Tomorrow, March 15, the end will finally come for Howrey. Later this month, the law firm of David J. Stern, formerly known as Florida’s foreclosure king, will shut its doors.
This week, we’ve got another sizable law firm announcing its dissolution. Obviously not everybody is catching on to this economic recovery. While some firms are doling out the green, in the form of spring bonuses, other firms are handing out pink slips.
Today’s law firm obituary also comes from South Florida. Yes, we know, shocking that Florida is still suffering the effects of the recession. But there are another 280 people down there who will soon need to find new jobs….
What’s going on with clerkship bonuses? The last time we really checked was over a year ago. We might do a follow-up; if you have tips — not questions or requests for advice, but hard information about clerkship bonus amounts — please email us (subject line: “Clerkship Bonuses”).
In our last look at the subject, in February 2010, the going rate seemed to be $50,000. You can look back at our prior post for the names of at least 11 firms paying $50K clerkship bonuses. (If any of that info needs to be updated, in either direction, please let us know.)
We can confirm that at least one firm is paying a clerkship bonus in excess of $50,000: BuckleySandler, a young, highly-regarded firm that focuses on banking and financial-services law. We’ve written quite a bit about the firm before; it started with a bang, when Skadden partners Andrew Sandler and Benjamin Klubes left the megafirm to set up their own shop.
Let’s learn a little more about BuckleySandler, and check out the memo announcing the $60K clerkship bonus (along with other compensation-related information)….
Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.
It is no secret that I do not like my small firm. But I do know people who have found happiness and professional fulfillment by working at small law firms. And, since Biglaw probably can’t hire all of you, what other choice do you have?
One positive feature of practicing in a small law firm is that is enables an attorney to take a wide variety of unique cases and to specialize in interesting areas of the law. Indeed, one small-firm lawyer is gaining huge notoriety with the Super Bowl XLV ticket class action on behalf of ticket holders who were denied seats at the game. The suit is being brought by Michael J. Avenatti, a Los Angeles based attorney and founding partner of Eagan Avenatti LLP — a firm of less than twenty attorneys, per Martindale-Hubbell. Per USA Today, Avenatti estimates that the class will reach 1000 fans and seeks $5 million in damages. Biglaw would likely scoff at such a case, but perhaps Mr. Avenatti will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Let’s look at a few other examples of niche practices….
Wow. It’s been a long time since I wrote a headline starting with the words “Nationwide Layoff Watch.” But today it’s appropriate. Above the Law has learned that Husch Blackwell let go of around 20 attorneys, associates and non-equity partners, earlier last month.
We heard rumblings that Husch was planning on making cuts as far back as this July, but it appears that the layoffs only went through in September. Thanks to our sources, some of whom contacted us on our new text message line (646-820-TIPS), we’ve now received multiple reports of layoffs at the firm.
Here’s one tipster’s report:
Husch recently gave pink slips to about 20 attorneys; a number of them are non-equity partners. The sole criteria for termination is last year’s billable hours.
Husch didn’t confirm the number of attorneys let go, but a spokesperson for the firm did give Above the Law a statement…
I wrote last week about the perceived level of interest from attorneys at small law firms in finding a collective voice. As I’m currently camping somewhere in the remote, internet-less regions of our northern neighbor, I haven’t the chance to check in with your comments and emails, but promise to do so upon my return to the internet-using world.
Speaking of camping, we’ve previously discussed lawyers decamping from Biglaw in favor of something cozier. Over at Adam Smith, Esq., Bruce MacEwen calls this phenomenon a “natural evolution of an industry under economic stress.” I call it an opportunity. The “natural evolution,” as MacEwen so eloquently terms it, means that there should be a growing interest among Above the Law’s existing readership in the opportunities offered by small-firm practice.
But I figured I needed a more clearly defined angle in order to pique the interests of your esteemed editors. As I thought about the potential for this column and how to pitch it to Lat and Elie, I ended up compiling a short list of reader profiles that I figured would take interest in such an endeavor.
Who is interested in reading about small law firms? Here’s an eye-pleasing numbered-list format….
