At the risk of stating the obvious to this audience, the American middle class is in serious trouble. But why am I taking the time to state the obvious? Because it isn’t what we know, it’s what we do with what we know to reposition our solo/small firm practices for survival that matters most. Most solo/small firms are consumer-law driven. Since so much of the success of many a lawyer has been predicated on a stable middle class with disposable income, how a solo/small firm responds to their disappearing wealth is intimately tied to their professional success.
The middle-class share of national income has fallen and continues to fall, dropping many who were normally categorized as such into the lower middle class, even upper lower class. Middle-class wages are stagnant even though productivity time has increased dramatically, and we no longer have the world’s wealthiest middle class. I don’t even have to quote any sources on this information because you just have to Google it and you’ll get hundreds if not thousands of pages and articles on this alarming topic.
As painful as this squeeze is individually, multiply this by millions of families (your potential clients). Then aggregate this demand across all areas of the economy (obviously, the law), and you see why this will inevitably trickle down to cripple the following generations (also your potential clients).
But the story is much bigger than this and has another very important side….
We can write about how financially imprudent it is to go to law school until we’re blue in the… fingertips? I guess? But for some of you, it’s just not going to sink in until you see it in cold hard numbers. Enter this handy student loan calculator that allows the user to enter their planned indebtedness and it’ll spit back the salary you need to earn in order to justify your decision.
* “I think we have to be concerned that almost all of us are from two law schools.” Justice Clarence Thomas thinks that the Supreme Court bench ought to be more diverse. [New York Times]
* The DoJ expanded its recognition of gay marriage by adding six states to its roster of those newly entitled to federal benefits — now more than half the country. Yay! [Bloomberg]
* Former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler has withdrawn from consideration as a nominee for Eric Holder’s job as AG. She and her shoe collection will remain at Latham. [WSJ Law Blog]
* [I]t’s profound that we have not made much progress on that front in the legal profession.” There’s still an income gap between men and women in the law, and it gets worse over time. [National Law Journal]
* Come sail away, come sail away, come parasail away with me. This former Biglaw associate found that life slaving away at a law firm wasn’t her paradise, so she decided to move to the beach. [Am Law Daily]
This week, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) announced that it accepted a hefty donation from Koch Industries. According to NACDL, the grant will fund an initiative to better train indigent defenders and study best practices of current state level indigent defense delivery systems. The organization points out that over 80 percent of criminal defendants must rely on indigent defense systems for representation, though the systems are “chronically underfunded and overburdened and, as result, in many instances are unable to effectively deliver adequate representation.” NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer also said, “[W]e are honored that while Koch is providing this significant funding to support NACDL’s efforts, Koch is deferring to NACDL’s expertise in this arena for the grant’s effective deployment.”
Koch Industries is, of course, the Kansas-based, privately-held corporation of Charles and David Koch, often known to their many liberal critics as “the Koch Brothers.” (Sort of like the Wachowski Brothers but with more money and without the transitioning.) Critics such as Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid and increasingly agitated AlterNet writers decry the Kochs, who are reportedly each worth $36 billion, for their donations to the GOP and conservative causes.
So, should we be skeptical of the Kochs’ recent gift to help poor folks get adequate legal representation? After all, how could a Google search for “Koch Brothers Evil” turn up so many seemingly pertinent results, if they were up to any good? So, how can an organization like NACDL accept money from the ne’er-do-well billionaires who funneled money into such ultra-conservative, oligarchy-preserving causes as . . . the United Negro College Fund?
