Midsize / Regional Firms

It’s so hard to judge yourself.

Deep in your soul you know that people who criticize you are idiots, and people who praise you are wise and sagacious.

How can you possibly tell if you’re any good at what you do?

I have the answer for you! I’ve created a litigators’ self-assessment test! Now you’ll know if you’re any good!

Here’s how it works: Take out the last brief you filed.

Do it. Now. You won’t learn anything if you don’t follow the rules.

Look at the first sentence of your brief. For about ten percent of the people reading this column, the first sentence of your brief says (and I quote) . . . .

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With Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Wednesdays in 2013, it felt like the holiday season lasted forever. Not that we’re complaining — we enjoyed two weeks of relative quiet, and we suspect many of you did as well — but now it’s back to work, as we kick off the first full week of the new year.

One story that kept people engaged over the holiday lull was our fifth annual holiday card contest. Voter participation ran high, with more than 7,688 votes cast for the eight worthy finalists.

Which law firm’s card prevailed? Here’s a hint: it’s the most interesting Biglaw holiday card in the world….

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Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations for our fifth annual holiday card contest. In terms of quantity, we received a great many submissions. And (almost) all of you complied with the contest rules, so thanks for that as well.

Quantity was strong, but in terms of quality… well, at the risk of sounding Grinch-like, this wasn’t the strongest batch we’ve seen over the years. We received a lot of cards that were tasteful and well-executed but boring. While it’s not surprising that many firms take a “do no harm” approach to holiday cards, it doesn’t make for the most exciting contest.

That said, there were still a few stalks of wheat mixed in with the chaff. Here are the eight fabulous finalists, for you to review and vote upon….

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If you still need to do holiday shopping for a lawyer or law student in your life, we’ve got you covered. Just check out our ATL Holiday Gift Guide (sponsored).

What about holiday gifts for secretaries or administrative assistants? In the past week or so, our lawyer readers have been writing to us seeking guidance.

With all due respect to Marin’s hilarious list, secretaries do not want “scented candles, Josh Groban CDs, or Cirque du Soleil tickets.” They want straight cash, homey.

But how much cash should you give? And what, if anything, should you give to paralegals and other support staff you work with? Let’s discuss, then take a few polls at the end….

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Who says lawyers and law firms are humor-impaired? A Canadian litigation firm, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP, has been winning publicity and props for its clever holiday card based on the troubles of Rob Ford, the Toronto mayor who has admitted to smoking crack.

This reminded us: it’s time for Above the Law’s fifth annual holiday card contest! This favorite feature is fun for the whole family, and it’s perfectly legal too.

We are a legal website, so of course there are rules. Read carefully; failure to follow them to the letter will result in disqualification. Here they are:

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Ed. note: This is a new column from a person who didn’t just go from Biglaw to a smaller office, he went from big bad New York City to someplace where they care about the Big Ten network. It’s a different client roster and a different life.

As promised, the topic of this column is the difference in client service when you move to a smaller regional firm. First things first: I see from the comments on my last article that many of you are curious about the clients I represent here in Real America. Apparently it is very hard for some of you to believe that the types of clients that you have on the coasts also exist here in the Midwest. Believe it or not, we have banks! We have real estate investment trusts! We have life-science companies! We have parts manufacturers for any number of industries! We have mortgage servicers! We have large retailers with labor and HR issues!

And because these things exist, they need help from attorneys like us….

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If you build it, will clients come?

Ed. note: This is a new column from a person who didn’t just go from Biglaw to a smaller office, he went from big bad New York City to someplace where they care about the Big Ten network. It’s a different client roster and a different life.

Hello. I live in the middle of the country and I do smal(ler) law than most of you, so you can call me the Middle Man.

I am one of the few friends of ATL who had the courage to leave the quagmire that is New York Biglaw, and the stupidity tenacity to continue practicing law.

A little about myself: I was born in the Midwest, went to college out west, law School in the south, and worked at a Vault top-15 firm in New York City for four years before fleeing for greener (read: smaller) pastures at a regional firm with a few offices scattered about the heartland here in the middle of the country.

I this space, I will be covering such topics as:

1. How the hell I got this job in the first place.
2. The difference between client service here at a smaller firm in a mid-sized city and New York.
3. The difference in my practice here and New York.
4. Dealing with partners and fellow associates in a smaller firm as an associate from a biglaw firm.
5. Why Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell is one of the most prolific Americans of the late 20th century.
My hope is that these posts will give you an idea of what you can expect if you leave your biglaw job and head back toward Real America.

To get us started, let me tackle our first topic: how I scored this job…

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When you’re a real litigator — at a firm, in the trenches, arguing stuff and getting your hands dirty — you see and hear the coolest things.

So I’m sharing a couple of litigation war stories with you today, and soliciting you to share others in the comments.

I’m in the California Court of Appeal in San Francisco. My case is third or fourth on the calendar, so I’m watching the arguments before mine. In the first case, the appellant had been convicted of a bunch of gruesome crimes. It was hard to tell without having read the briefs, but the litany plainly included rape, murder, and the desecration of a corpse. Defense counsel had not exactly lucked out in the selection of an appellate panel: He was arguing to three female judges, all of whom had formerly been prosecutors.

For reasons not entirely clear, counsel was trying to reverse the conviction for desecration of a corpse. He insisted that no evidence supported the verdict, because there was no evidence (I kid you not) that the defendant had jammed the stones inside the victim after she had died. As one of several arguments, counsel tried an appeal to reason. He asked the (seemingly) rhetorical question: “But why would my client have shoved rocks inside the body after she was dead?”

The question wasn’t so rhetorical, after all. One of the judges leaned forward incredulously and asked, with a snarl: “Excuse me, but . . .

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I’ve got better things to do than be in the office right now.

Last week we shared with you 7 Ways To Kill Time While Working At A Law Firm. It was a slightly tongue-in-cheek post, a subtle send-up of “listicles” like 10 Reasons To Leave Biglaw.

But as it turns out, as reflected in our traffic stats and in various messages sent directly to us, people actually want to learn about methods for staying (or looking) busy while they put in their law-firm face time. Does this mean work is slow? All these unused billable hours don’t bode well for bonus expectations this year.

Anyway, here you go: 7 more ways to kill time while working at a law firm….

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Last month we wrote about a Biglaw firm that’s in big trouble. The firm in question: Dow Lohnes, a former Am Law 200 firm that has been hemorrhaging lawyers and clients (and lost two more partners last week, to Venable). In our story about Dow Lohnes, we noted that “[i]t seems possible that the firm could merge out of existence — if it’s lucky enough to find a partner.”

Fortunately for the remaining lawyers and staff at Dow Lohnes, the sinking ship has located some lifeboats. A larger and stronger firm, a member of the Am Law 50 and Vault 100, will be picking up many (but not all) of Dow Lohnes’s lawyers.

Who’s the white knight riding to the rescue of Dow Lohnes?

(Note the UPDATES added at the end of this post.)

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