Partner Issues

* Oh my God, Debevoise & Plimpton is dropping its entire trusts and estates practice. Was the economy the cause? What about the eight soon-to-be-unemployed lawyers? And most importantly, what would Josh Lyman’s father think?! [DealBook / New York Times]

* Major props go out to everyone at O’Melveny & Myers for hitting an all-time high in terms of both profits per partner ($2.06 million) and revenues per lawyer ($1.1 million). Here’s hoping the bonus situation reflected those incredible numbers. [Am Law Daily]

* We probably should’ve known when Pepper Hamilton acquired the Freeh Group back in August that exciting things would happen. Say hello to Louis Freeh, the firm’s new chair. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Are we supposed to be surprised that the Millennials who are considering applying to law school are more self-confident than those who preceded them? They’re all special little snowflakes! [National Law Journal]

* If you’re taking the LSAT on Saturday, here are some tricks to keep yourself focused. But don’t worry, it’s only one of the most important tests you’ll ever take. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* Sorry, George Zimmerman, but even though you’re poor, your trial isn’t going to be delayed. Perhaps Judge Nelson made this announcement to serve as a poetic birthday present for Trayvon Martin. [Orlando Sentinel]

The 2012 Biglaw numbers are starting to trickle in. The American Lawyer (and the rest of the legal press) follows a near-uniform format in reporting them. Revenues — up or down x percent. Profits per partner — slightly to moderately up (if your executive committee was unable to generate higher profits, via financial sophistry or good-old de-equitizations or stealth layoffs, I am very sorry). Revenue-per-lawyer, slightly up. Feel-good comment by managing partner. Slightly passive-aggressive commentary by a “legal consultant.” Repeat, on a daily basis for about a month, until the Am Law 100 (and “interesting” Am Law 200 firms as well) is covered.

As a partner, you obviously hope your firm is reporting good news, even though the likelihood of that news reflecting on your personal situation is pretty low for most Biglaw partners. No one wants to be associated (or own the obligations of) a loser, and when everyone is proclaiming “modest” or “respectable” growth, the peer pressure can be tremendous. Especially where the Biglaw death spiral is a recognized phenomenon, and firms who report poor performance in a generally positive climate are quickly judged negatively, like a figure skater stuck doing double lutzes when everyone else is knocking out triples. Outliers, for good, but mostly for bad, stick out, and their ignominy is frequently paraded on these pages. With bonus Lat commentary for additional effect.

I for one, enjoy reading this kind of reportage…..

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I don’t live in Lake Wobegon.

I live in Lake WoeIsMe: All of the children are a little below average.

Or maybe I just have a bad attitude.

I’ll be frank: If I just met you, I assume that you’re inept. Not because you necessarily are inept, but because I’ve been blindsided too often in the past by the mistakes of people who I foolishly believed to be competent. That ain’t gonna happen again.

I understand that not everyone views the world through my gray-tinted glasses. I’ve met folks who are shocked by my attitude: “Mark, that outside lawyer from Honduras just told you that you’d win the case. Why are you acting as though we’re going to lose?”

“Because the lawyer is probably incompetent.”

“Why do you think that? He comes highly recommended by Smith.”

“Why do we think that Smith is competent? Or that Smith knows enough about the Honduran guy to have a right to judge him? My working presumption is that people are incompetent until they prove otherwise.”

“I’m shocked by your attitude, Mark. I’m exactly the opposite. When I meet new people, I always assume that they’re good at what they do.” . . .

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* Aside from writing powerful opinions that will last the ages, being a mentor “is the most valuable thing” this Supreme Court justice can do. Sonia Sotomayor: motivational speaker? [New York Times]

* Aww, poor Biglaw partners. You want bigger cuts of your firm’s profits, but according to the latest Peer Monitor report, expectations like that are incredibly “unrealistic.” [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* This actually isn’t something women like to shop for: the $200 million class action suit over the Greenberg Traurig “boys club” is currently being held up in two federal courts by arbitration and forum shopping issues. [Am Law Daily]

* With news that the legal industry is shedding jobs faster than the ABA can accredit more unnecessary law schools, career services officers must be hanging their heads in shame. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Dear law schools, your crappy business model is making us take a look at all crappy higher education business models, and we don’t like what we’re seeing here. Pls hndle thx. XOXO, Moody’s. [Washington Post]

* This is justice, Texas style: District Attorney Mike McLelland says the reward fund for tips in the brutal slaying of ADA Mark Hasse will grow to an “astronomical amount” until the killers are found. [Dallas Morning News]

* This lawyer allegedly had a fling with his sister-in-law out of the goodness of his heart, and in return, she accused him of sexual assault. Now he’s suing her for $7 million. You can’t make this sh*t up. [New York Post]

* In trying to get $700 in tickets dismissed, this lawyer says the U.S. Postal Service is immune from state and local traffic regulations. Other USPS immunities include not losing my mail on a regular basis. [USA Today]

Musical Chairs

Is lateral partner hiring a game of musical chairs that law firms can’t win? Anecdotes about unsuccessful lateral hires abound. You hear stories about high-profile partners moving from Firm A to Firm B, often lured by huge guarantees, only to leave Firm B a few years later, after failing to integrate or deliver the expected business.

