Money

This Lawyerly Lair is on a pleasant, tree-lined block in Chelsea (click to enlarge).

No, we’re not talking about “law clerk” as in judge’s aide. It’s hard to afford a seven-figure home on a public servant’s salary. We’re talking about “law clerk” as in someone who’s working at a law firm, essentially as an associate, but is not yet an admitted attorney in the jurisdiction.

This “law clerk” and his partner, also a law school graduate, just picked up a spacious Manhattan co-op for a little under $1.7 million. Their housing hunt was chronicled in the pages of the New York Times. Let’s read more about them, and check out the place they finally chose….

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Last week, the American Lawyer announced its eagerly anticipated Am Law 100 rankings, reflecting the financial performance of major law firms in 2013. On the whole, the news wasn’t bad. The elite firms did great, and most other firms eked out “modest, hard-won gains.” Am Law suggested that the big vereins underperformed, but that indictment might have been too harsh.

The Am Law data focuses on last year. What about last quarter? How are law firms doing in 2014 so far?

A new report from Citi Private Bank, a leading provider of financial services to leading law firms, has some answers….

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Back in March, we brought you news on the law schools with the most heavily indebted graduates. It was quite shocking to witness the depths to which these poor souls went to finance their legal educations. Take, for example, the average graduate from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, who has $180,665 in debt — and also has a 29 percent chance of working as an attorney nine months after graduation. That’s absolutely terrifying.

But in a world where the average class of 2013 law school graduate carries a debt load of $108,815 (up from an average of $108,293 for the class of 2012), there must be a few schools out there that won’t destroy a would-be lawyer’s financial footprint forever.

Which law school graduates have the least debt of all? U.S. News has a ranking for that…

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The book that everyone’s talking about right now is Capital in the Twenty-First Century by French economist Thomas Piketty. In his bestselling, critically acclaimed, 600-page tome, Piketty documents and diagnoses the growth of income inequality in the United States and around the world.

What’s true for the global economy seems to be true for law firms as well. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer just released the latest Am Law 100 rankings, the biggest rankings in the world of Biglaw. Here’s the key takeaway, captured in the magazine’s headline: “The Super Rich Get Richer.”

How rich are the “Super Rich” these days? Let’s peek at those profits per partner….

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* The $160K-Plus Club welcomes its newest member: Duval & Stachenfeld, a real estate firm in NY, is more than doubling its starting salary for associates to $175K. Look for them recruiting at your “tier one” school soon. [New York Law Journal]

* In this economy, bankruptcy firms are being hit hard: Stutman Treister & Glatt, a top L.A. firm that once assisted in cases against Lehman Brothers and Enron Corp. in their Chapter 11 proceedings, is closing up shop. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* It ain’t easy being dean at the law school with the best Biglaw prospects — oh wait, yes it is. Congrats to Gillian Lester, who will serve as Columbia Law’s fifteenth dean come January 2015. [Columbia News]

* “Do I think he thought he was gonna beat it? Yeah.” The district attorney who brought charges against Stephen McDaniel thinks the law school killer was too big for his chainmail britches. [Macon Telegraph]

* From catcalling to “jiggle tests,” NFL cheerleaders have to put up with a lot of really ridiculous stuff. Not being paid the minimum wage is one thing, but having to put up with being groped is quite another. [TIME]

Jodi Arias

* Retired Justice John Paul Stevens isn’t exactly too thrilled about the Supreme Court’s opinion in McCutcheon v. FEC: “The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate. It’s really wrong.” [New York Times]

* Neil Eggleston, a Kirkland & Ellis partner who served as a lawyer in the Clinton administration, has been named as replacement for Kathryn Ruemmler as White House Counsel. Please, Mr. Eggleston, we need to know about your shoes. [Associated Press]

* The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office says the D&L trial could last for four months or more. Dewey know who one witness could be? Yup, the partner who allegedly shagged a spy. [Am Law Daily]

* Thanks to the turn of the tide in DOMA-related litigation, a gay widower from Australia is petitioning USCIS to approve his marriage-based green card application, 39 years after it was first denied. [Advocate]

* Here are three reasons your law school application was rejected: 1) you’re not a special snowflake; 2) your LSAT/GPA won’t game the rankings; and 3) LOL your essay. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* No, Jodi Arias didn’t get Hep C in jail and file a lawsuit to get a restraining order against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Nancy Grace. We have a feeling we know who did. We’ve missed you, Jonathan Lee Riches. [UPI]

These days, fixed fees (also known as flat fees) are all the rage in the legal profession. Long employed by solos and smalls for practice areas as diverse as estate planning, business incorporation, trademarks, bankruptcy, and criminal defense, today, flat fees are gaining traction  even with the big boys at Biglaw.

While the benefits of flat-fee billing, including cost certainty, increased efficiency, and administrative simplicity are well documented, there’s not much guidance on how lawyers can implement fixed fees in practice. As a result, many lawyers shy away from fixed-fee billing, fearing that if they charge too little, they’ll be stuck working for free if the case winds up taking more time to resolve than originally anticipated.  Meanwhile, many lawyers who experiment with fixed-fee billing claim that it doesn’t work — largely because they haven’t implemented it in a way that benefits the lawyer as well as the client.

So below are a half-dozen tips to help solo and small-firm lawyers implement fixed-fee billing without paying the price. Though not exhaustive, these suggestions may help lawyers currently contemplating fixed-fee billing get started, or convince those who’ve tried flat fees unsuccessfully to reconsider…

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192 Columbia Heights

What happens to people who work for failed law firms? Some of them wind up filing for personal bankruptcy.

But some of them experience far happier endings. Some of them wind up living in 25-foot-wide, 8,000-square-foot, $16 million townhouses.

Okay, a caveat: $16 million is what the owners are asking for their home. It’s not clear they’ll get that price, which would set a record for a single family home in Brooklyn Heights.

No matter which way you slice it, though, this is still an eight-figure home. Who’s the lawyer living in such luxury, and where did she once work?

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Bitcoin, your anarcho-syndicalist little brother’s favorite cryptocurrency, has created quite the stir of late. Just last month, your dead grandmother’s favorite newsweekly, Newsweek, covered itself in whatever the opposite of glory is when it pinned the blame for bitcoin on an unsuspecting and camera-shy Californian named Dorian Nakamoto. The man, who reacted to the accusation that he had created a massively popular currency as if someone had shot his dog, retreated to the safety of an awful haircut shortly after the “news” broke. But if Nakamoto wasn’t the creator of bitcoin, then who was?

Yesterday, Slate magazine (a digital publication that is only a magazine because we all agree it is one) reported on the latest developments in bitcoin founder speculation. The results of an academic analysis might shock you. They might horrify you.

They might make you wonder whether that class you took at George Washington Law was taught by the inventor of bitcoin…

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We brought the matter to the Provost and although he is supportive of our goals he cannot bend the University rules to make this creative idea happen. However, we remain committed to finding ways to fund post-graduate opportunities and address other employment issues facing our graduates.

– Part of a statement issued by University of Oregon Law professors on the OregonLawBlawg, describing the status of their proposal to cancel law faculty raises to fund a jobs program for the school’s graduates.

(Keep reading to see the rest of their statement, plus the law school’s response to our media inquiry.)

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