NALP

Where’s the coke?

* NALP is becoming the harbinger of doom for law practice. Here’s some cheerful news: the percentage of female associates in Biglaw dropped for the third year in a row. Perhaps they’re going the way of the Clifford Chance mommy. [National Law Journal]

* Biglaw hotties are coming to a continent near you! Davis Polk & Wardell will be adding a litigation practice to its existing shop in Hong Kong, and they managed to poach two big name Clifford Chance litigators in the process. [DealBook / New York Times]

* According to the ACC, in 2012, base salaries for general counsel rose 1.9 percent, while cash bonuses dropped 7.9 percent. But really, who’s going to complain about a six-figure bonus? [Corporate Counsel]

* A Delaware jury ruled that Apple infringed on several patents in a mobile-device technologies case filed by MobileMedia Ideas. Somewhere, Samsung’s bigwigs are laughing their asses off. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* A woman was arrested in Spain for trying to smuggle in cocaine from Colombia. Seems pretty standard, except for the fact that she was hiding the coke in brand new breast implants — three pounds of it! [CNN]

Ed. note: This is the first in a new series, “Across the Desk,” from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” will take a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital and related issues. Some of these pieces will have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

As noted in the American Lawyer recently, the lateral recruiting boom of recent years continues unabated. As the Am Law article points out, “At the same time [as they’re focused on hiring lateral partners], firms appear to be homing in on their poor performers. Nine out of 10 survey respondents said their firm has ‘unprofitable’ partners, and seven out of 10 said their firms have partners at risk of being deequitized or ‘put on performance plans.’ As one survey respondent put it: ‘There are too many partners without sufficient billable work.'”

Now, wouldn’t you think it would make sense — if firms are worried about underperformers — to pay some attention to associates as well as partners? After all, some of those associates should, speaking theoretically at least, be your future partners.

Yet there’s unrebutted evidence that firms look at the wrong criteria when hiring associates….

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Greetings from San Francisco, home of the world champion Giants, surprisingly noisy trolley cars, and the faint smell of cannabis pretty much everywhere. We’re in town to attend Ark Group‘s conference on “The Brave New World of Entry-Level Recruiting,” which examines how the world of law student recruiting by firms has changed (and will continue to evolve) since the onset of the Great Recession. Moderated by Bruce MacEwen, who kicked off the proceedings by framing the day as an opportunity for “frank conversation” between schools and firms, the conference featured an absolute Murderers’ Row of industry thought leaders, including Orrick‘s Ralph Baxter, legal academia’s apostate Paul Campos, NALP’s Jim Leipold, Indiana/Maurer‘s Bill Henderson, three Biglaw hiring partners, and deans from Berkeley, Stanford, and Hastings.

Read on for some highlights and takeaways from yesterday’s conference.

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Admit it: when you applied to law school, your admissions essay was probably about your desire to help some poor, disadvantaged group of people. You walked in the door bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to conquer the world one unpaid public interest internship at a time.

If by some chance you weren’t convinced to give up on your dreams of helping the disenfranchised, now that you’ve graduated, you’ve probably realized that this whole “public interest” thing isn’t exactly working out so well for you. After all, servicing six figures of debt is no easy task on a $45K salary, even with school-sponsored loan repayment assistance programs (if your school has one). As it turns out, now you’re one of those poor, disadvantaged people.

This leads to a very relevant question that was recently raised by the National Association for Law Placement: should you even consider pursuing a public interest career path after graduating from law school? Is it really worth it? Let’s take a look at some salary figures and find out….

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Back in April, we brought you a story about a family who had written to Dear Abby, an advice columnist, about their child’s law school loan debt. Apparently the mere thought of assisting their darling daughter with the repayment of her $100,000+ debt load was just too much to bear. The daughter had already ruined her own life, so why should they ruin theirs too? And yet, tens of thousands of students are still willing to look this student loan debt problem in the face and laugh.

Yes, in a time where the Executive Director of the National Association for Law Placement is forced to write entire columns about the fact that there is no conceivable way he could describe the current entry-level job market as “good,” others are still considering applying to law school.

For example, today we found out that the matriarch of another family sought wisdom from an advice columnist as to whether her husband should go to law school. How did she respond? Let’s just say Dear Prudence is a little more in tune with the realities of today’s legal job market than Dear Abby will ever be….

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* Oh, by the way Dewey & LeBoeuf partners, the little contribution plan you signed that received court approval last week might not protect you from your former landlord’s claims for back rent. Hope you’ve all got an extra $45 million sitting in the bank. [Am Law Daily]

* Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Bernette Johnson will finally get to claim her seat as chief justice of the state’s high court after official judicial recognition — on both the state and federal level — that the year 1994 does indeed come before 1995. [Bloomberg]

* No matter how hard law school administrators wish it were so, or how much they beg Jim Leipold of NALP, he’s never going to be able to describe the current entry-level legal job market as “good.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* NYU Law School is changing its third-year program in the hopes of making a “good” market materialize. If you ship students to foreign countries for class, maybe they’ll get jobs there. [DealBook / New York Times]

* “[W]e’re determined to do everything we can to help them find jobs and meaningful careers.” We bet Brooklyn Law’s dean is also determined to avoid more litigation about employment statistics. [New York Law Journal]

* Has the other shoe finally dropped? After the Second Circuit ruled that YSL could sell monochromatic shoes, the fashion house decided to drop its trademark counterclaims against Christian Louboutin. [Businessweek]

‘We’re going to a new firm!’