And some of the most successful firms in all the land, places with immense prestige and sky-high profits, do very little lateral hiring. Their refusal to engage in the lateral market hasn’t seemed to hurt them.

When it comes to lateral hiring, should firms “just say no”? Well, that’s not what’s actually happening in the marketplace. Last year, lateral partner hiring climbed, suggesting that it must be working out — at least for some firms….

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* Justice Sotomayor’s memoir made the NYT’s best-seller list, and in terms of sales, she’s officially beating the pants off other Supreme Court justices who’ve released books of a similar nature. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* In case you were sleeping under a rock yesterday when this happened, John Kerry was confirmed by the Senate as secretary of state. Don’t think we’ll be getting a Texts From John Tumblr, though. [New York Times]

* Despite having a “pretty spectacular” year, Blank Rome’s legal secretaries may soon find themselves blankly roaming in search of new employment. Better hurry up, the buyout offer expires on Friday! [Legal Intelligencer]

* Straight up now tell me, do you really wanna sue me forever? Corey Clark once claimed he had an affair with American Idol judge Paula Abdul, and now he claims MoFo and Gibson Dunn defamed him. [Am Law Daily]

* In this round of musical chairs, we learn that Orrick hoovered up three energy and project finance partners from Bingham, one of whom will co-chair the firm’s U.S. energy group. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Remember the Zumba prostitution ring? Now we know you can’t be prosecuted for secretly filming Johns in the act in Maine, because there’s no expectation of privacy in “bordellos, whorehouses, and the like.” [Wired]

* Energy drink makers are facing class action suits over claims made about their products. Fine, Red Bull may not give you wings, but it tastes like piss, and that’s gotta count for something, dammit. [National Law Journal]

* Much like herpes, Lindsay Lohan’s legal drama is the gift that just keeps on giving. Her longtime lawyer Shawn Holley wants out, and her new lawyer, Mark Heller, isn’t even licensed to practice in California. [CNN]

It’s hard to get a good read on the direction of the economy these days. And the same could be said about the direction of Biglaw.

It seems that every week brings a new survey, report, or set of predictions. And they often point in different directions. Sometimes they are pessimistic, claiming that layoffs (including partner layoffs) are just around the corner. Sometimes they are positive, noting that despite the challenging economy, legal spending is up. And sometimes they fall somewhere in between.

Today brings news about past performance — which, while not a guarantee of future performance, can sometimes offer hints. It’s about how large law firms fared in the year just ended. And it’s good news….

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Over the last three weeks, we have heard from an In-House Insider, an opinionated source of insight into Biglaw-client relations — see here, here, here, and below. As with the three prior installments, the only changes I made to the Insider’s words were those done to protect their identity, and Insider was given the opportunity to revise their points once I added the questions and commentary. Again, I thank Insider for the candid observations and thoughtful opinions on these core issues….

AP: Any serious observer of Biglaw can see that firms continue to struggle adapting associate development to the new state of Biglaw-client relations. What can Biglaw learn from corporate clients like yourself on that front?

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I really like what Bruce MacEwen does over at Adam Smith, Esq. He thinks hard about the legal profession, and he says smart things that you won’t find elsewhere.

But he’s not perfect. He recently wrote that clients were partly responsible for the demise of Dewey (which may well be true) because clients had endorsed “the . . . toxic notion that you hire the lawyer, not the firm.” Here, I beg to differ.

Hiring “the lawyer, not the firm” is not a toxic notion; it is sanity.

Hiring the firm would be nuts, for at least two different reasons. First, the firm has many invidious institutional incentives: Let’s suppose you “hire the firm” by calling the managing partner (or head of litigation, or whoever) to say that you have a new case that you’d like the firm to handle. The managing partner naturally pokes around to see “who has time.” Presto! Your case would be staffed with the partner who has nothing else to do, because the firm can’t foist that guy off on any other sorry client. That inept partner would likely be assisted by a few associates who also “have time,” and you’d be wallowing in B-team city.

Not for me, thank you very much.

If you’re an intelligent client, you don’t want the lawyers who “have time;” you want the lawyers who “are good.” There’s no reason to think those two categories overlap, and plenty of reasons to think they do not.

And I’m just getting warmed up here . . .

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan offers advice to the bosses of new lawyers.

After writing a few pieces advising young lawyers how to start off on the right foot in their new jobs, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to look at the question from the other angle: If you’re supervising a young lawyer (or a law student in a summer job), what can you do to help ensure a smooth transition?

Here’s some advice for the care and feeding of young lawyers (and lawyers-to-be)….

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