Partner Issues

Compassion can be found in the halls of Biglaw.

Despite our occasional curmudgeonly moments, we are generally happy people here at Above the Law, and we love happy stories. Our pages are full of feel-good tales (even if negativity bias causes readers to remember the sad or angry stories more than the happy ones).

Just in the past few months, for example, we’ve written about a law student who rescued an elderly woman from an oncoming train, a prosecutor who came to the aid of hate-crime victims, a law clerk who won a beauty contest, lawyers who have left the law to find success in other fields…. we could go on.

One of my favorite happy stories from our archives involved a partner at Haynes and Boone, Matthew Deffebach, who donated a kidney to the son of a HayBoo staffer. That’s even more noble than giving someone the shirt off your back.

Today’s story might not measure up to that high standard, but it’s another great example of a partner with compassion….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day: A Compassionate Managing Partner”

First, a shameless plug: Here’s an interview in which Ari Kaplan and I discuss “Inside Straight and the Impact of Getting Published on Professional Success.” (That’s Inside Straight, the book, not Inside Straight, the column, although I guess I see the room for confusion there.)

But enough of that. Let’s hear from the managing partner of our law firm:

Ah! Orlando in March! What a fine time and place for our annual firmwide retreat.

I want to welcome everyone to this magnificent resort, and I want to take this opportunity to say a few words about a subject that’s dear to our hearts: Billing time.

To paraphrase Sir Thomas More in “A Man For All Seasons“: “When a man [fills out his timesheets,] he is holding his own soul in his hands like water; and if he should open his fingers then — he needn’t ever hope to find himself again.”

For the junior associates in the crowd, consider this: You will, at some point, have a slow month. You’ll get nervous that the firm will punish you for not having billed enough hours. To protect yourself, you’ll be tempted to borrow from the future. You’ll think that, if you add just four hours to this month’s time, you’ll have hit your billing target. If you charge those four hours to your largest client, no one will notice that you’ve slightly padded the bill. And you’ll figure that you’ll make this up to the client in some future month; you’ll work four hours some Saturday morning that you won’t write down, so the client will come out even in the long run. “That’s not really fraud,” you’ll think, so you’ll have eased your conscience. . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: The Managing Partner On Billing Time”

Ed. note: This is the latest in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This two-part post about lateral partner hiring was written by Larry Latourette, Executive Director of the Partner Practice at Lateral Link.

The call came in on a dreary Saturday afternoon in November. A senior partner from the Detroit-based firm of Dickinson Wright was going to be in town on Monday and wanted to meet about lateral hiring for their D.C. office. Having been a lawyer at three D.C. branch offices (including a stint as managing partner for Preston Gates) and having attended dozens of similar meetings as a recruiter with out-of-town law firms, I didn’t have high expectations; almost all out-of-town firms think they can successfully compete in the brutal Washington market already rife with marginal offices on life support and shuttered offices of those that didn’t make it. Nevertheless, I agreed to meet since I always learn something from these encounters, and one thing life has taught me is that you never know how things will actually turn out.

The meeting and my subsequent experience reconfirmed that lesson as together we almost doubled the size of their D.C. office by adding 10 lawyers in the subsequent 15 months. While many firms do a decent job at partner recruiting, most have some weaknesses either in strategy or execution. Dickinson, however, put in place the best hiring structure and followed through as effectively as any I have encountered.

To bring more rationality to an often convoluted and inefficient process, the following distills the elements of that approach. While its solutions aren’t unique, the Dickinson model offers a useful benchmark from which other firms might improve their own hiring efforts….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Partners in Practice: Lateral Hiring Done ‘Wright’ (Part I)”

Ed. note: This is a new series 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 have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

A Wharton School professor has analyzed the performance, and pay levels, of external hires versus internal staff promotions. He used personnel data from a division of a major U.S. investment bank for 2003 to 2009, and the characteristics of that talent market are remarkably similar to our own.

Investment banking, Professor Matthew Bidwell writes, represents “an interesting context in which to study the effects of internal versus external mobility [because] organizational performance often depends on the skills of the workforce, [thereby] increasing the importance of personnel decisions.” In addition, workers in banking are “notoriously mobile, making this a context in which organizations regularly engage in external hiring at all levels.”