Even in a world where “Who’ll be the next Dewey?” is a Biglaw parlor game and the general legal job market hits the bottom and keeps digging, there still are a few bright spots for the industry. Some examples: law firm associate classes, though contracted, appear to have stabilized, revenues for the largest law firms grew by the highest rate since 2007, and lateral hiring is back in a big way.

According to NALP, the volume of 2011 lateral hiring was up by nearly 50 percent compared with 2010, with associates accounting for almost three-quarters of the lateral traffic. Obviously, the data is not in for this year, but according to one veteran headhunter we spoke with, the revived lateral attorney market has continued through 2012. Admittedly, this trend is not a bright spot if one believes that a fast-flowing lateral market is a key ingredient in the recipe for more Deweys. But at the very least, we are in a better environment for those looking to make a lateral move.

Unlike much of the labor marketplace, legal recruitment generally has not migrated online. In the large firm context, would-be lateral attorneys continue to require the specialized knowledge and carefully cultivated relationships of the legal recruiter. Today, the ATL Career Center launches its Practicing Lawyers section, which features a Recruiter Directory, a new resource for those of you looking for greener pastures. After the jump, check out the founding members of the Directory….

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We haven’t had a good New York to 190 post in a while, and maybe there’s a reason for that. While many associates (and partners) feel that they’re long overdue for a raise, starting salaries have grown stagnant in New York — and across the country, for that matter. Remember back in 2007 when we first reported that Simpson Thacher raised incoming associates’ base salaries to $160,000? That was five years ago, and these days, you’ll be lucky if you’re making what you would’ve been taking home before that $15K salary bump.

While that $160K sweet spot for first-years is still the norm in many large markets, it’s no longer as widespread as it once was. In fact, that figure represents only 46 percent of first-year salaries in firms with more than 700 lawyers — and that percentage has been on a steady decline since 2009, when layoffs and terror ran rampant in Biglaw.

Sorry about that tiny pink paycheck of yours….

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‘Which one of you is special?’

Today, the ATL Career Center launches its latest feature: a Pre-Law section, featuring ratings, inside info, and expert advice on law schools, LSAT prep, and the application process. Check it out here.

While law school applications continue to decline and legal jobs are scarce, the business of discouraging people from going to law school is positively booming. There is a mountain of data which would seemingly dissuade anyone from taking on massive debt only to then leap into the clogged toilet of this job market. (And yet, see this compelling analysis that now is actually a great time to apply to law school, especially for lower scoring applicants.)

But what about future law students — are the 0Ls getting these gloomy memos? And how is it shaping their choices?

Recently, in collaboration with our friends at Blueprint Test Prep, we conducted a survey of BluePrint’s summer students studying for the October 2012 LSAT. We had nearly 600 respondents. Our goal was to get a snapshot of these 0Ls’ perception of the legal landscape, including the realities of financing a law school education and the current state of the legal job market.

After the jump, see some of what we could glean from the 0L mind, including a striking disconnect between the “job market” and a “career path”….

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Don’t look so sad; it is possible to bounce back from a career setback.

Last week we covered news of associate layoffs and summer associate no-offers over at Winston & Strawn. We heard primarily from sources who were upset over the news, and because the firm declined to comment on personnel matters, we didn’t hear Winston’s side of the story. But now, thanks to some helpful sources, we have a few pro-Winston comments that we will now share.

First, the number of “stealth layoff” victims may have been overstated. According to word on the street among Chicago associates, “while some people were let go, 30 seems pretty high.”

Second, it seems the layoffs were focused in Chicago; other offices may have escaped relatively unscathed. According to a source in Winston’s New York office, “nobody has heard about layoffs” there.

Third, the changes to the timing of associate reviews — which were viewed by some as ominous, perhaps laying the groundwork for additional cuts — may actually be quite innocent. Said a source: “The review cycle was also moved forward for some classes and back for others, but it is part of a general re-vamp of the evaluation process, and I’m not convinced there are any sinister motives behind it.”

Fourth, although the firm’s Chicago office doled out a relatively high number of no-offers — about 10 out of 30 summer associates did not get offers of permanent employment — we hear that this was primarily a Chicago phenomenon. As noted by a commenter, “The offer percentages are, to the best of my knowledge, significantly higher in the other offices.”

Of course, after our story we also received additional criticism of Winston, to which we now turn….

Please note the addition of multiple UPDATES, after the jump.

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