Midsize / Regional Firms

The ship be sinking?

As in-house columnist Mark Herrmann put it, “Dewey know who’s next?” No, we don’t. But we certainly have some guesses about major law firms that are existentially challenged.

Here at Above the Law, we do maintain a shortlist of Biglaw firms that could go under. But, truth be told, the list is not that exciting. With a handful of exceptions, the firms that populate it are big regional firms, not national or international behemoths, and they cluster toward the lower echelons of the Am Law 200 or NLJ 350. Put another way, no firm on our list boasts the size and stature of Dewey & LeBoeuf. (If you know of a firm that should be placed on our list, please email us, subject line “Biglaw Death Watch,” or text us, at 646-820-8477.)

But even if a firm isn’t a household name, lawyers and staffers will suffer when it goes under. Let’s hear about the latest large law firm that appears to be on the ropes….

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Is the slowdown in Biglaw that we’ve seen since the Great Recession a long-term trend or just a temporary blip? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, the debate rages on. (The latest salvo: New Republic editor Noam Scheiber’s response to critics of his controversial article, The Last Days of Big Law.)

Because of its power, prestige, and profitability, Biglaw gets a big proportion of the media coverage that’s aimed at law firms. But let’s not overlook small firms and solo practitioners, who make up about 70 percent of American lawyers in private practice.

One often hears stories about small firms, especially boutiques formed by ex-Biglaw attorneys, that are thriving. The tales are inspiring; the small-firm lawyers talk about how they enjoy their practice more, have greater autonomy, and make the same or even more money than they did back in Biglaw.

But such information is anecdotal. How are small law firms doing compared to bigger firms on a broader level? A new survey has some answers….

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The season of law firm holiday parties, for starters. And, better yet, bonuses. This year, Santa Cravath stuffed stockings with a goodly amount of cash.

But the parties and paychecks pale in comparison to what’s about to get underway: Above the Law’s fourth annual holiday card contest!

Last year, Haynes and Boone, a frequent finalist in the contest, took home top honors. Will they repeat in 2012, will a prior winner reemerge, or will a totally fresh face grab the Christmas card crown?

Read on — and read carefully, counselors — for the official contest rules….

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Previously on Moonlighting, we considered some common mistakes that law firm attorneys make when pitching their firms to seek work from new clients. It featured such dramatic gems as: find out who our enemies are; BS sounds like… gee, whaddya know… BS; and cameos from other need-to-know concepts making their appearance on the big (computer) screen.

In this week’s episode article, we’ll look at the other side of the coin, with a remake that focuses on the in-house lawyer’s perspective. What are some ways that in-house lawyers can ensure that they get the most out of those pitch meetings?

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In the next few months, we’re going to see a lot of lawyers switching jobs in Washington, D.C. Regardless of who wins the election — my current prediction is that Barack Obama will prevail (sorry, Anonymous Partner) — many lawyers will move into and out of government in the weeks before and after Inauguration Day.

For those who joined the Obama Administration early, three or four years is long enough to make them nostalgic for private sector paychecks. What use is a punched ticket if you never redeem it?

In fact, the movement has already started. Today we bring you news of two notable moves from the nation’s capital. One of them involves a lawyer leaving a top government post, and the other concerns an in-house lawyer entering the firm world….

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As New York firms are slowly letting people back into the office after Sandy, a midsize Cadadian firm is implementing new procedures to make sure employees stay there.

No, they aren’t spanking people or playing other disturbing psychological games. They’re using electronic fingerprint IDs.

Apparently too many employees were dipping out early and taking extensive lunch breaks. The circle of trust was broken, so now everyone pays the price.

Well, not everyone, exactly. And that’s part of the problem…

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You’re an attorney at a mid-sized or large firm and have received an opportunity to pitch your firm’s work to a brand new prospective client. You’ve researched the company and the deals that your firm has worked on that would be a good match. All you have to do is go into the meeting sounding like you know what you’re talking about, and soon you’ll be raking in the hourly dough, right?

Perhaps. Many attorneys would be benefit from heeding Alexander Graham Bell’s words: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” A lot of you falsely believe you’re just unnaturally talented at just winging it. And most of the companies you pitch to will never tell you that no, you’re really not. What follows are some actual examples of some common mistakes that lawyers make when pitching their firms to in-house counsel….

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* Chief Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit, the judicial diva herself, will be stepping down from her role at the head of the bench earlier than expected, due to “family issues.” Perhaps she told someone to “shut up” too many times? [Tex Parte Blog]

* Apple asked U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to deny Samsung’s request that she bar all further communication with trial jurors, because the company claims it wants “equal access to information” (aka jury foreman Velvin Hogan). [Bloomberg]

* “[T]here’s no way to preserve the definition of marriage [as one man and one woman] other than by preserving the definition. It becomes somewhat circular.” That, and you rely on law from 1885. Argh! [BuzzFeed]

* ASU Law wants to move from Tempe to Phoenix, and to make it financially feasible, the school may increase enrollment and raise tuition. Sound like a good idea, prospective law students cash cows? [Arizona Republic]

* Now compare/contrast: Stanford Law had to dip into its coffers to come up with the cash to cover its financial aid promises this year, but the school isn’t cutting out a dime that’s owed to students. [National Law Journal]

* Massachusetts appealed the Michelle Kosilek sex-change ruling. The state claims it provided “adequate medical care,” but it’s questionable whether that was the case if the prisoner tried to castrate herself. [CNN]

* Tully Rinckey, a midsize firm, is planning to open an office in Buffalo, New York, so it sent out recruitment letters to 5,469 attorneys in the region. Unemployed law grads: open the letter, it’s not a bill! [Buffalo News]

Our first-ever Lawyerly Lairs contest to find the Best Law Firm Offices in America was a huge success. We received numerous nominations, which we reduced to a field of eight finalists (and four honorable mentions).

Then we opened the polls. Voter turnout ran high, with more than 4,500 votes cast in the contest.

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. It’s time to announce our winner….

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As regular readers of Lawyerly Lairs know well, some attorneys have beautiful — and expensive — homes. As we’ve just learned from the impressive submissions in our contest to find the best law firm offices in America, many attorneys’ workplaces are no less spectacular.

With the help of Mary Kate Sullivan, our wonderful intern here at Above the Law, I’ve winnowed the large and impressive field to eight finalists. There’s nice diversity here, in terms of firms (Biglaw versus non-Biglaw); decor (traditional versus modern); and geography (seven different cities, located all over the country).

Let’s check them out, shall we?

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