We told you this day would come. Way back in July 2009, we reported that the rankings behemoth, U.S. News & World Report, would soon be ranking law firms. In February 2010, we reported that the American Bar Association — so toothless in the face of U.S. News’s law school rankings — was worried about how this new U.S. News product would affect the profession.
Well, for better or for worse, the day has finally arrived. As of midnight (give or take a few minutes), U.S. News went live with rankings of 8,782 firms across 81 different practice areas. From their press release:
These inaugural rankings, which are presented in tiers both nationally and by metropolitan area or by state, showcase 8,782 different law firms ranked in one or more of 81 major practice areas. Full data is available online for the law firms that received rankings, from the largest firms in the country to hundreds of one-person and two-person law firms, providing a comprehensive view of the U.S. legal profession that is unprecedented both in the range of firms represented and in the range of qualitative and quantitative data used to develop the rankings.
It’s like Christmas morning — if only Santa were a jolly red prestige whore. Let’s get to it…
Last week I had dinner with a friend who used to work at a large law firm and now has a non-legal career. I asked her what, if anything, she missed about life in Biglaw.
“Just one thing: the paycheck,” she said. “I miss being able to go crazy in the shoe department of Bloomingdale’s.”
It’s a common sentiment among people who leave jobs at large law firms (in terms of missing the paycheck; not sure about the shoes). Most people who leave large law firms, with the notable exception of finance folks, end up with lower incomes in their new lines of work. But many refugees of Biglaw report higher job satisfaction, as well as overall happiness.
An article in yesterday’s New York Times touched upon the trade-off between money and job satisfaction — and revealed a “magic number” of sorts, namely, the income level at which additional income does not bring you additional happiness….
It sounds like something firms would try to keep on the down low, through anonymous postings on Craigslist. But in the new economy, it’s apparently no big deal for law firms to ask career services offices to send over students who are so desperate they’re willing to work for free. The ABA Journal reports:
Law schools in Florida have gotten a flood of requests from small and midsize law firms seeking summer associates willing to work for free — but career officials are not pleased…
Robert Levine, assistant dean for career development at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center, tells the Daily Business Review that the U.S. Department of Labor encourages unpaid internships to be coordinated through the school’s clinical program.
“It’s a big problem because the students want the experience and the firms need the help,” Levine told the publication. “All of the law schools throughout the state are dealing with this issue.”
Please tell me this is some kind of weird Florida problem, and this kind of behavior will be limited to the Sunshine State…
Though there are signs that things are looking up for the legal market next year, the economy remains troubled. This week the recession claimed 18 at intellectual-property boutique Brinks Hofer.
We spoke with firm president Gary Ropski, who confirmed that seven attorneys, one patent agent, and ten staff were laid off this week. [FN1] Most of these layoffs took place in the firm’s main Chicago office. The firm spoke individually with every person let go, and had a firm-wide conference call yesterday to discuss the layoffs.
“It’s the toughest part of my job,” said Ropski. This was less than 5% of the total workforce of the firm, which has 400 employees nationally.
There’s been much talk in the legal sector about problems for IP boutiques as bigger firms encroach on their turf. Earlier this year, IP firm Darby & Darby dissolved. We asked Ropski whether he was worried about the outlook for IP boutiques in today’s economy….
When it comes to law school, “Hope springs eternal.” According to a National Law Journal article entitled Hope Drives Rise in Law School Applications, for this year’s incoming class, law school applications increased by 7% and the number of applicants by 3% — despite tough times in the legal profession and the heavy educational debt that law school often entails. Some law schools saw their applicant pools grow by 30 percent or more. See, e.g., the University of Alabama (70 percent), the University of Maine (65 percent), Cornell (50 percent), and the University of Illinois (37 percent).
Regular readers of Above the Law are no doubt familiar with the argument against going to law school. It’s fairly straightforward: given the weak legal job market and the high cost of law school, which often requires students to take on six figures’ worth of debt, getting a J.D. degree is simply a bad investment.
The argument against law school is typically made in these pages by one of my colleagues, Elie Mystal. But not all of your ATL editors are so anti-law-school. Speaking for myself, I think the case against law school is often exaggerated.
Here are five arguments in defense of going to law school — or, at the very least, five arguments against an extreme anti-law-school stance….
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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: email@example.com.
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.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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