A former colleague told me he spent the first few years of his career as a “soldier” for one of the powerful partners at his firm, and was ultimately driven to jump laterally at least in part to get out from under the guy’s thumb. It turns out the use of the word “soldier” wasn’t strictly a military allusion, meant [semi-] humorously to connote mindless devotion, but was actually intended more in the Sopranos vein. Or so it seemed to me anyway. Note I’ve also cast an aspersion on fraternities here, unapologetically…
- Asians, Biglaw, Books, Career Alternatives, Minority Issues, Partner Issues, Time Warner, Women's Issues
Last year, St. Martin’s Press published The Partner Track, the debut novel of lawyer Helen Wan. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, I praised the book for being engaging, suspenseful, and — unlike so many legal novels — realistic. The paperback edition of The Partner Track became available last week.
I enjoy fiction about lawyers, as both a reader and writer — my own first novel comes out in a few weeks — and I’m deeply interested in how other writers work. So I interviewed Helen Wan about her book, her approach to writing, and how she managed to write a novel while holding down a demanding job as an in-house lawyer for Time Warner. I also asked for her advice on how women and minority lawyers can succeed in Biglaw.
Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation.
We all dream of a world in which collegiality matters.
Partners at law firms are . . . well . . . partners. They look out for each other. They build each other’s practices. They work for the common good.
Perhaps that firm exists. I wouldn’t know.
From my perch here — as the guy who left a Biglaw partnership for an in-house job, and on whose shoulder other Biglaw partners now routinely cry — the view is pretty ugly. (Perhaps my perspective is distorted because of an obvious bias: Partners happy with their firms don’t come wailing to me.) What I hear these days is grim: Guys are being de-equitized or made of counsel; they think they’re being underpaid; they’re concerned that they’ll be thrown under the bus if they ever lose a step.
Several recent partners’ laments prompted me to think about something that I’d never considered when I worked at a firm. (Maybe that’s because I’m one of those guys who was perfectly happy laboring for the common good. Or maybe it’s because I’m a moron.)
In any event, here’s today’s question: I want to wrestle effectively with my own law firm. I don’t want to be nasty; I just want to be sure that I have implicit power when I negotiate with the firm. I want the firm — of its own accord, without me saying a word — to treat me right. How do I wrestle my own law firm to the ground? How do I pin my partners?
Size matters, and to be successful today you really have to be in that Am Law 50.
– Alan Levin, managing partner of Edwards Wildman, commenting on the importance of being viewed as a “tier 1″ law firm in the overall Biglaw hierarchy. Levin identified possible merger partners by commissioning a study to separate firms into “tier 1″ and “tier 2″ groupings. Locke Lord was considered a “tier 1″ firm, and Levin will become vice chair of Locke Lord Edwards if the merger goes through.
- Biglaw, Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, Edwards Wildman, Law Firm Mergers, Locke Liddell & Sapp, Locke Lord, Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, Partner Issues, Partner Profits
We’ve been hearing rumblings about it for weeks, and now there’s something to report: Locke Lord and Edwards Wildman Palmer have signed a letter of intent to merge.
Some folks at Edwards Wildman must be breathing sighs of relief (and hoping that nothing scuttles the deal). The past year or so has been challenging for the firm. In the spring, the firm laid off 52 lawyers and staff. In 2013, the firm experienced lots of partner defections and a significant dip in gross revenue.
It’s nice to see a troubled firm get rescued through a merger — e.g., Patton Boggs — instead of suffer the fate of Dewey. What do we know about the possible Locke Lord / Edwards Wildman deal?
- Biglaw, Lateral Moves, Law Firm Mergers, Partner Issues, Partner Profits, United Kingdom / Great Britain
Observers of the legal industry have been wondering about the future of Bingham McCutchen for the past several months. In the wake of a rocky 2013, which triggered some lawyer departures and staff reductions, there has been a fair amount of merger talk.
Some have wondered whether Bingham might “fall victim to its own strategy” — i.e., whether the firm, which grew in power and profitability by swallowing up other firms, might itself get eaten up by a rival.
So what’s the latest on the Bingham merger talk front? And what might happen if the talks go further?
For most people, there comes a time when you realize you have gone about as far as you can go in your chosen career. It’s a jarring moment if, like many lawyers, you have always had success in school and work and imagined you can go as far as you want. Sometimes it is also called a midlife crisis.
- 3rd Circuit, 7th Circuit, Biglaw, Books, Deaths, Gay, Gay Marriage, Law School Deans, Law Schools, Morning Docket, Partner Issues
* A unanimous Seventh Circuit panel, in an opinion by Judge Posner, just struck down Wisconsin and Indiana’s bans on same-sex marriage. The result isn’t surprising in light of the blistering benchslaps delivered by Judge Posner at oral argument, but the timing is faster than usual (for a federal appellate opinion in a high-profile case, not for the prolific Posner). [BuzzFeed]
* And badder news for BP: a federal judge just concluded that the oil giant was grossly negligent in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. [New York Times]
* Freshfields gets fresh talent, adding former Wachtell partner Mitchell Presser and former Skadden partner James Douglas to its ranks. [American Lawyer]
* The dean of Seton Hall Law, Patrick Hobbs, will step down from the deanship at the end of the current academic year. Congratulations to Dean Hobbs on a long and successful tenure. [South Orange Juice]
* And congratulations to John Grisham and Jason Bailey, winners of, respectively, the 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and the 2014 ABA Journal/Ross Short Fiction Contest. [ABA Journal]
* Brittany McGrath, Brooklyn Law class of 2014, RIP. [TaxProf Blog]
- Biglaw, Boutique Law Firms, Duval & Stachenfeld, Midsize Firms / Regional Firms, Money, Partner Issues, Partner Profits, Real Estate, Small Law Firms
This is the first of a four-article series focusing on the following matters:
- First Article – Profits Per Partner: A Good Servant But A Bad Master
- Second Article – A Profits-Per-Partner Emancipation Plan
- Third Article – Beyond Profits Per Partner – Embracing Volatility
- Fourth Article – How to Embrace Volatility as a Law Firm
Those of us running law firms have two sets of clients:
- Clients – parties that hire us for legal work.
- Lawyers – parties that do the legal work for the clients.
One without the other is pointless, obviously – they are yin and yang. However, despite this almost symbiotic relationship, most law firms are set up to attract great clients a lot more than they are set up to attract great lawyers. That is how law firms define “marketing.” The other function is called “recruiting.”
Indeed, let me ask you — in your firm, which is cooler: to be on the marketing committee, or to be on the recruiting committee? Which one is more likely to result in success at your firm, including money, power, fame, a big office, etc.?