks. [Thompson Reuters News & Insight]

The global law firm of Clifford Chance, a member of the Magic Circle, is one of the biggest names in Biglaw. It’s the world’s #5 law firm in terms of revenue and the #3 law firm in terms of headcount. In the American Lawyer’s inaugural set of rankings for the world’s most valuable law firms, Clifford Chance came in #6. Clifford Chance is so global that it makes the Atlantic Ocean look like a pond.

Here in the United States, Clifford Chance has offices in New York and Washington. What can associates in these offices expect in terms of their bonuses this year?

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I told careful readers six months ago that I would soon be moving to London. I made the move on September 1, and here’s the local news:

Senior partners at major London law firms can’t afford to live!

Well, not quite: But senior partners at many major London law firms can’t afford to live in London itself.

I recently had lunch with — prepare yourself — a senior partner at a major London law firm. When I told him where I was now living, he said that it was nice that my commute would be so short:

“Twenty years ago, the senior partners at most big law firms lived in London. But today, unless you have inherited wealth or bought your home long ago, most senior partners at London firms can’t afford to live anywhere near the City. Partner pay just won’t cover the cost.”

As an expatriate American, this startled me: I’m confident there’s no American city where senior partners at major law firms can’t afford local real estate. But in London, this has the ring of truth to it. From an American’s perspective, everything in London is nauseatingly expensive (or “quite dear,” as the locals so quaintly put it). But the cost of housing goes far beyond “nauseatingly expensive”; it’s eye-poppingly, grab-your-chest-and-drop-to-the-ground, out of sight. It leaves partner pay in the dust. Here’s what I mean . . . .

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