Midsize firms

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….

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The Am Law MidLevel survey, released earlier this week, revealed what many already knew: the people who were able to hang onto their jobs during the recession are really unhappy.

Times are tough for the survivors, and today we have more evidence. An employee in the Dallas office of Sedgwick sent an open letter to the office managing partner, Alan Vickery, and others in management. The letter expresses massive disappointment with what has happened at the firm since the economy went south. It’s a familiar and sad story about those who are “lucky” enough to still have a legal job…

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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….

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Have you fallen off the Biglaw bandwagon and can’t get up? Were you lucky enough to hang onto your Biglaw job and are just now realizing that the blessing was actually a horrible curse on your lifestyle? Well, then maybe you’re in the mood to downsize to a midsized law firm, but you just don’t know where to look.

If so, the National Law Journal has you covered. It’s hard to distinguish one midsized law firm from another, but the NLJ has compiled a list of the twenty “hottest” midsized law firms.

Don’t everybody send your résumés all at once…

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Over the weekend, the New York Times took employers to task for taking advantage of university kids eager to get work experience. Unpaid internships abound, and the recession has made it easier for corporate employers to cry poor, and bring on free labor.

However, there are strict federal guidelines [PDF] around unpaid internships, and many are breaking the law by giving their eager little beavers noneducational menial work. The folks at the Labor Department are on to this devious scheme:

Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York’s labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms’ internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.

While most of the abusive internships are in the exciting worlds of fashion, film, media, and music, there was at least one poor NYU student suckered into cleaning out bathrooms for free at a law firm…

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