* Thanks to this Government Accountability Office ruling, the company that cleared NSA leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis may lose a $210M contract. [Legal Times]
* After being acquitted on insider trading charges, Rengan Rajaratnam agreed to settle the civil suit filed against him for a cool $840K. At least he’s not in jail like his brother. [DealBook / New York Times]
* Those interested in going to law school may want to know that Philadelphia is purportedly home to some of the cheapest law schools in the country — not Penn Law, though, sorry ’bout that. [Main Street]
* Professors at WUSTL Law held a “teach-in” to discuss the Michael Brown police shooting case. According to them, the likelihood Darren Wilson will be federally charged is “slim to none.” [Student Life]
* Attack of the aggrieved ex: a man drove a burning pickup truck loaded with explosives into a law firm, destroying much of the building. He had apparently dated one of the firm’s former clients. [Virginian-Pilot]
* Everyone knows Bingham McCutchen is considering a merger with Morgan Lewis, but not many know bankruptcy may be an option. It’s a remote option, but still an option. [Boston Globe]
* When Kaye Scholer moved offices, it left behind most of its library. “It tells you everything you need to know about law firm libraries”: they’re no longer as necessary as before. [New York Times]
* Everyone loves the Sixth Amendment: Thanks to money from Koch Industries, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers will offer better indigent defense training. [WSJ Law Blog]
* The judge in Adrian Peterson’s case won’t be replaced, despite the fact that he called the lawyers involved in the case “media whores.” Meh, Peterson’s attorney says he’s been called worse. [Bloomberg]
* Gilberto Valle, better known as the “Cannibal Cop,” really wants to go to law school. He’s apparently scored quite well on LSAT practice tests. Do law school ladies look delicious or what? [New York Post]
When it comes to choosing a law school, conventional wisdom dictates that one should attend the best school possible — that usually means a law school that’s perched atop the prestigious heights of the U.S. News rankings. Conveniently, going to an elite law school also means that one’s salary will usually be quite high, but just how high are we talking?
According to the latest salary rankings produced by PayScale, the answer is “pretty damn high” — so high, in fact, that at the midpoints of their careers, alumni of certain law schools beat out graduates from almost every other graduate school in the country.
So which law schools were ranked the highest? You may be surprised by some that made the cut…
This is a continuation of the past three articles I published in ATL over the past month or so. My first article argued that Profits Per Partner is a great servant for a law firm but a bad master. In my second article, I set forth our Profits Per Partner Emancipation Plan as an alternative. In my third article, I set forth what I believe is the highest level in law firm profitability analysis, which is to “embrace” the volatility inherent in the practice of law. In this final article, I will give some thoughts on how a law firm could indeed Embrace Volatility.
Before getting to that, I will mention as an aside that I wrote a few weeks ago in this column an article entitled “Are Lawyers Only Happy When They’re Miserable?” That article largely dealt with how an individual might in fact Embrace Volatility. This article is directed not at individuals but at law firms.
If you have been reading my past articles, you may be open to at least considering how Embracing Volatility might be a good thing for a law firm. But is this whole concept just a fantasy, like it would be nice to not be afraid of snakes but you can’t help it and just reciting “I am not afraid of snakes” isn’t going to work? I don’t think so. I think the following simple steps would do it quite nicely:
The rise and fall of Melvyn Weiss is one of the most dramatic stories within the legal profession. The Bronx-born Weiss, a graduate of NYU Law School, founded Milberg Weiss, which went on to become the nation’s top class-action securities firm. Weiss and his partners became millionaires many times over.
But it turned out that the firm rested on shaky ground. In 2008, Mel Weiss pleaded guilty to participating in a kickback scheme that helped him get clients and cases. Weiss got sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison and had to pay more than $10 million in forfeitures and fines. Milberg Weiss itself had to pay $75 million to settle charges relating to the racketeering conspiracy.
Too bad Weiss had to do prison time. House arrest would have been pretty sweet in his waterfront mansion on Long Island’s Gold Coast, now on the market for $18.8 million….
In the simplest terms, it is fair to say that law firm starting salaries are flat. The fact that the incidence of $160,000 as the starting salary at the largest law firms is less than it was before the recession is really more a reflection of the changing contours of the large firm market, not the fact that law firms are paying entry-level associates less than they used to. Many law offices that are part of large firms, particularly those in the largest markets, continue to pay $160,000, but the data since 2009 clearly show that the large firm market now also contains many firms that do not pay $160,000. In some ways the data simply reflect the growing cohort of large firms, and it shows that they are not a monolithic entity. In many markets starting salaries of $145,000 or $135,000 or even less are the norm.
As part of a nationwide tour, Above the Law is coming to the great city of Chicago.
Join preeminent law firm management consultant Bruce MacEwen, Katten Muchin Chicago managing partner Gil Sofer, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. assistant general counsel Jason Shaffer for a panel discussion (sponsored by Pangea3) on the evolutionary and market forces bearing down on the law firm business model. Come on by Thursday, November 20, at 6 p.m., for thought-provoking discussion, food, drink, and networking.
Space is limited and there will be no on-site registration, so please RSVP
Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.