The genesis of his study was seeking an answer to this question: what has the increased mobility of workers over the past 30 or so years meant, as firms turn away from offering lifetime employment in favor of relying on the external labor market to find experienced workers at all levels of the organization?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Across the Desk: Lateral Hires & Guarantees Deconstructed”

* Munger Tolles & Olson recently announced a new partnership class, 75 percent of which is composed of women. Let’s hear three cheers for diversity in the practice of law! Oh, and uh… congratulations to the lone white guy, too. [The Careerist]

* Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition: in an opinion penned by Judge Richard Posner, a divided three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit struck down an Illinois law banning the concealed carrying of loaded weapons outside the home. [Bloomberg]

* Holy crap! Law students asked for change, and the Arizona Supreme court is giving them exactly what they wanted, which is impressive. 3Ls will now be able to sit for the February bar exam. [National Law Journal]

* And speaking of Arizona, the Phoenix City Council and state Board of Regents have approved ASU Law’s plans to move its campus, and the city even threw in $12M to sweeten the deal. [Phoenix Business Journal]

* Remember the defamation suit Cooley Law filed against a former student who anonymously criticized the school on his blog? His lawyer will defend his anonymity today in court. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Nevermind the fact that he’s a “person of interest” in a homicide case, because a Guatemalan judge ordered that antivirus mogul John McAfee should be released due to his illegal detention. [Los Angeles Times]

In a recent ranking of the world’s most valuable law firms, the litigation powerhouse of Quinn Emanuel topped the chart in “value per partner” (total firm value divided by number of equity partners). For QE, the “VPP” figure came out to a whopping $17.7 million.

So you can understand why masochistic talented lawyers pursue partnership at the famously hardworking firm with such fervor. Sure, occasionally you’ll hear about a partner walking away from the riches. But for many a young lawyer, making partner at Quinn Emanuel is a dream come true.

Over the weekend, QE announced ten new partners. Who made the cut?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “New Partner Watch: The Quinn Emanuel Ten”

Don’t be fooled by her smile; Justice Kagan knows how to benchslap.

Don’t be fooled by her smile; Justice Kagan knows how to benchslap.

* Kagan, J., benchslapping. [Josh Blackman's Blog]

* I think I’d get this if I understood gymnastics. [Associate's Mind]

* Some people think IBR is pointless, but if you disagree, check out this petition. [We the People: Your Voice in Government]

* Partner readers, check out this new podcast (featuring law firm consultant Ed Wesemann and yours truly). [Attorney Search Group]

* Our annual Law Revue Video Contest is still a few months away, but if you like making legally themed videos, keep an eye on this contest (more details forthcoming, including info on the prizes). [Federal Bar Association]

* Speaking of contests, we welcome your votes in the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 (under “News/Analysis”). [ABA Journal]

* And speaking of Above the Law, the deadline for applying for our writer/editor position and our internship is tomorrow — so act now if interested! [Above the Law]

Last week I wrote about how making partner can be a vehicle for making positive personal changes. I was not kidding. As a partner, I want my fellow partners to be happy with their personal lives. Much better for business that way. We all know that the pre-partner years are rough on personal lives, so the heady days immediately after making partner may be the best chance someone has to make any necessary course corrections on the personal front.

I don’t believe that Biglaw partners are any more capable than anyone else in insulating their work performance from the goings-on in their personal lives. Trouble has a way of spilling over. No one is saying that relationships are easy in Biglaw, even for partners. So why continue to dump emotional energy into relationships that are not satisfying? Better to take stock, and fix what needs fixing. Earlier is better than later, especially from your fellow partners’ perspective.

So let’s talk a bit about the financial ramifications of making partner. I’ll concentrate on a few aspects….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Buying In: Thoughts on Making Partner (Part 2) – The Financials”

Is this just my weird perception, or are law firm managing partners being surveyed constantly? It seems that every other week, some law firm lender or consultancy or recruiting firm is touting the results of a managing partners survey. Managing partners have things to do other than respond to surveys — like, well, managing law firms.

Despite the proliferation of such surveys, we do appreciate the information and insight they contain. So let’s check out the recently released results of one of the most prominent surveys, the American Lawyer’s annual Law Firm Leaders survey….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How Are Managing Partners Feeling About 2013?”

Some years ago, information technology and research firms realized that they could thrive only by attracting and retaining employees with two very different skill sets. These firms needed both great scientists and great managers.

Great scientists, however, were being undervalued, while great managers were being given too much dignity. In many corporations, the more people under your supervision, the more authority, respect and, often, pay you command. How could IT firms keep pure scientists — who loved thinking great thoughts and creating great inventions, but loathed managing people — happy? Wouldn’t those folks become frustrated as they saw their peers — less able scientists, but great managers — move ahead in the ranks?

Those firms pioneered the idea of creating dual career paths. One path was the standard route to success: Manage people; control a P&L center; prosper.

But the second path was the innovative one: Lead specified projects; work with key clients; generate new ideas; prosper equally!

After the IT firms blazed that trail, sales organizations soon followed suit. Those outfits needed both great sales people and great administrators. So they created dual career paths, offering routes for advancement (and power, and riches, and corner offices, and all the rest) to both types of people.

Isn’t an analogous dual-career-path model worth considering, both at law firms and in-house law departments?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Creating Dual Career Tracks”

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